A house of cards – that is the only way to describe Liverpool football club this week. It’s manager and star striker have disagreed over the importance of signing £25m players, while its owners revealed that the cost to Anfield of them taking over has been even greater than the exposure to ridicule that Tom Hicks has caused.
There was a novelty factor to the club’s accounts for the year July 31 2007 which have surfaced at Companies House: Hicks and George Gillett’s signatures, scrawled beside each other. Not something we are likely to see again until Hicks finally agrees to his estranged business partner selling out to Dubai International Capital and they sign on it.
But there were also some extraordinary details in there, too. Like the Americans’ willingness to write off £10.4m – just to ditch stadium plans the club had drawn up before they arrived and replace them with their own. I am yet to find an architect who can explain how the club could have spent such money on a stadium model before ditching it. This platform is available now to any who can. There will be more write-downs next year when the club accounts for the fact that its second stadium model was also ditched in favour of something more modest – because soaring steel prices made the Americans’ ambitions unrealistic.
And then there is the £1.5m in “personal expenses” which the Americans cost Liverpool in just the first seven months of their ownership. Travelling expenses, legal costs, “personnel costs” – all heaped on to the club into which the Americans were not investing a penny. It will be interesting to see how much cost Hicks, in particular, has hit the club on public relations services when next year’s accounts are delivered. Freud Communications appear to have joined Financial Dynamics (FD) on the Hicks pay-roll though Freud were unwilling to divulge yesterday exactly what their role for Hicks might be and referred media inquiries back to FD. Who are they working for – Hicks or Kop Holdings? Unclear. So much for the ‘Liverpool Way.’
All in all, it’s the kind of detail which tells us that Michel Platini was both right and wrong on Friday when he railed, in L’Equipe, about the ‘cheating’ British clubs – Manchester United and Chelsea in particular – who buy success on tick. Yes, it is a concern that proprietors about whom we really know nothing are allowed to take up the reins at our clubs. But no, it’s not ‘cheating’. That would suggest something clandestine. Whether they discover trumph or disaster on tick next season, Liverpool is being torn apart – limb for limb – by Hicks in particular and the evidence of that fact is there for all to see.