Red Sox Group's prospective takeover at Anfield wins Premier League approval

Robin Scott-Elliot
Saturday 09 October 2010 00:00 BST

The importance of next week's court case to the immediate future of Liverpool was laid bare yesterday as the Premier League approved the prospective takeover by New England Sports Venture (NSEV).

It also emerged that if the deal does not go through by Friday the club faces the likelihood of a nine-point penalty.

The Premier League board met with John W Henry and Tom Werner, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, earlier in the week and are satisfied with the Americans' plans for the club should the deal go through.

Henry and Werner will be joined on the board by three other Americans, David Ginsberg, vice-chairman of the Red Sox and an usher at Henry's wedding last year, Jeffrey Vinik, who made his fortune as a hedge fund owner and now owns the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey franchise, and Michael Gordon, a partner in NESV. The initial make up of the board may cause unease among sections of the Liverpool support who remain sceptical of another US owner.

No date has yet been fixed for the High Court – it will be Tuesday at the earliest – but the consequences of Tom Hicks and George Gillett succeeding in their bid to block the sale is likely to lead to a points penalty.

Next Sunday Liverpool face Everton, of all opponents, at Goodison Park. If the takeover has gone ahead Henry and the new board will almost certainly be in attendance. If it has not, a day after the game the Premier League will almost certainly impose its penalty. Liverpool currently have six points.

The present American ownership face a Friday deadline to repay £282m worth of loans and fees to Royal Bank of Scotland and failure to meet it will leave the duo with little option but to put their company, Kop Holdings, into administration.

It had previously been thought that as Kop Holdings is Liverpool's parent company, the club would escape a points penalty. West Ham United's parent company, the Icelandic bank Straumur, went into administration last year, but the east London club made up one of the company's several off-shoots and so were not penalised. That is not the case with Liverpool.

The Premier League also take into account whether the actions of the club's management have contributed to the parent company's administration, and in this case it would seem as if the League would have little option but to apply a penalty. Portsmouth were the first Premier League club to be penalised in this fashion last year.

Hicks and Gillett are contesting the decision of Martin Broughton, Liverpool's chairman, to agree a £300m takeover with NESV. They claim that that figure "dramatically undervalues" the club and that Broughton and Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, who make up the board, did not have the authority to accept an offer that went against the co-owners' wishes.

Whatever the court's decision next week an appeal is probable. If the legal case is ongoing come Friday, RBS have the option of extending the deadline until the process is complete.

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