Friday, April 04, 2008


Ask any Liverpool fan's opinion about Tom Hicks and the chances are you'll be greeted by a tirade of rasping criticism. But is this entirely fair? A closer examination of the whole Tom Hicks saga reveals that he may not be the ogre he's portrayed as by fans and groups like 'Spirit of Shankly'. According to Liverpool-Kop's new writer John Wallen, it's time to consider giving Hicks a second chance.

The present controversy over the ownership of LFC is really quite mind-bending. First fans were happy with the American owners, believing that a new era of high investment into the club was just beginning.

However, after the volte-face over the too expensive stadium, the highly publicised argument with Rafa, the tete-a-tete with Klinsmann and the putting of debt directly onto the club in the refinancing of the loan they used to buy the club, most fans now want them out.

Demonstrations continue inside the ground on a regular basis and “SOS” or “Spirit of Shankly” have even recruited the great man's grand-daughter as a vocal supporter of their “Americans Out!” policy.

Meanwhile, pie-in-the-sky plans are developed for the supporters to buy the club. If this was such a good idea, why didn't they do it when Moores was selling a year or so ago? They could have got it a lot cheaper than is possible now. In fact, Hicks' valuation of the club at around a billion dollars effectively scuppers this plan.

The necessary pledge has already risen from five thousand pounds to eight thousand pounds a person and, as we all know, the promise of money is different to the giving of money.

This plan is, quite frankly, a non starter and supporters who are thinking of pledging (in some cases) their life's savings, should be aware that the whole business is almost sure to end in bitterness and recrimination.

DIC: Friend or Foe?

What about DIC then? Lots of supporters seem to be putting their faith in this Dubai based company and their smart talking go-between Amanda Staveley who, bizzarely enough, used to be Prince Andrew's girlfriend.

The truth is that this mega-company has acted very strangely during the last year. We now hear that they are prepared to pay the world for Liverpool Football Club, yet just a year ago they backed down in the face of the Gillet-Hicks offer, declaring that they weren't prepared to pay over the odds for the club.

Now they are happy to value the club at five hundred million pounds! It doesn't take a genius to figure out that their behavior has been more than weird. Anyone who knows a little about the way Arab companies do business will feel concern about the inconsistencies in the DIC position.

Perhaps Sameer really is a fan, but he will have to go to the Sheikhs every time a big decision is needed. As Hicks said when pulling out of the recent talks, DIC involvement would mean control by committee: interminable delays in getting the money needed—for players in particular.

Furthermore, this deeply conservative organization is said to want Rafa out and their own man in place as a condition of their involvement. Surely, this is unacceptable to most fans?

A second chance for Tom Hicks?

What then, about the one remaining possibility? Should everyone give Tom Hicks a second chance?

No-one is going to suggest that Hicks has made it easy on himself. He was drafted in at the last minute by George Gillet to give his own bid for the club credibility.

Since that time, Hicks has succeeded in alienating both his business partner and the Liverpool fans. However, the picture changes somewhat if we look at it in a more step by step manner.

First of all, Hicks knew little about “soccer” when he first joined the partnership. In particular, he knew little about English soccer. He didn't realise just how important the team is to so many Liverpudlians. Hicks assumed that soccer in Britain was much like sport in the US: no more than an entertaining family activity for the weekend.

It would seem that Hicks is now aware of his mistake in this regard and even wants to see some of his US franchises acquire the kind of fervent support that Liverpool has.

Of course, Hicks also knows that he has bought into a great brand. Liverpool FC is the most successful team in England and the name itself brings back memories of the mop topped foursome who conquered America not so many moons ago (even though John, Paul, George and Ringo were actually Evertonians!).

Hicks is a businessman and he knows that Liverpool will make money. In order to facilitate this process, he needs to spend money himself in the shorter term. We will take a look at this in a moment—but let's first finish off looking at Hicks' gaffes to date.

Most importantly, he and Gillet argued with Rafa Benitez. This was not a good move, but you can also see his point of view. At the time, Rafa seemed to have blown success in both the Premier League and success in Europe, in spite of the acquisition of Torres, Babel and Benayoun in the summer.

Nevertheless, he was still asking for another 18 million pounds for Mascherano who was tied up with the club until the end of the year anyway. Perhaps in the circumstances, we can forgive Hicks for telling Rafa that the club needed to wait a bit before making the Argentinean's deal permanent.

As for the heated words that were exchanged around this time, Rafa was as much to blame as Hicks; particularly insensitive was his apparent belief that he could only get the Americans to act by speaking out against them publicly.

Rafa was naive in this regard and no large company would allow its public relations to be handled in that way. It is perfectly possible that Hicks did genuinely believe Rafa might leave the club in the lurch around that time and, for this reason alone, joined Gillet in sounding out Jurgen Klinsmann for the job.

As I understand it, the whole thing was totally conditional. The Americans didn't say to Klinsmann “Do you want a job?”, but “Would you consider taking a job in certain circumstances?”.

There is a world of difference between these two propositions and the second action might not be considered unreasonable given the situation at the time.

Financial issues

There is also the fact that Hicks and Gillet have used the club to guarantee the loan they've taken out recently and also revised their too costly plans regarding the new stadium.

The first point to make here is that Hicks cannot predict the state of the global financial market. There has been a downturn and this has made the old stadium plans unviable. As for putting debt on the club, this has only been done through the subsidiary company “Kop Holdings” and only to the tune of 105 million pounds.

Again, financial realities can change earlier plans and we are all well aware of that from our own lives. Perhaps then, Hicks' actions don't quite suggest the ogre that SOS and others have portrayed? Are there, in these circumstances, other less well publicised factors which might suggest that Hicks has not done a wholly bad job for the club?

Firstly, Hicks has got a company to design and present a new stadium design which is very similar to the original and better than the earlier plans. In my opinion, Hicks' credibility depends on either building this stadium or selling out.

If he has any problems in raising the capital surely he will sell up rather than see his investment deteriorate in value.

Secondly, Hicks has backed Rafa in the transfer market. I don't think Moores and Parry would have sanctioned the signing of Torres for more than twenty million pounds, whatever finance had been raised by the selling of other players. Since the summer, Skrtel has also been signed.

Furthermore, Hicks seems to have accepted that he made a mistake in publicly arguing with Rafa. Now he sends congratulatory emails and has even sanctioned the 18 million pound signing of Mascherano.

Surely, these are the actions of an owner who trusts his manager and is determined to see the worth of his assets increase?

Torres has been a sensation and I'm sure that Hicks appreciates the probability that the removal of Rafa would result in a mass exodus of the Spanish contingent from Anfield—and no-one, including Hicks, is ready to say goodbye to Fernando Torres just yet.

Hicks + DIC: A recipe for disaster?

Finally, what about the DIC angle? Would they be better owners than Hicks? There is certainly no clear reason to make that assumption. Hicks is right in believing that the figure-heads like Sameer and Amanda Staveley are only the front men and women for the real decision makers who would need to OK every detail.

Anyone who has done business in the Middle East knows that there are often long and totally avoidable delays while go-betweens wait for decisions from Sheikhs who are often too busy enjoying themselves to pay a lot of attention to business decisions.

Eventually, a terse refusal might arrive—or perhaps the delay itself will result in a lost opportunity. Either way, fans should open their eyes and realize that DIC is just like Hicks and only wants to make money out of Liverpool FC.

I should finish by saying that I am not an unconditional supporter of Tom Hicks. However, I feel he can deliver the things that Liverpool FC most needs: a new stadium, money for transfers and a quick decision making process.

We should give him the chance to get on with doing his job.

This article originally appeared on Jaimie Kanwar's "Liverpool Kop site (link below).


Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home