Although this article doesn’t start with anything Arsenal it gets there in the end. If you have a mind to, stay with me.
Writing (as I am) as many Europeans exercise their right to vote for Members of the European Parliament I am reminded of John Philpot Curran and a speech he made on the Right of Election in 1790.
Except actually I am not. What I intended to do was quote Thomas Jefferson – but I have just discovered he never said “Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for our way of life” or anything like it
But here’s the quote I found instead…
“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active,” said John Philpott Curran.
Put another way, it is the common fate of the indolent and opinionated to see their football club taken over and destroyed by the rich, the feckless and the greedy. (Tony Attwood 2009).
When the Glazers bought Manchester IOU the club was not IOU at all – they were debt free. We could all see what happened at Manchester IOU but despite this the idiots of Liverpool (and idiots is not to strong a noun) wanted some of the same. They were willing to become a rich man’s poodle in order to get success. Success at any price, was the call. And when the money men said, “we won’t do a Glazer at Liverpool”, the silly turnips actually believed that these awfully nice Americanos had £185m stuffed down their trousers ready to lavish on their precious club – and further funds to build a brand new stadium. “If Arsenal can do it, so can we,” they said.
But guess what? They didn’t. They did a Glazer.
What turned Liverpool into Liverpoodles was a raging desire for success combined with a total lack of vigilance. A bizarre feeling that because the club was not winning everything, as it had done in the 80s, it had been betrayed by its owners and failed managers. They were (they said) “going backwards”. “At the very least we ought to be making progress” they said. (OK maybe not in those words, and I wouldn’t really know because I can’t understand the lingo, but it was something like that.)
In short, they had come to believe that they had an automatic right to be top of the league and that if they were not there, it was because the people running the club were stupid.
Liverpoodle was available to the money men from America because the fans demanded success NOW and so wanted money, money, and more money. They became so blinded by this desire, they would take any risk to get it. (“Any risk” is important here because we all take some risks in business. The deal in business is to know how big a risk you should take each day and go that far and not further).
They wanted to buy more players, because Manchester U bought more players. Manchester spent money so they must spent money. Manchester had a big stadium, so they wanted a big stadium.
“Manchester can do it,” they may have said (if anyone had been able to comprehend a word) “so why can’t we?”
And then two men came along. “Oh yes you can have it all,” said Tweedle Dee. “Yes you can,” said Tweedle Dum. “Don’t worry about that little Mr Moores, and that childish Mr Parry, they don’t understand money like we do. They tell you that the money to build a new stadium is not to be had, but they are hiding their own incompetence. The money is there if you look hard enough. We’ll do it for you supporters of Liverpool Reds.” (Actually, one of the American guys actually did call the club “Liverpool Reds”. I couldn’t stop laughing for a week.)
The old guard made a fortune from flogging the club and the new owners promised the earth, the sun, the moon, and that rather interesting pulsar in the Goliath nebula. What they delivered was the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way (see last week’s New Scientist for full details on the astronomical issues raised here).
In the boarded up streets and trashed wasteland of Anfield there wasn’t exactly singing in the streets (since no one is ever stupid enough to walk those streets) when the Americans bought the club, but regeneration plans were drawn up based on the thought that there would be a new stadium, a new Liverpool FC, and everyone would be rich. The streets of the Anfield would be paved with, well, if not gold, at least there would be fewer dirty needles on the ground.
Who cared that it was never clear where the money would come from? No one, because following the Thatcherite revolution we had all been taught that you don’t actually need to make anything to earn money. Money is there if only you are strong enough to take it. Money makes money – just look at the banks and the City of London. If you don’t have it, it is because you are too stupid to see the opportunity.
And so Liverpoodle lived the dream, just as Leeds Disjointed did before them. But the reality is the money to build the new stadium is not there. It was never there. It was all just a hoax, and the supporters of Liverpoodle fell for it, utterly, totally, completely.
The accounts of Liverpoodle, which came out so late that Revenue and Customs will fine the club, confirmed what we knew. Hicks and Gillett borrowed £350m to buy the club, fund the transfers that they were told were needed, and take first class flights back and forth across the Atlantic. By the start of 2009 they had spent £313m of it and the new ground was still a distant dream.
Worse, the money that the club made was all taken, in order to pay the £36.5m interest that the debt had run up. Even the utter criminal maniacs of the Royal Bank of Scotland (and its poodle, Nat West Bank) won’t lend these crooks another £400m to build the stadium that they said they were building with the last £300m.
Hicks is now working on the notion that RBS will keep his loan rolling, because they like getting the interest – and that might be true. Hicks also thinks he can subdue the Liverpoodle Reds supporters by stumping up another £20m of his own dosh for Benítez to throw around a bit. But as we have seen with G Barry, other clubs are already getting less inclined to do deals with Liverpoodle, because they want payment over five years each time.
But supposing the club does struggle on. It still has a huge debt which eats up all the profit that the club makes. The promise to start work on the new ground in the spring of 2007 is now not on only rather overdue it is also not going to happen at all – and that fact reduces the value of the club, which further reduces the ability to borrow money. And as a result the local councils feel rather miffed, because their promises of regeneration have all come to nothing. The council is calling for a joint Liverton or Everpool stadium, but Everton are in trouble because they have closed their training complex, but can’t get planning permission for houses on the site.
These days, the Liverpoodlians who bowed down to Hicks and Gillett howl and scream in protest. If you think that some of the readers of this and other blogs get a bit annoyed at the Arsenal board and management, you ought to read the Spirit of Shankley website. The American pair have, in their eyes, made the club a laughing stock and they are fighting back.
So now the Liverpoodle supporters are taking action. There is a group called the Spirit of Shankly and they are trying to persuade RBS not to continue to finance the owners debts. Fans are encouraged to write to the RBS and their MPs to try to get them to oppose any furtherance of the activities of the owners.
At this point I have to admit solidarity with the Spirit of Shankley. Actually it is a very good organisation based on a genuine love of their own club – but there is a curious twist here. They want RBS to refuse the loan because they want the Americans out, in the belief that
a) someone else will come in and buy the club, and
b) that person will not wreck the club like the current owners have.
I want RBS to refuse the loan because I think that
a) No one will be interested in buying the club and pumping money into it.
b) The failure of Liverpool will be a good warning to our supporters who are demanding that the board and manager of Arsenal spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, sp…. (you get the idea).
In a counter move Hicks and Gillet have now let it be known that the club’s transfer budget will not be reduced – although their ability to pay top wages might be. So we could find that although there is a budget, as I noted above other clubs, their players and the players’ agents might just decide that actually they would sooner deal with other clubs – almost any other club – rather than Liverpoodle.
Ironically Liverpoodle were trying to make a profit out of the problems at Valencia over the signing of Silva for £17m, but it looks as if he might go to Real Mad instead, as the vultures hover over Anfield.
Sales are more likely than buys in Liverpool. Dossena has hinted he wants to go to Juve. Actually he said more than that. He said “I truly hope to join Juve and start a new life.”
Xabi Alonso, that most articulate of players, has said that everyone at the club knows the problems, and he has hinted that quite a few of them are getting ready to jump ship.
So there it is. Everyone swooned when the money men came to town. Now the supporters are trying to persuade the banks not to give the owners more money (although it is not clear what they think will happen after that), and the players are getting ready to leave.
Yes indeed, Liverpool ended second this past season, and Arsenal had no chance of catching them. So should we follow the Liverpool model and create Arsenal Lap-Dogs? Should we take money from anywhere, and get ourselves into debt and more debt just to get above Liverpool in the league?
Shall we keep singing our club’s name, as we hit the iceberg and sink beneath the waves? Or shall we decide that getting on a bloody big liner called “The Eternal Debt” is a rather stupid thing to do, and that we would be better off continuing to build up world-wide scouting, and the greatest youth team structure the world has ever seen?
I think the latter, and that to achieve such an end eternal vigilance is the price we shall all have to pay.
In the meanwhile, if you feel like me that it is not a good idea for RBS to give the owners of Liverpool more dosh, the man to write to is
Richard Holliday, Royal Bank of Scotland, 135 Bishopsgate, London
EC2M 3UR. And email him at: email@example.com
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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