John Gibbons: FSG’s ownership of Liverpool entering crucial period

What rumours of a sale of Liverpool Football Club on the cards, John Gibbons looks at FSG's record as owners on Merseyside…

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In all the excitement of Liverpool winning another game of football at the weekend a potentially big story coming out of America went slightly under the radar.

That Liverpool Football Club are potentially up for sale, if the right offer comes along. The right offer being something close to $2bn. I believe in the trade that is known as an “eye-watering” amount.

Of course, it might have not received much traction because it was instantly denied by Fenway Sports Group, the investment group that currently own Liverpool. They described the New York Post story as “unfounded speculation”.

Yet there remains a suspicion that Liverpool Football Club might be available for the right offer and buyer.

This story pops up too much for it to be completely unfounded, with the sale amount always fairly specific and fairly consistent. That amount being a hell of a lot more than what they paid.

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That isn’t to say that FSG have slapped a price tag on Liverpool (sorry, all the cliché’s are coming out here). Just that it is currently owned by an investment group and the point of investment groups are to make money for their shareholders, of which there are thought to be around 20.

At some point at least some of these investors will want to cash in – the question is, when.

Between them John Henry, the principal owner of FSG, and Michael Gordon, who probably has the most involvement day to day in Liverpool, are said to own over 50% of FSG, so hold the most sway in the future of all the organisations investments.

They say they are committed to winning and, given their continued success at Boston Red Sox after one of the longest droughts in baseball history, they should be largely taken at their word.

But the question is, how long they believe winning to be possible with Liverpool and how big the offers might get before they start to get twitchy?

It might be a coincidence that the latest rumours came in the same week as the Financial Fair Play leaks around Manchester City, but FFP has been an issue hanging over Liverpool throughout FSG’s ownership.

It is obvious that the plan was never to spend wildly, but to spend smarter, and grow the under-performing commercial operation to allow the club to punch their weight more in the transfer market.

But, for this to be successful it sort of needed the other clubs to play ball too. Which it seems they very much have not.

Back in 2013 John Henry, in a rare interview about Liverpool Football Club, said of FFP “It is very important from our perspective that UEFA is successful in implementing Financial Fair Play. It is a key element. Are they determined to implement it? We don’t know.”

I would imagine now John Henry would feel he has a firm answer to that question.

UEFA either haven’t had enough ability or desire to implement their own rules and punish law breakers accordingly.

So where does that leave the ownership?

Arguably in a strange position where they have the team and manager they always wanted, but with a feeling that it might not be enough. It seems strange to be so defeatist, when Liverpool have spent the last six months qualifying for a Champions League Final and then making their best ever start in the Premier League era.

Certainly, the fans will continue to dream anything is possible. But for the owners I am sure they will be waiting to see what happens next. Whether UEFA and FFP becomes stronger or weaker as a result of these leaks.

Will clubs and UEFA rally round or give up?

For all the positive things FSG have done, improving the stadium, attempting to improve relationships between the club and fans as well as the local community and getting Jurgen Klopp, the trophy haul under their stewardship sits at one League Cup, under Kenny Dalglish six years ago.

They took over a bit of a mess, admittedly, but this is the bit where the hard work and years of ground work was meant to pay off.

Yet is seems to be getting harder than ever to win anything. As Liverpool improve the target seems to get further away.

This next period feels crucial in FSG’s ownership and how they are remembered and it will also test their resolve. As long as they money in football is rising and they feel there is a chance of winning, they are likely to stay.

But if football becomes even more of a game of who can get the richest Sheik, then these offers might start to get more tempting and this “passive sales process” they are said to be running might just become a more active one.

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