6th October 2010, FSG agreed to buy English football club Liverpool FC from owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. John Henry stood proudly outside the law offices in central London and said “I can’t tell you how happy I am. We’re here to win.”
He told the world he would sort the club’s debts out and didn’t seem to be afraid when asked the question “What do you think of Tom Hicks and George Gillett looking to sue you for £1B?” to replay with “is that all”. With these words and the promises, he was saying he would make to help Liverpool, every Liverpool fan was over the moon and relieved that the club didn’t end up getting a 9-point penalty and could end up in administration.
Hicks and Gillett took the other board members to court, and on the Friday prior to the Merseyside derby, the High Court in London, declared that the process was against British law, and that the juridical process in Texas was not going to stop the affair taking place. New owner John W. Henry immediately travelled to Liverpool, watching the derby in attendance, being joined by future chairman Tom Werner.
At the time of the takeover, Roy Hodgson was in charge of a very average and over paid squad. The Merseyside derby didn’t keep that smile on the faces of the Liverpool supporters though with a 2-0 defect sinking Liverpool into a deeper relegation battle. After the game, under pressure manager Roy Hodgson praised Liverpool for their second half performance which raised many eye brows and FSG give him a vote of confidence despite fans making it clear they want Kenny Dalglish to take control of the team.
October ended with Hodgson’s only domestic away victory with Liverpool, when the side scored a late winner at Bolton Wanderers. The match did not provide much spark until a flick with the heel from Torres put Maxi Rodríguez through five minutes from time, and the Argentine blasted the ball in with a toe-hit. The most important effect of the two-match streak was that it meant Liverpool left the relegation zone for good, albeit they were never in a safe distance from it until 15 matches later.
On 8th January 2011, just one day before Liverpool were due to kick off their FA Cup campaign against Manchester United, the club announced Hodgson had left by mutual consent. Kenny Dalglish was due to take charge on a temporary basis until the end of the season. The news was welcomed by most Liverpool fans and the FA Cup game somewhat took lesser importance given Dalglish had not even had a day’s training with the squad he had inherited.
But how far have FSG taken Liverpool since then?
The first player to arrive at Liverpool under FSG was club record signing Andy Carroll for £34.85M followed by Luis Suarez for £22.53M, this was a huge statement by the owners to spend that sort of money on two players, only to receive most of that money back through the sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea on the same day on the 31st January 2011 for £50M. Liverpool went on to finish 6th that season following some impressive back to back wins by Kenny Dalglish.
King Kenny went on to lead Liverpool to success in the League Cup, winning the tournament after beating Cardiff 3-2 on penalties. After the match FSG made a statement on winning the cup, live on TV to millions around to world “this is only the beginning”, which is still the only cup Liverpool have won in the time they have been there.
On 16th May 2012, FSG sacked Kenny Dalglish after finishing 8th in the league despite winning the League Cup and leading the team to a FA Cup final. On 1st June 2012, Brendan Rodgers was unveiled by Tom Werner, in a packed room at Anfield as the new Liverpool manager.
Nothing quite compares to that 2013/14 run-in where the will of a fanbase and a city – and a certain Uruguayan – drove Liverpool to the brink of a historic Premier League title. When FSG give an interview to the BBC they were asked about their views on Liverpool winning the title that season, John Henry, and Tom Werner was sitting there at Fenway Park with smiles on their faces telling the reporter “if Liverpool win the title now then we are years ahead of schedule”.
Many Liverpool supporters point the finger at that one trophy that has been won since the takeover of FSG, but was FSG the people who threw away the Europa League final against Sevilla? Or the FA cup final against Chelsea and the League Cup against Manchester city?
“We’re going to do a lot of listening, we have a lot to learn, and we’ll walk this path together (with the fans),” Henry had said after securing the purchase of the club at the High Court.
Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Liverpool supporter’s union “The spirit of Shankly” questioned the owners repeatedly to lower match ticket prices, when the new main stand opened in August 2016, FSG said they would price the lower tier ticket prices at £77. After many angry fans yelled their voice towards the club, the owners still wouldn’t listen. After the home match against Sunderland where fans stood up and walked out on the 77th minute to protest against the ticket prices, the owners finally understood they had made a mistake.
FSG appointed Damien Comolli to become the director of football. He became under huge pressure to sign the right players to push Liverpool into the Champions League, but failed to do so and we ended up with a team of underperforming and over paid players. When Liverpool appointed Brenden Rodgers he was against the idea of a director of football, so somebody at Anfield suggested the idea of a “Transfer Committee” which lead to many problems with Rodgers, with new signings being labelled as one or the others and Rodgers showing favouritism to some players.
I guess when FSG bought the club and made the promises of winning, they didn’t quite understand the size of the task they had in front of them, John Henry even read a multitude of books not only on Liverpool FC but football as a business.
Liverpool are slowly but steady getting back to where they belong, this is the most stable the club has been for years and FSG have learned from their mistakes and each year seem to be putting the club in a better position than ever before. With the appointment of Jurgen Klopp he has brought all the fans back together and put the excitement back into match days. Every Liverpool supporter believes in what Klopp is building at Liverpool, but some supporters are still pointing the finger at FSG.
Aside from appointing Klopp, FSG’s biggest success story so far is the redeveloping of Anfield’s Main Stand. The owners had a decision of redeveloping Anfield or moving to a brand-new ground in Stanley Park, they made the correct decision in my view. FSG took their time in making plans of the development of Anfield and plans show they will take the historic stadium to over a 60,000-seater. With the new main stand now completed that took the capacity to 54,000, plans have come to a halt with the expansion of the Anfield road end. Ex Liverpool CEO Ian Aye said the work on Anfield road would cost between £60M-£70M and the 15-year repayments required to finance the extra 6,000 seats as “not a smart investment for the business.
A failure to deliver the phase-two expansion would again be another promise not met and the “FSGOUT” army would gain a few more members.
FSG are open to investment into the club as part of an overall package involving naming rights of the new Main Stand, for which they are seeking £7-9 million per season. With the new stand also set to boost matchday revenue by £20 million per season and a positive net spend recorded in the summer despite the new combined TV deals worth £83 billion meaning clubs earn 50 per cent more in broadcast revenue this season, many supporters are already questioning, are FSG here just for the money or have they got their heart in the club?
FSG have also decided to merge the first team with the academy by knocking down the Melwood complex and extending the academy in Kirkby, this is massive for the club of the field, not only to have a brand new Main Stand but also a top of the range training complex and academy, with the academy kids soon to be training closely with the Liverpool big guns hopefully we will find the next Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher in our ranks.
With Jurgen Klopp and the champions league upon us, things are looking bright in the future of Liverpool FC. FSG have provided us with Klopp and the funds needed to build a strong team. I would be surprised if Klopp doesn’t win a trophy in his time at Liverpool, so FSG could deliver on their promise “here to win”.
There are worse owners out there that are sinking clubs into uncontrollable debts and providing no investment into the team. I think FSG are doing a good job at stabilising the club, they may have broken promises and may not have spent money like the top teams in the premier league but we are on the right road to bringing success to Anfield.
Are you #FSGOUT or #FSGIN ?