While admitting that perhaps the free agent signing of Chan Ho Park is a blemish on Tom Hicks’ wonderful sports ownership record, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Gil LeBarton insists “I don™t understand the rancor that the fans in Liverpool have for him.” Perhaps he could’ve asked a few of them?
Hicks didn™t buy his share of the 106-year-old Liverpool Football Club, I suspect, because he loved sharing a pint at Anfield and hanging out in Ringo™s old hometown. It was an investment, and the Liverpool club, with its cramped, ™70s-style stadium, presented an attractive opportunity.
News of Hicks™ and George Gillett™s joint purchase of the team was roundly applauded. But at that point, Liverpool fans apparently expected the two foreigners to disappear ” and, oh, leave behind their checkbooks.
Hicks wants to build Liverpool a modern, larger stadium, boosting the seating capacity from 45,362 to more than 71,000.
More Liverpool fans will get to see their beloved Reds play. Yet, they™re mad at Hicks for the idea, if I™m reading the tabloids correctly, because he™s had the audacity to ” gulp ” borrow money to build the new stadium.
To the Brits, debt is truly a four-letter word. The more debt a soccer club has, the fewer good players you™ll be able to buy during the transfer period.
Apparently, the Liverpool backers think that all wealthy Americans can build $530 million stadiums by writing a personal check.
The frenzy has been made worse by members of a group in Dubai that wants to buy the team themselves, once they™ve helped goose Hicks and Gillett to the selling table. The Dubai bunch seems to regularly feed the Liverpool tabloids with dirt, real and imagined, about the current owners.
Are the fans in Liverpool that unsophisticated about sports finance? Every sports team in America has debt. The Dallas Cowboys have debt ” a lot of it sits just off Collins Avenue in Arlington. The Premier League™s own Manchester United and Chelsea teams have their shares of debt.
Funny thing, though. Liverpool FC was anything but quiet and frugal during the most recent transfer period. Hicks even paid a premium to acquire Irish national team star Robbie Keane.
Seven games into the season, Liverpool has yet to lose. One of the victories was over rival Manchester U.
The Liverpool club™s history is a golden one. But it hasn™t won the Premier League in 19 years.
Yet, Hicks and Gillett are the villains?
Hicks was polite, but he declined to comment publicly last week when asked about the situation in Liverpool. He™s learned the hard way that anything he says, even on this side of the pond, is likely to be taken out of context and used against him in the newspapers in England.
“They™re like fans everywhere,” Hicks said. “They just want to win.”
Were LeBarton capable of even the tiniest bit of research, he’d know that Liverpool’s failure to win the EPL title is somewhat mitigated by a Champions League triumph in 2005 — prior to Hicks & Gillett’s purchase — that ranked amongst the most dramatic of all time. He’s also blissfully unaware this “Dubai bunch” had Gillett favoring a sale, nor that a succession of public relations gaffes by Hicks have done much to enrage one of football’s more rabid fan bases.