Fenway Sports Group: Better the devil you know?

PAUL CONNOR discusses FSG’s ownership of Liverpool Football Club and debates whether they should stay or go.

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At half past four on Sunday afternoon, Liverpool were due to play Manchester United at Old Trafford – an important game in terms of a top four place for the visitors. 

This didn’t go to plan. Instead United fans – in revolt against the infamous Glazer family – held what was firstly a peaceful protest turned pitch invasion. This, along with the vast crowds outside the ground, inevitably saw the game postponed, with uncertainty as to whether the game was still going to be played before May 13th was announced as the replay days later. 


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This at first, was not good news at all. Klopp’s side are in a desperate position in the quest for Champions League qualification, and needed the game played. The fixture congestion will now once again test the Reds at the end of a difficult season where not much has gone right.

But on the other hand – and for the wide world of football as a whole – you have to support and even admire the people who protested peacefully on Sunday. Amidst the ‘betrayal’ and displeasure of the “Big Six” owners, the United fans have stood up for a cause which had been alive in Manchester since the takeover itself in 2005, yet cannot be more relevant. 

Here in Liverpool, like Manchester in a way (I don’t say that often), there is a vocal portion of our fanbase who have voiced their own displeasure at our Fenway Sports Group. Many people, including those perceived to be ‘Top Reds’, have condemned the operations of FSG as a whole, with some wanting them out of the club entirely.

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I have also seen the certain tweets that have criticised our fanbase for not standing up against our own owners like the United fans did, of which I have a few arguments against: 

I have been, if you have read my last couple of articles, greatly against the whole Super League agenda and against the greediness of the likes of John W. Henry, and it will be tough for them to ever fully gain my trust, though my question is simple for Reds who are fully FSG OUT:

Who comes in? 

The topic of FSG has been something on my mind for a while now, as I struggle myself to come up with a one-sided view of our owners. 

Since the club were bought by FSG, the club has undergone a rollercoaster of a ride. From playing Anzhi Makakhala in the Europa League – Jonjo Shelvey rocking the front cover, may I add – to becoming League Champions for the first time in 30 years, it has been nothing short of such.

FSG, since taking over the club 11 years ago, have oversaw the redevelopment of the Main Stand in 2017 and the construction of the AXA Training Centre in Kirkby in 2020, and are preparing for a redevelopment for the Anfield Road stand. Though in purely footballing terms, they have always ran the club as a ‘self sustaining’ business, so to speak.

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In the last 5 years, Liverpool’s net spend only amounts to £97.5m (via TransferMarkt), compared to fellow Premier League teams such as Manchester City (£554.8m), Chelsea (£251.5m), Arsenal (£295.8m), Manchester United (£460.5m) and even Everton (£245.1m). 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as much praise should be directed to Klopp and our world-class scouting department led by Michael Edwards, who is also known for his negotiation skills – though one could argue that more squad depth could be helpful in terms of competing with teams such as Manchester City, who have a profound substitutes’ bench. 

Then again, it is also a debate as to whether a team should fork out hundreds of millions of pounds each season just to be able to compete with the teams who have stupidly rich owners.

In terms of financial stability, FSG have made the club a successful one, most notably the massive kit deal with sportswear giants Nike worth £30m – less than New Balance were initially offering, though FSG steered towards Nike, with their promise to distribute the kit to double the amount of stores worldwide that New Balance were dedicating. 

This means that if the amount of shirts sold is to the initial estimate, this would see the club inheriting £75-80m a year – making it the third richest deal in the world.

In another light, there have been times when you have had to doubt whether FSG have fully recognised and consulted the fans’ feelings, or merely the prospect generating more revenue. Campaigns such as the infamous £77 ticket, the attempted trademark of ‘Liverpool’, the Project Big Picture proposal and the European Super League are subjects that can make you think.

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What we need to remember as a fanbase and as football fans in general is that, how greatly or poorly they run our club, their upmost priority in the end is a tidy profit – with most people involved in business. 

These last few weeks have angered me, like a lot of people. But as much as I am upset with our owners, it would be naive to throw them out without a plan B. Spirit of Shankly are the ones currently providing the Liverpool community with a plan B – more fan representation.

Recently the supporters’ union has held talks with the club over fan representation, with an aim of places on the board itself. They have discussed the involvement of two SOS representatives on the board, who will have a ‘golden share’ rather than ‘token’ say on the goings-on around the club. 

This, in my eyes, is absolutely crucial for our club. If successful, it should be an example for clubs around England (Chelsea have announced similar plans in recent days) and Europe as a whole on how a football club is run and crucially what happens on the inside.

More fan representation in itself is crucial for the future of the game as a whole. We are the livelihood of our teams. We are the ones who are fully engrossed within this culture. We are the ones who dedicate our lives to following them, spending our hard earned money season after season. Look at how teams like Bury, Portsmouth and Wimbledon were treated, as just a few examples.

It is our club, at the end of the day. Owners come and go – we, the fans, are the forever constants. 


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