Liverpool's new owner John W Henry yesterday attempted to temper expectation at Anfield but did admit that he decided to spend his £300m on Liverpool because the new Uefa rules that limit debt carried by clubs such as Manchester City should make for a more even playing field.
Henry, who assured the Liverpool manager, Roy Hodgson, about his future on Saturday and sat beside Steven Gerrard at a lunch with the players, has made it clear that his New England Sports Ventures (NESV) investors will not throw money at Liverpool. But by making Liverpool almost debt-free, while Manchester United face the drain of huge annual interest payments, they believe that it is a realistic aspiration to strive for a title within three seasons. "If the [Uefa] Financial Fair Play rules are... not that strong, why was the transfer window down 25 per cent last year?" Henry said. "The clubs have to comply."
To make Liverpool compete again, the owners intend to drive up the club's revenues to reinvest in players and have studied the Arsenal model of achieving playing excellence without huge debts or extravagant spending.
But, having recently spent time at the Emirates and watched a game there, Henry and his partner, Tom Werner, believe they are some distance behind Arsène Wenger's club.
"You look at match-day revenues [here], revenues in general, these guys have done a tremendous job of increasing revenues, but if you look at the network that Wenger has, [you realise there's work to do]."
Liverpool's former owner Tom Hicks has vowed to pursue the directors through the English courts for damages for undervaluing the club. But Henry dismissed the idea he had purchased Liverpool at cut-price. "I know some people are saying this was a cheap price. There is no way we look at this as a cheap price," he said. "There were big financial issues, but we made a decision that we really wanted to compete at this level."
Henry, who will be at a Liverpool board meeting today to discuss how much money will be made available in the January transfer window, also plans to meet the Share Liverpool group, who propose the idea of fan ownership at the club.
The billionaire revealed that his young wife, Linda Pizzuti, had encouraged him to buy Liverpool, badgering him to approach Hicks last January. Hicks was too preoccupied to speak but his son, Tom Hicks Jnr, turned Henry down flat. The new owners will add Jeffrey Vinik – owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox, which they own – and Michael Gordon, an NESV partner, to the Liverpool board. Henry and Werner will also be on the board.Reuse content