Leading article: Black days for English football

Share
Related Topics

However it ends, the transatlantic courtroom drama that has engulfed Liverpool Football Club this week has already been a shameful episode in the history of English football. One of the most famous names in world sport has been dragged through the courts by two Americans desperate to avoid the club being sold from beneath them by their own bankers.

There should be no doubt about why Liverpool's destiny is being decided in the courts of law rather than, as it should be, on the football pitch: Liverpool is bust. The club's owners cannot afford to pay the £238m they owe to the Royal Bank of Scotland. What we have seen this week is a squabble over the financial carcass of a once proud sporting institution.

The Royal Bank of Scotland took effective control of the club seven months ago when Liverpool's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, failed to pay back their debts on time. The bank has attempted to sell the club, for nothing more than the value of its debts, to the American financier and sports investor, John W Henry. Messrs Hicks and Gillett have sought to frustrate this process through the courts in London and Texas.

If a sale does not take place the club faces being placed into administration, which would result in a disastrous nine-point penalty. And what are the prospects if the sale to Mr Henry does go through? The club's debts would, we are told, be substantially reduced. But Mr Henry is no lifelong Liverpool supporter, bound to the club through historic loyalty. Liverpool will have merely exchanged two mercenary foreign owners for another one.

How did it come to this? There is plenty of blame to go around. It must encompass David Moores (Liverpool's previous owner who sold out to Messrs Hicks and Gillett for a fat profit), the two incompetent Americans themselves and also the Royal Bank of Scotland which lent the pair the money to complete their foolish leveraged buy-out in 2007.

But the greatest blame must lie with the Premier League. What has befallen Liverpool is just one entry in a long catalogue of derelictions of duty by the league's governors. Over the past decade the Premier League has allowed English clubs to be acquired by a succession of dubious characters and financial predators. It has failed to ensure a reasonably level financial playing field across the league. The game's governors have shrugged their shoulders as sugar-daddy owners have pumped in money to buy quick success, putting immense financial pressures on smaller clubs that have attempted to compete. They have sat back while clubs have squandered vast television revenues on ludicrous transfer fees and grotesquely-inflated player wages. The majority of Premier League clubs are now running unsustainable losses and several have mortgaged their futures with staggering recklessness.

The lesson from the judicial torments of Liverpool supporters this week is that England's clubs need to be in the hands of the only individuals who have their long-term interests at heart: their fans. Germany has shown that this is possible. The Bundesliga authorities demand that all clubs are majority-owned by member associations and they are forbidden from spending profligately on player registrations and wages. This framework has delivered competitive football, reasonable ticket prices, profits for clubs and financial stability across the league.

The idea of implementing a similar structure in English club football has long been dismissed by the complacent and arrogant individuals who run the domestic game as a romantic dream. But supporters are beginning to wake up to the fact that something is rotten in the laissez-faire Premier League. Better a romantic dream, many now say, than the present financial nightmare.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

KS1 & KS2 Teacher

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: We are looking for infants and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Ebola virus in the US: How did the disease ever spread this far?

Sophie Harman
 

The most common question I am asked is 'How do I become a YouTuber?' This is my reply

Jim Chapman
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?