On February 20th, Fenway Sports Group announced they wouldn’t sell a majority stake in Liverpool FC. They are merely seeking an influx of capital to reload for the ongoing arms race that is English football. Despite being very angry with them about the current state of my Red Sox- I will never forgive the Mookie Betts trade- I’m relieved. FSG remains the appropriate steward of the club at this moment.
Although some complain they haven’t spent enough money in the transfer market, especially in the midfield, they have invested heavily in the club.
The completed main stand and ongoing Anfield Road expansions are significant FSG investments. Those investments boost revenues and close the attendance gap with other English superclubs. This will ensure long-term sustainability at the club at the top level.
They’ve broken world transfer records multiple times. Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk both came in for what was the highest price ever paid for their respective position. A league title, European Cup, and Quadruple near-miss didn’t come cheap. Those teams reportedly made a collective £300,000,000 per season. English football is a high-stakes game and FSG anted up.
As important as the above considerations are, I would also ask the following for the FSG OUT crowd. “What are our alternatives?” It’s true that American billionaires are eager to join the Premier League, but that doesn’t immediately translate to steady ownership. Not only is there a learning curve to adapt to a different sports culture, but the move from highly-structured salary caps that guarantee profits to the rampant financially-doped free-spending world of elite football is also jarring. Hicks and Gillett were abnormally bad. It has taken 13 years for FSG to get to this level. New American owners would mean learning the process over again from scratch. I’m not eager to relive that.
The other likely option, and perhaps the most likely option, is a petrostate. Sheikh Mansour and Abu Dhabi aren’t outliers with City anymore. Qatar owns Paris Saint-Germain. Newcastle fans got their wish with Mike Ashley’s ouster only to now find their club owned by the House of Saud. Eddie Howe will bring them memories, but at what cost? This is the monarchy that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, requires women to get a male relative’s permission for major life choices, crushed Bahrain’s democracy protests in 2011, and has been fighting Yemen’s brutal civil war since 2015. No amount of high spending and trophies are worth having a club we loved owned by bloodstained tyrants.
Are they perfect? Hell no! Any Red Sox fan has an extensive list of grievances from their 20 years at the helm. Yes, I can be grateful for 4 World Series titles and still have a long list of gripes. That’s just my personality. On the Liverpool front, from mishandled price increases to trying to trademark the name of the city, to the European Super League, they’ve had numerous screw-ups. But the “baseball owners” have far more home runs than strikeouts. FSG bankrolled amazing memories in the Jurgen Klopp era. They are not an oil-fueled dictatorship. So for now, I’m FSG in and grateful they are going to stick around.