By Alex Miller
at the Leaders in Football Conference, London
7 October 2010
Dr Rogan Taylor, the University of Liverpool academic who founded the ‘Share Liverpool’ scheme in 2008 to raise cash for a fan-led buyout at Anfield, has told sportingintelligence today that the potential new owners of the club, New England Sports Ventures, must “differentiate themselves from Tom Hicks and George Gillett” by making firm pledges on supporter ownership of the club.
Taylor says he wants a firm commitment from NESV – headed by the Boston Red Sox co-owner, John W Henry – that NESV would be prepared to discuss let fans buy a “significant stake” in the club, perhaps as much as 25 per cent, as and when fans can raise £50m or a similarly significant sum.
“Any incoming new owner, especially any American new owner, will need to differentiate themselves from the outgoing Americans,” Taylor told sportingintelligence in an exclusive interview conducted today at the Leaders in Football Conference in London.
“I would like that to mean agreeing to work in partnership with equity-providing fans, and if they’re not interested in that then I’d have to ask why aren’t they interested?
“The new owners of Liverpool must discuss the issue of partnership with the fans and we are actively seeking talks. Merely putting a fan on the board is not worth a toss – but by having a significant stake in the club is the only way fans can protect themselves for the future.
“We also want a legal agreement that when the new owners sell up; and they will leave one day – they are bound to have an exit strategy worked out already – that the 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent stake that fans had would be safe and that they wouldn’t be forced to sell.
“We want a pre-exemption agreement and we also want first dibs to buy the remaining equity of the club when it comes on the market. Owners may come and go, but the 150m Liverpool fans around the world are not going anywhere.”
Taylor also warned new owners that they would have “a lot of work to do” to persuade Liverpool fans, now educated about financial issues such as leveraging and debt, that they were good custodians of the club.
“In England, most teams are named after a place, unlike in the US where teams are named after fictitious animals or corporate brands and are even moved around the country,” he said.
“This club is the epitome of the city and the new owners need to spend time understanding what that means. To be fair, baseball is the nearest US sport to football, with real passion from the fans, history and heritage, so they may understand that issue already.”
Taylor told sportingintelligence that he believed the new owners were attracted to the club because “Liverpool is going for a cheap price and is one of only nine truly global football clubs.”
He added: “Due to the soft legislation in this country, the two English global clubs in the nine, namely Liverpool and Manchester United, are the most ripe for leveraged buy-outs. In Spain or Italy for example, with global clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and the two in Milan, these takeovers would not be possible.”