Liverpool’s story telling: a different way to approach football

“I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool,” Brendan Rodgers said earlier this month.

There’s quite a difference between that sort of statement and the sort that Mr Wenger says, which is mostly of the “I can’t tell you, because nothing is agreed, but yes, we are looking,” variety.

But what puzzles me is why would Rodgers say something like this?

First off we know that his boss, John Henry, finally admitted earlier this year that he lied comprehensively last year when denying that Luis Suarez had a £40m buy out clause.

At the time of Arsenal’s bid Liverpool were adamant that offer would not trigger the release of Suarez.  But Mr Henry, speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference said…

“Luis Suarez is the top scorer in the English Premier League, which is arguably the top soccer league in the world.   He had a buyout clause of £40m. Arsenal, one of our prime rivals, offered £40m plus £1. What we’ve found … is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually, in world football.

“It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving. We sold a player, Fernando Torres, for £50m, that we did not want to sell, we were forced to.   Since apparently these contracts don’t seem to hold, we took the position that we’re just not selling.

“It’s been great for Luis, it’s been great for us. We have three gentlemen up front Suárez, Sterling, and Sturridge, they are young, I think those three could be together for a long time.”

So, for Henry telling fibs was justified because it kept Suarez at the club longer, and contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on – although perhaps Suarez did not stay for as long as predicted.  And he was lucky – had Barcelona not been in such a mess with their transfers of children, and been so obviously going to lose their appeals (which were based on the concept of “We are Barcelona, don’t be silly with such accusations”) then the sale at such a price would not have been possible.

But of course in sport you roll with your luck and curse your bad luck.  That’s how it goes.

Yet still the question is, why have two senior Liverpool officials so openly said things that turned out not to be true? What’s the point?

Reading Henry’s speech he probably did it because he wanted to talk himself up in a big conference.  But Rodgers?  Could it have been that he didn’t know they were buying Balotelli?  Was he personally against buying Balotelli?  Did he have any concern about buying a player who seemed to want to come to Arsenal through the summer and whose club were clearly trying to off-load him all summer?  Was he afraid that even at the last minute Balotelli wouldn’t turn up at the right airport?

Of course the press are so keen to get a story – any story – that they are willing to talk to anyone and any institution, including one that is run by a man who boasts about his ability to pull the wool over the eyes of a rival by telling fibs and another who tells the media something that turns out to be very untrue.   The Guardian ran the Henry story, as did the Mail (the Guardian’s political enemy) and Sky Sports, plus numerous blogs.  But the rest of the papers ignored it and no one is linking it to the Balotelli denial.

Which, when you come to think about it, is interesting, because it suggests that there is a worry about credibility here.  The press had been running the story about there being no such clause in the Suarez contract, and Arsenal backed off once Liverpool adopted that line.   When Henry admitted Arsenal were right, the media mostly backed away and said nothing.

But in the aftermath of the Suarez affair, Setanta’s news service said this:

Having seen the offer rejected, Suarez accused Liverpool of lying to him by denying him a move to a Champions League club, but Gerrard believes it would have been a mistake for the striker had he joined Arsenal.

“I would have been really sad and disappointed to see Luis go to Arsenal,” Gerrard told the Daily Telegraph.

“With all due respect to them, I said to him that he was too good for Arsenal”.

Apart from the rather curious meaning that this gives to “with all due respect” in relation to a man with Suarez’ disciplinary record, it is an interesting piece since it has Suarez falling out with Liverpool, in accusing them of lying to him.   So Henry lies to everyone, someone (maybe Henry) lies to Suarez (and that is implied in Henry’s speech to the MIT conference), and Rodgers says, ““I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool,” days before signing him.

It is an interesting state of affairs.  Of course Rodgers did not say, “Balotelli comes to Liverpool over my dead body” but I get the feeling (and it is no more than my feeling and what one journalist told me) is that he was half way there.

All this is interesting as we try to make sense of the much needed Liverpool stadium renovations, of which I have commented before as part of our regular review of stadia upgrades on Untold.

There is certainly a lot of work going on behind the stadium, as anyone who passes by can attest, and the project is clearly underway big-time, but where is the money coming from?

We know that Liverpool Council were very public in April this year saying that they would not fund the Everton stadium development in full.  But they didn’t mention Liverpool

On the Liverpool FC web site there is a page which is headed ERDF Funding.  But I can’t find any reference from there to the funding other than a link that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.   I seriously would like anyone who has clear information on this, with a source, to tell me the source and the information.  I am sure this is my error, and that the information is out there, but I just can’t see it.  If a Liverpool fan stumbles on this page and can post in the info and accept my apology in advance for not finding the information, I’d be grateful.  (Calling me an idiot for writing about something without all the facts isn’t necessary because it’s been done many times before but you can do it if you like).

Two years back the Telegraph said that both Everton and Liverpool were “examining a range of debt-financing options with American investors, including ‘private placements’, a method of raising funds by selling bonds to private investors.

“Under a private placement, investors would buy bonds in the club at a fixed rate of interest, which they would receive at set periods throughout the term of the deal. At its conclusion the initial investment would be repaid.

“Manchester United refinanced more than £500 million of bank loans in 2009 by issuing corporate bonds in the club on the UK and American markets.

“It was considered a success after it attracted significant take up from investors and allowed the Glazers to maintain their debt-financed ownership of the club, albeit at the cost of annual interest repayments of around £40  million.”

Of course Liverpool could borrow against the naming rights, in order to escape repayment of that magnitude, which is the sort of model Arsenal employed, but that has problems in that in order to get the money organised there has to be a strict repayment schedule which is funded without further borrowing – and that can restrict money for transfers – as we have seen since the Ems opened.

There’s no direct link between the new stadium and the lies about a contract, and the manager’s outright denial about Balotelli, except credibility.  If credibility slips then things get sticky and a faux-pas in terms of addressing a conference or a bunch of journalists can reverberate into other areas.  “If they lied about this,” the saying goes, “then how do we trust them…”

Of course everyone lies.  That’s how it goes.  But just occasionally some story telling comes home to roost.

PS: If you are in AISA you should by now have received the “Arsenal After Chapman” volume.  I do hope you like it.


The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.


24 Replies to “Liverpool’s story telling: a different way to approach football”

  1. Regarding Henry – I don’t know, I’m still wondering what was he trying to achieve. There is a theory under which Suarez’s and his lawyers knew very well that they had the contractual power to force his exit, but in reality, and this IS true (not only in Football) contract do not automatically mean an option to enforce them in real life due to other considerations.

    For example: say I am a bread supplier and you are a grocery. According to our contract, I need to deliver the bread by 5 am. Let’s say I’m late a few days, and according to our contract you are entitled to some damages. But you know that if you take me to court, I will stop supplying you, and in those few days of not-having-bread in your grocery, you will lose more money.

    So maybe, Suarez would have won the case, but he would not have played for Arsenal as long as the dispute was being resolved, and that would have been disastrous for him in a world cup year.

    As for Brendan – it’s easy, admitting interest in a player means that other clubs might also bid for that player, without any real intent, just to inflate the transfer price. Saying – “I’m not interested” can reduce the risk of that happening.

    I fully expect people to lie when it’s convenient for them, they do it all the time. Unfortunately the sanctions for lying in the real world are almost non existent. Hey, we all vote for politicans…

  2. I think the Henry/Suarez thing has been done to death but not everyone is a contract lawyer (I’m not either, my missus is though). This, as far as my laymans understanding, is how it went:

    Suarez’s contract stated that if someone offered over £40m, then LFC were obliged to consider it. John Henry was of the opinion that he HAD considered it, and decided to reject it. Lawyers from LFC, AFC and the PFA all pored over this clause and all agreed that legally, Henry was correct in his understanding of the clause so Suarez stayed where he was.

  3. One of the most important and desirable characteristics of any company, business, industry, profession etc is honesty.

    To flirt with dishonesty and to be sufficiently arrogant to rejoice in dishonesty is often a step towards corruption and self-destruction.

    In Liverpool’s case, they will be protected by the media – for now.

  4. liverpool fan here, in reference to your stadium doubts. FSG clearly stated that no stadium renovations would be undertaken without first the money for it being available. Since rodgers has taken over, he has been given a strict budget to adhere to every transfer window and FSG have kept trimming the wage bill by offloading aging stars or dead wood. All of this financial austerity undertaken to reduce liverpool’s debt and to save money for renovations. The liverpool city council is not funding the stadium renovation. like you mention in your article, NOT IN FULL. The stadium renovation is part of the larger anfield redevelopment project and has been tied in with it. This is what i know of the situation. You can look up LFC blogs and forums like thisisanfield for more information as they have a separate section dealing with the stadium project. I do not know what you are trying to imply or hint at in this article but as far as the stadium goes..all the money has been carefully saved and invested by FSG since taking over to avoid the mistakes of the previous owners. This is what I as a fan know, having keenly followed the developments over the years. In fact, we were pretty unhappy because we wanted the expansion to be up to at least a 65-70k seater but FSG is only investing the money it sees feasible into expanding into a 55-59k seater. I doubt there is much dishonesty there. But of course you are free to investigate further and help fans like me know better. 🙂

  5. Agreed Bjt, whatever the truth, Liverpool Fc, the fans, Stevie G, Brenton Rogers will always be amazing in the eyes of Her Majesties press.
    Is quite intriguing about the stadium funding though.
    Still think that Ballotelli’s arrival will seriously piss off Sturridge…….but as ever, we shall see…..

  6. Honesty and fair dealing are the two most important things in business…if you can fake them you have it made

  7. @andy

    I know what you mean when you say “if you can fake them you have it made” – but sorry I would disagree.

    With people who fake honesty and sincerity, invariably sooner or later the true character comes out – at which point anyone or any company previously taken in will kick the fakers’ backsides into orbit – figuratively speaking!

    Once the conman loses his veneer he will probably fall below even the outright charlatan in reputation.

  8. Mandy,
    Almunia is somehow lucky that he is a GK. This condition is more likely to kill field players because they run far more game in, game out. I somehow will remember him best for his first half time against Barcelona, whereby Arsenal was suffering against the Catalans, but he made save after save, including an incredible save whereby he blocked the ball by positioning himself ideally after reading their passing pattern.
    As to John Henry, he is full of himself. He owns the Boston Red Sox (of which I am a fan) but we all know that the three titles are owed to the General Managers and gaffers. Winning these titles have made him a megalomaniac and an annoying one at that, despite the “cool” exterior. Interestingly, the last scene of the film “Moneyball” shows John Henry trying to convince uber-Wenger admirer Billy Beane (of the Oakland Athletics) to join him at Boston; Billy Beane declines in a very Wengerian way: he wants to win the title without the colossal money the Boston Red Sox have at their disposal.

  9. Sad news abt Almunia.

    You also have to consider the blatant lie from the PFA chief who said there is no clear clause when the Liverpool chief said so a few months later,
    “Luis Suarez: Almost ‘impossible’ for him to leave – PFA chief”

    Considering other creditable organization like the LMA who had their debacle with Mackay, you do have to wonder how much influence plays a part in these football & football related organizations in England that they will put their Organization’s reputation at risk for people in power.

    We do know about other football related organization like the PGMOL and their take on lies ( 99% accuracy statement)

  10. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

    Low energy attracts low energy. Low energy thoughts, such as anger, hate, shame, guilt, and fear, weaken you. And they attract more of the same.
    By changing your inner thoughts to the higher frequencies of love, harmony, kindness, peace, and joy, you’ll attract more of the same, and you’ll have those higher energies to give away.

  11. Lost in translation ?
    “It all makes sense now: Gay marriage legalized on the same day as marijuana makes perfect biblical sense.
    Leviticus 20:13 “A man who lays with another man should be stoned”.
    Our interpretation has just been wrong for all these years” – Katie Stephens

  12. Brickfield – if we start quoting Leviticus can we do the verse that says that a man who approaches the temple of the Lord wearing a shirt of multiple clothes should be cast out?

    Sort of does it for polyester and cotton.

  13. And before anyone starts…its from the facebook page of ..United Against Homophobia -November 10, 2012 ·

  14. @Bjtgooner…no need to apologise I think it was Groucho Marks who said it. He also said He would not like to join a club that would have him as a member. As Brickfields said “lost in translation” The thing about faking things in business its all short term..the quick in your pocket. Whether we like it or not it happens. Not for me though.

  15. @ Gaz – if you were right, then why would Henry say that in FACT Suarez had a case against Liverpool? It doesn’t make sense… If the contract was, that Liverpool only need CONSIDER the offer, than Henry’s statement would have been meaningless. I think he knew very well LFC breached the contract and that Suarez couldn’t do anything about it (realisticlly).

    @ Brickfields – that was great !!!

    @ Tony – the Guardian are my least favorite media instrument in the UK, so no surprises here.

    I don’t know maybe I’m getting ill or something, but I started feeling sorry for Man U at some point last night. God, they are AWFUL!!!

  16. Liverpool lost 3-1 to man city,liverpool tried and were unlucky,manu lost 4-0 to mk dons with a gooner scoring a much media fuss,arsenal hd a great comeback @goddison prk against everton it ws all due to everton getting tired british media is pathetic dey ve wergerphobia or was ds hw dey. Were with aresenal pre-wenger years?

  17. @Mojola

    Before Arsene Wenger, the press crucified Arsenal just as much but in different ways; ‘Lucky Arsenal’, ‘Boring Arsenal’, the tabloids branding Tony Adams a ‘donkey’, unfair accusations of negative and long ball football in George Graham’s 2 title-winning seasons, TV comedy sketches of Arsenal putting people to sleep, moaning about stopping Sheffield Wednesday’s flair players playing their game in the 1992-93 Cup double season, John Harkes telling Ian Wright we were ‘Wimbledon with A Levels’ in the tunnel before the 1993 FA Cup Final. This hatred and jealousy goes all the way back to the 1930s when we dominated the English game in the middle of an economic depression; ‘London club winning and showing off riches while the rest of the country starves’; in a nutshell, Arsenal Football Club are always WRONG is the media message

  18. @Gaz
    ‘John Henry was of the opinion that he HAD considered it,’
    Why didn’t Henry say ‘We have considered Arsenal’s offer and reject it’ then, instead he lied and denied the EXISTENCE of any £40 million release clause and had the brass neck cheek to accuse Arsenal of smoking an illegal substance thus branding us as the villains of the piece. We are still being ridiculed for it now, rather than Liverpool getting lambasted for being a bunch of liars.

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