Matt Ladson, editor of This Is Anfield
Liverpool fans know to be sceptical about any change in ownership; we’ve been burned once before, so it’s certainly a case of more worry than excitement regarding Fenway Sports Group’s possible sale of the club. While FSG have their critics and have made mistakes, on the whole they are good owners. The only thing Liverpool need really is for their owners to be a little more risky in the transfer market, something Jürgen Klopp has even admitted recently.
So where do you find owners like FSG but who are just a little more risky/willing to put their own money in to keep up with Manchester City and co? It’s certainly not an easy find. Any new owners open up a lot of questions, such as ticket prices, transfer meddling, and plenty more besides. There should be worry.
Personally, I’d prefer FSG to continue to hold a majority stake while selling some shares, allowing for an injection of cash that would enable Liverpool to compete financially with their state-owned rivals. But that could be just as hard to find as an investor with a good human rights record that has £4bn to spare.
Neil Atkinson, presenter and CEO of The Anfield Wrap
I don’t really care who owns Liverpool as long as it isn’t a state, isn’t fascists, isn’t attention-seeking weirdos giving it the big one, isn’t someone looking to raise their profile to avoid political assassination, or looking to launder money, and is an organisation which wants to develop the club on and off the pitch, including the women’s side, and is committed to hiring good people to work at all levels of the club and doesn’t take cash out of the club.
Bar a significant blip on the women’s side, which is hopefully in the process of being corrected, FSG have broadly managed to clear those low bars; most Premier League owners have fallen foul somewhere along the line. It’s important to acknowledge FSG haven’t turned your stomach, have been part of making Liverpool very competitive and when they have been wrong – which they have – they U-turned quickly when the opposite case has been forcefully made. But who wants to put an owner or ownership of all things on a banner? Yack. Also stomach turning.
So what’s next if not them? The percentage shout is someone who will further erode at least one of the above. The smart shout is to return to the Crouch review and ask again about having a far greater set of rules and regulations and, if need be, legislation regarding who should get to own the enormous cultural institutions that are our football clubs.
On the surface this could be a tribute act to when Liverpool’s then-owner David Moores was trawling the waters for investors 20 years or so ago, offering 10% of the club to the likes of Steve Morgan and Granada Television in exchange for bags of money and little significant say in the direction we would be travelling. Alternatively, we are maybe looking at the first step toward FSG’s endgame at Anfield. That said, I’m not convinced this is anything other than speculative, considering they are mid-rebuild of the Anfield Road end. Who builds a new stand if they have a premeditated eye on the exit door?
Either way, FSG have sent a clear message that they are happy to listen to interested parties. Should they soon be taking their leave of the club then nobody could seriously argue that they wouldn’t be leaving us in a significantly healthier position compared with where they found us. They haven’t been perfect though, and when they have got it wrong it has often been spectacular, yet they have been willing to do U-turns.
Any prospective new owner remains as hypothetical at this point as FSG’s departure, but I wouldn’t want us to go down the same path as Manchester City and Newcastle United. I’d class myself as being within a low-level state of trepidation.
Amar Singh, sports marketing expert
This week’s news has some Liverpool fans – particularly the younger ones – dreaming of a state-funded sportswashing consortium swooping in and signing Kylian Mbappé and giving us the spending power to match Manchester City. My message to those fans is simple: be careful what you wish for. For those of us who remember the state the club was in 12 years ago after the disastrous ownership of Hicks and Gillett, FSG will go down as saviours.
They have not been perfect owners; their role in the Super League debacle is a significant blot on their copybook. But Liverpool have won every trophy going during their tenure. Furthermore, they have invested heavily in Anfield, the new training ground in Kirkby and have helped the club grow its commercial revenue exponentially. FSG also made one of the most significant decisions in Liverpool’s history – hiring Klopp.
Liverpool have a deep history and a fanbase with a very clear set of shared values. If it was ever to be used as a tool to further the agenda of a nefarious state with values and laws that run contrary to what the club stands for, many of us would find it hard to stomach. So if FSG are selling up, it’s more important that the new owners aren’t using the club for geopolitical interests than whether they sign Mbappé.
Ian Salmon, playwright and author
I’m torn. I’ve no desire to see my club owned by a nation-state and used for influence in a way that sits badly with my politics, nor become the latest hobby of an oligarch; and I don’t want any hint of creative accounting to stain our achievements. The reality, though, is that if you want to compete at the top of the Premier League you need the limitless funds of owners willing to invest heavily and frequently rather than work toward self-sufficiency.
I’m not sure what actually constitutes a “good” owner now: I don’t think free-spending ethically sound billionaires in it for the love of the game exist, and I think we may be about to find out that FSG were preferable to many alternatives. They are owners who have made major mistakes in various areas but have achieved to a high level without being as problematic as we as a supporter base may view others.
Some fans are saying this could be the moment they can no longer support the club. I can’t see that as an option. My first game was five decades ago; it’s the club my grandfathers supported. I can’t let that go.