by Scott Groom (@ScottCGroom)
You’ll notice there’s an extreme dichotomy between fan opinions if you follow Liverpool Football Club, especially if you scroll through social media.Embed from Getty Images
Season ends. We mull it over. We start looking forward to next season. Transfer rumours fly around. The players speak. The manager speaks. The owners speak. People lose their cool.
Without fail, Fenway Sports Group come under intense scrutiny every year. And before I go any further, I want to make it clear that of course fans are entitled to air their views and opinions.
With this in mind, please allow me mine. FSG’s takeover at Anfield was one of the best things to happen to the club in a long – long – time.
I’ve said it, it’s out there now so there’s no taking it back.
So why is it that they come under such an intense glare from fans?
A long way from Hicks and GillettEmbed from Getty Images
Let’s flashback to 2010 when Liverpool were owned by a very different set of American owners – George Gillett and Tom Hicks. They made big promises (big promises) when they took over in 2007. One of which was a lavish stadium upgrade; a new one altogether.
However, it quickly became apparent that their promises were, at best, unfounded, at worst, a fallacy. Not only would they fail to keep their promises, but they almost ran the club into the ground.
Fans were protesting off the pitch, the team was ailing on it, and the aura around Anfield was a shadow of its former self. So when FSG stepped in, you could forgive a little trepidation in the minds of Liverpool fans.
But over the last 10 years, Liverpool Football Club has been revived from top to bottom.
Financially, the club has gone from calling in the creditors to sitting pretty as a model of footballing rectitude (almost), and, of course, champions of just about everything. In 2019, the club’s revenue increased to £533 million, with the club’s value standing at around $2.183 billion. That’s quite something.Embed from Getty Images
That’s also something that takes careful fiscal planning over a prolonged period of time. This hasn’t been easy and it’s not something which can be taken lightly either.
Every summer there are usually calls for ‘FSG Out’ due to a craving for ‘more’. More what? Well, signings. A modern supporter lives by the notion that ‘more’ is, well, ‘more’. The dogged conviction is that more signings ultimately equals greater success. It doesn’t.
But FSG have proven, time and again (certainly under Klopp), that they won’t pay out unless it’s a purchase deemed to be the perfect fit for the club.
Financial frugality and transfer masterstrokes
In 2015, they identified Jurgen Klopp as the man needed to turn our footballing fortunes around and acted swiftly. Not only this, but they’ve backed him in the transfer market, too.
Of course, fans love to see new players coming into the club, and the appointment of Michael Edwards is another FSG masterstroke in this regard.Embed from Getty Images
Edwards, Klopp and co., methodically choose who to target and have yielded results (I needn’t list specifics). This also counts for outgoings. Look at the smart reinvestment of the money accrued from Coutinho’s sale for example.
It was reinvested to secure the services of Alisson and van Dijk, signings which were – arguably – the final pieces of the Klopp trophy-winning jigsaw. Aside from this, Liverpool are not to be held to ransom by over the odds transfer fees; they’ve steadied the books while adding quality where needed.
There are countless ways in which their smart choices have benefitted the team, so we’ll leave these as prime examples.
Regenerating Anfield and the club brand
There’s also the small matter of the massive (and continuing) regeneration of Anfield – and we have to be thankful for that.
Our home ground has always been a special place, but there’s no denying the new Main Stand and plans for Anfield Road will take it to the next level. Not only was this a wise move – Anfield can now accommodate more fans on matchdays – but a financially shrewd one as well.Embed from Getty Images
It brings with it increased revenue on the whole, which can be used to benefit the club in numerous ways. Whether that be the development of the stadium or the new training complex at Kirby.
Combine all of this with the new kit deal with Nike, and you can see why, along with success on the pitch, revenues have shot up in recent years. Liverpool are not only back on their perch in terms of the league table, but as a global brand which works within its means.
Humility when they have made mistakes
Admittedly, this is a mere skim through the successes during FSG’s time on Merseyside which has, undeniably, been a positive one. But this doesn’t mean that they’re perfect – is anyone really?
There was the recent furloughing of all non-playing staff, a decision made with poor judgement – but it was reversed. There was the mass walk-out at Anfield in 2016 in protest of a proposed rise in ticket prices – and, guess what, FSG listened and froze ticket prices.Embed from Getty Images
Both of these decisions were poor. Of course they were and were rightly met with fierce disapproval from supporters groups and Kopites the world over. But an old adage in life is rather true when it comes to FSG.
It takes guts and sincerity to admit to their mistakes and hold up their hands and say sorry. And they have, on more than one occasion. There really aren’t many other football club owners who would act with such humility.
They may well make more mistakes in the future, but we all know if it’s the wrong one, they listen, they liaise fans, and a resolution (a good one) is the cumulative result.Embed from Getty Images
It’s unfair to judge owners on incoming transfers; it’s a daft metric. Look at the overall health of the club. The Boston-based firm have done far more good than bad.
For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of Fenway Sports Group. They deserve immense credit for metamorphosing the team, the club and the institution we hold so close to our hearts.