Moores holds key as Anfield prepares the way for change

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The most significant event involving Liverpool Football Club over the past few days was not the traumatic exit from the Uefa Cup. Neither was it the immense relief of Sami Hyypia's 90th-minute winning goal against Wolves that gained fourth place in the Premiership, strengthening the chance of Champions' League qualification. It wasn't even the offer - rejected - from the businessman Steve Morgan to invest £50m. No, the most significant event was the appointment of a company of financial advisers called Hawkpoint Partners with a bold remit to "evaluate the range of strategic and financial options available to maximise the potential of the club".

The most significant event involving Liverpool Football Club over the past few days was not the traumatic exit from the Uefa Cup. Neither was it the immense relief of Sami Hyypia's 90th-minute winning goal against Wolves that gained fourth place in the Premiership, strengthening the chance of Champions' League qualification. It wasn't even the offer - rejected - from the businessman Steve Morgan to invest £50m. No, the most significant event was the appointment of a company of financial advisers called Hawkpoint Partners with a bold remit to "evaluate the range of strategic and financial options available to maximise the potential of the club".

Finally, here was an admission that things had to change. That new blood has to be sought to reinvigorate a sporting institution that one financial expert bluntly described as "stagnant waters" on and off the field. All four events are intertwined, of course, and may produce nothing but a Gordian knot. But even the most cautious of observers agrees that this is a pivotal moment in the history of England's most successful club.

Hawkpoint has been given a blank canvas. It will examine exactly what Liverpool's financial requirements are, including how much they need for transfers (although not the new stadium), and how to go about raising the cash. A rights issue, as demanded by Morgan, will be considered as will a debt raising deal.

Yet no matter what Hawkpoint recommends it all comes down to the actions of one man: the chairman and majority shareholder David Moores. His antipathy towards Morgan runs deep despite both men sharing a bond as passionate fans. The consensus is that Moores may do anything to fight off Morgan's efforts to increase his own shareholding from five per cent. And that may mean sacrificing manager Gérard Houllier, who has received sharp criticism from Morgan. The self-made multi-millionaire will undoubtedly attempt to remove the Frenchman if he gains the place on the board and direct involvement in running the club he seeks.

Houllier will, according to one Anfield source, "almost certainly go" anyway if Champions' League qualification is missed, which makes today's contest with Leicester City all the more intriguing. Unsurprisingly the number one managerial target remains Martin O'Neill and if Moores could lure him he would undoubtedly strengthen his own position.

The Morgan camp see Moores as a weak chairman and perhaps one who has exhausted his own funds, inherited from the Littlewoods empire of pools, stores and home shopping businesses, propping up Houllier's spending. Moores, who took control in 1991 for £12m and holds 51.6 per cent of the shares, certainly abhors confrontation.

He talked about stepping aside himself at the annual meeting in January in which Morgan was an eloquent critic voicing his, and many fans, frustrations. Moores immediately regretted his admission but has since conceded a meeting with Morgan which undoubtedly led to his decision to call in Hawkpoint, a company previously used by Newcastle United and Enicwhen it invested in Spurs.

The most obvious solution to Liverpool's problems is a simple one: a rights issue which would encourage fresh investors. However that would involve the benign Moores effectively losing control. Morgan's proposal, with his £50m from his personal fortune estimated at £312m, was to do exactly this. He would underwrite the issue of shares, preventing Moores from buying any, which could have resulted in Morgan's holding growing to between 15 and 20 per cent and the chairman's falling to 37 per cent. Morgan insists he does not want to instigate a takeover but it is hard to see Moores remaining if his grip is loosened.

Significantly, Morgan claims Liverpool have rejected his plan. In a statement he added ominously that he "now awaits the outcome of the board's strategic and financing review with interest". It will be intriguing to see what alternatives are presented. It may simply be that Moores is waiting for another major investor to step forward, although if he is hoping that will be the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra he is likely to be disappointed. The telecoms millionaire has the money - and has already flirted with investing in Fulham - but will not want to make the significant commitment Liverpool need. Borrowing money may be Moores' only alternative in blocking his adversary. And that may be dangerous, especially given the club's growing debt.

Morgan, undoubtedly, represents the most secure option. Although he lives in Jersey, he was born and raised on Merseyside, where he worked his way through the building trade to create the hugely successful housebuilders, Redrow. He subsequently sold up and is regarded as a shrewd, cool operator. But also a committed one. His interest in Liverpool is genuine and he has only got involved through disappointment and frustration and not personal aggrandisement. Moores doesn't need to listen to him - or take any of the advice offered by Hawkpoint. But, in the interests of the club, he should do both.

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