21 January 2008

Americans must walk away if it's in Liverpool's best interests

Jan 21 2008
Sports View
by John Thompson, Liverpool Echo

THE roar of the Kop has been heard all over Britain and Europe.
Tonight, an attempt will be made to send it right across the Atlantic Ocean.
Liverpool fans are in a state of fury and dismay, convinced their world famous club is enduring the biggest crisis in its modern history.
And who can argue they are wrong?
A marriage that everyone hoped was made in heaven has spiralled into a nightmare captured in barely believable headlines, one played out amid a climate of deep distrust.
There is no doubt today that the majority of match-going supporters – surely still the most important people at any football club – believe the American dream is for them over and beyond repair.
And tonight at the game against Aston Villa they are set to call on Tom Hicks and George Gillett to do the decent thing – and grant them and their club the quickie divorce that many now believe offers the most dignified, possibly the only honourable route out of here for all sides.
Hicks and Gillett may see it differently and believe this fractured marriage can be repaired. Particularly if they really are intent on keeping the house.
They own it – and this is up to them.
They are hugely successful business partners who made a first class first impression when they bought Liverpool almost a year ago. They were appropriately welcomed with open arms by an Anfield faithful yearning for more success.
But stadium delays and confusion, alleged personal rifts, claims of imminent broken promises which will load all their personal debt onto the club, and a series of unsightly public rows with a driven manager whom most supporters still love and believe in, have rocked Anfield to its core.
This is not the Liverpool way.
And for the sake of a club which someone outside Merseyside recently described as ‘a national treasure’, it just cannot go on like this any longer. Particularly when a rejected suitor is waiting on the sidelines with a genuine offer which Liverpool fans are praying Tom and George cannot and will not now refuse.
An SOS sign was hung out on the Kop last week to Dubai International Capital.
It will be there again tonight, but will not be walking alone in its display this time.
Liverpool fans may know as little about the Dubaians as they did the Americans.
But the sure truth is the Dubaians have never fallen out of love with the idea of owning Liverpool, even though the long – possibly overly long – initial engagement was broken off suddenly amid acrimony, as pre-wedding nerves on both sides became tested.
Their interest in securing a deal at Anfield has never dwindled, not least because they are convinced the American re-financing┼ánumbers simply do not crunch going forward and put Anfield in even more jeopardy, even more harm’s way.
It is not just the supporters and other experienced experts who care about the club who believe there is a real risk of Liverpool emulating Leeds United – possibly worse.
When there is, it seems, a genuine prospect of the Royal Bank of Scotland claiming default on the current mortgage and re-possessing the property, who can blame them?
There is no doubt Liverpool fans are anxious to see the Dubaians allowed in to rescue their club from this situation. And if there is any doubt, the odds are it will vanish this evening with a clarion call to DIC spilling from the Kop.
It no longer matters how Britain’s most successful football club got here. Right now it doesn’t matter who is to blame and how.
All that matters is that a truly great European football club and its lost, bewildered and angry supporters, get out of here. And fast.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are deeply committed family men who for all their wealth and hard-headed business brains surely understand that family ultimately comes first.
Particularly when that family feel and culture is actually a crucial part of their business asset, as much as it is an emotional reality.
The Kop is real currency – and losing it will cost in dollars, as well as in damaged eardrums.
For that simple reason, the co-owners must today do what they know is right in their hearts as much as their heads for a club steeped in that family tradition. One in which Kopites here have invested their lives, not just their hard-earned money.
If the Americans sincerely believe they can somehow get Liverpool out of this crisis and repair the damage then maybe, just maybe, they can risk taking that chance.
But the supporters at Anfield, many genuinely sick to their stomachs with worry, may now never be convinced, so serious is the collateral damage and loss of trust all round.
If Hicks and Gillett deep down accept that it just hasn’t worked out and that no amount of counselling can help, it is to be hoped they, or one of them, will sell their share to the Dubaians and walk away with no hard feelings either way.
Liverpool’s first business love is today waiting in the wings. She won’t go away and it’s clear the majority of the fans don’t want her to – though if there is to be a second marriage it might be worth hiring a Philadelphia lawyer to draw up the pre-nuptial contract.
But that, if ever, is for another day.
Liverpool Football Club and it’s wonderful, devoted supporters have suffered enough.
However it happens, every fair-minded and honourable man will surely agree it is high-time this desperate crisis was swiftly brought to a dignified end.

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