The purchase of Liverpool Football Club today by New England Sports Venture (NESV) brings to an end a sorry chapter in the club's storied history- the ownership reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Fortunately for Reds fans such as myself, the team will soon be in the hands of an ownership group lead by John Henry that has proven to be far more competent than their predecessors.
As the team's debt mounted and Liverpool fans became more enraged with the dynamic duo of Hicks and Gillett, passionate supporters mounted a social media campaign targeting global banks that could potentially offer a loan to the LFC ownership group. With so much anger directed at American owners, I was concerned that Reds fans wearing "Thanks but no Yank$" scarves would be dismissive of a takeover bid from another American. Fortunately the majority of the fans have been smart enough to see the approach Henry's group has taken with the Red Sox, a model for success that the Liverpool faithful hope will be repeated at Anfield.
How NESV cross-markets LFC and the Red Sox will be interesting to follow. Beyond both teams donning red socks on gamedays, the two legendary squads have many similarities. (Many of which Bill Simmons pegged four years ago.) When Henry and company took over the Red Sox in 2002, Fenway Park was an aging venue, targeted for replacement. The fan base was desperate for a championship, tired of seeing their arch rivals snatch up all the hardware. Sound familiar?
With Fenway, rather than building a new stadium, the NESV group found new ways to squeeze revenue out of the park and enhance the fan experience. Once the monster seats were introduced, they became the hottest location in baseball. And within three seasons, the long-awaited championship had been delivered to Boston. The 2004 World Series run was made even sweeter when the Sox rallied from 0-3 down in the ALCS against the Yankees, a team often compared to Manchester United.
New England is a soccer hot bed, and the NESV team has a great opportunity to ramp up LFC marketing efforts in that area. A well-attended friendly at Fenway this summer between Glasgow Celtic and Sporting Lisbon could be a prelude to Steven Gerrard and company playing a pre-season match in front of the Green Monster. Boston media are showing interest in the story, although much of it comes from the "How will this effect the Red Sox?" perspective. Still, I enjoyed the Boston Globe running an "Eight Things You Should Know About Liverpool" photo gallery on the home page today.
Ultimately Liverpool fans want to see an ownership group that will do three things: eliminate the crippling debt; respect the traditions that make Liverpool FC unique; and deliver trophies. I have no doubt that NESV will take care of the first two. Completing the treble, however, won't be as easy.