Liverpool chairman predicts bright future

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The Independent Online

Liverpool's new chairman Martin Broughton insists there will be no pressure on the club to sell star players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard this summer.

Broughton, the British Airways chairman, has been brought in to oversee the sale of Liverpool after American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett decided to bring an end to their controversial spell at Anfield.

Broughton said there will be cash available for transfers in the summer and that new owners could be in place before the start of next season.

The burden of Liverpool's £237million debt has led to fears that Torres and Gerrard will be sold in the summer, but Broughton insists that is not the case.

He said: "I can't see any reason for any forced sales. I think everybody concerned, fans, players and the manager, can all look forward to a very bright future.

"There will be money available for transfers, but I am not going into how much."

Broughton said any new owner would have to prove they had the funds to take the club forward and would be "crazy" not to include building the new stadium in their plans.

"What's best for the club is somebody or bodies to come in and build the new stadium, make sure that the club is properly financed and that there is enough money available to take the club forward," he said.

"I have looked at the stadium project and frankly there is an overwhelming financial logic to any buyer to proceed with the stadium. Any buyer would be crazy not to do so.

"We wouldn't get to be the winning bid with that commitment."

Broughton would not be drawn on how much the club will cost. Hicks and Gillett spent around £220million on buying Liverpool in 2007 and have set an asking price of £500million, though it now looks as though they will have to lower that.

The new chairman said merely that the Americans were seeking a "reasonable price".

Broughton admitted the uncertainty over the ownership had been "hanging over the club".

He added: "This will make a difference, this will clarify the ownership position.

"What's been hanging over the club is the ownership, the debts etc; so this will be a very good thing for Liverpool."

Broughton also made it clear that he wanted manager Rafael Benitez to stay - the Spaniard has been linked with Juventus in recent weeks.

"Rafa is a good manager, we want him to stay and he's under contract to stay," he said.

The announcement of the sale comes after banks RBS and Wachovia agreed to extend their loans until the end of the year.

Hicks and Gillett had been forced into a corner after RBS had demanded the club repaid £100million of the £237million debt this summer.

The cashflow problems were further intensified by the club's almost certain failure to qualify for next season's Champions League.

In a statement announcing the handover, Liverpool said the club's revenues had increased by 55% and operating profit by 60% since the Hicks/Gillett takeover.

Hicks and Gillett, who have been the target of an angry campaign by some fans' groups, said: "Owning Liverpool Football Club over these past three years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families.

"Having grown the club this far we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development."

The end of the Hicks/Gillett era at Anfield also focuses the spotlight on the problems that leveraged buy-outs - where owners take out loans to buy clubs rather than putting in their own money - can have on clubs.

The same issue is being experienced at Manchester United, where a group of wealthy fans called the Red Knights are planning a takeover bid from the Glazer family, also Americans, who have saddled the club with £700million debts.

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