October 6th is a date that inspires a fair old gamut of emotions from the Anfield faithful. It is, of course, the deadline set in place by the Royal Bank of Scotland for Liverpool’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to put up or ship out, with £285 million’s worth of outstanding loans needing to be settled before the lenders forcibly seize control of the club’s assets.
Whilst I suspect that many of your common-or-garden Liverpool fans that are busy blowing their beans at the ‘Yank Liars’ have little understanding of what they are actually protesting and are merely using Hicks and Gillett as culpable figureheads at which to vent their futile frustration over the club’s waning stream of on-field success (it’s the same at every club, boardroom dealings go over the heads of most fans – but the accompanying ‘catchphrases’ tend to stick), there are certain factions of supporters who have organised, mobilised and are now doing a considerable service to the club by ensuring that the current owners fail in their bid to refinance their monolithic debts.
For example, independent fans’ group Kop Faithful have been utilising the worldwide network provided by social media, drafting letters with which to lobby banks and potential lenders intended to highlight the club’s plight and urge them not to indulge Hicks by refinancing his outstandings.
Prominent group member Alan Kayll explains;
“We’re simply trying to educate these bankers of the damage that Hicks and Gillett have done, not just to our club, but to our community. At Kop Faithful, our focus is the banks, preventing refinance to the existing owners and explaining to them why they should not help keep these owners in power.”
As well as sending the letters themselves, the email addresses of the relevant bank officials were then also posted online and soon enough the inboxes of senior executives the world over were filling with similar letters from Liverpool supporters, each one echoing the desperate sentiments of Kop Faithful‘s original draft. Kyall continued;
“If we hear that Hicks is due for a meeting with a bank, within minutes we can mobilise via our forums and networks on Twitter and Facebook. Soon the bank’s email system will be inundated. We have the intelligence needed to keep ahead of the game. Liverpool fans are everywhere and, once we have the information, we can act quickly.
A good example of Kop Faithful‘s potency is Hick’s recent wranglings with hedge fund-mongers GSO Capital Partners. Once it was leaked that the Texan businessman was due to open negotiations with the company, Kyall and his contemporaries took it as a call-to-arms;
“I have it on good authority that Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire owner of Blackstone (which owns GSO) received 7000 e-mails, urging him to walk away from any deal. I hear their computer system crashed, such was the weight of e-mails we managed to generate from fans.”
All of which is highly impressive, but it stands to reason that this kind of quasi-militant (albeit peaceful) organisation from what is supposedly meant to be the most malleable segment of any club’s strata could ultimately prove to be detrimentally counter-productive for both Liverpool Football Club and the supporters thereof.
As a prospective buyer, I would view such passionate amateur safeguarding as at the very least daunting and, rather worryingly for a club in such tumultuous flux, off-putting.
With such dedicated work being done ‘behind the scenes’ to derail Hicks’ quest to prolong his stay of execution, as well as the more visual (and vicious) protests that currently take place at every single fixture Liverpool play – the prospect of taking over the club is becoming increasingly akin to purchasing that mythical ‘chalice of sh*t’.
Any new owner is understandably going to face an extended period of attempting to win back the trust and favour of the club’s ardent supporters and, in such ‘powder keg’ surroundings, that’s never going to be as straight-forward as the gods of understatement would have you believe.
A symbiotic flow of patience and vast (and overt) investment will be the key factor in allowing both sides of the divide to breathe out and settle but, as we’ve seen in the recent past, neither are particularly prevalent commodities at Anfield of late.