SBD/October 14, 2011/Franchises

FSG's Year Of Owning Liverpool Marked By "Progress," "Feel-Good Optimism"

Henry (l) and Werner brought "progress" to Liverpool in first year of ownership
Saturday is the one-year anniversary since Fenway Sports Group Owners John Henry, Tom Werner and their 17 partners took over EPL club Liverpool, and their ownership tenure "has been marked mostly by progress and feel-good optimism," according to David Conn of the GUARDIAN. Before buying the club, Henry acknowledged he knew "virtually nothing" about Liverpool or the EPL. Conn noted, "Central to Henry's and Fenway's fascination was English football's, and Liverpool's, huge worldwide support, compared to the US-restricted following for American sports." Given how "compelling Fenway found these individual financial arrangements, it is no surprise" Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre said earlier this week that the club wants "to break out of the collective overseas TV deal, the only income football shares." When asked if American owners want EPL clubs to structure their own TV deals, like Spanish La Liga clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona do, Henry said, "These people (the American owners) understand media and the long-term global implications. They're going to want to reach their fans in the new media landscape. The Premier League was created in response to changing media. Audiences will drive leagues rather than the other way round." Meanwhile, Conn noted Henry "'rarely' visits Liverpool, given his commitment to the Red Sox" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 10/13). Henry is "clearly keenly worried about a backlash from" both Liverpool and Red Sox fans, both of whom "may accuse the owners of concentrating too much on the other -- a reaction that erupted in Boston last week with vitriolic press criticism of Fenway's 'dysfunctional' organisation and Henry's involvement with Liverpool." Henry said, "There was a lot of criticism in Boston that we weren't going to spend money on the Red Sox after we did the Liverpool transaction. Then there was the fear we wouldn't spend in Liverpool. Hopefully the fans of both clubs will eventually see what we see clearly -- that there is nothing to fear from the existence of the other club" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 10/12).

LONG WAY TO THE TOP: Henry admitted Thursday night Liverpool is "still a long way behind" EPL club Manchester United and "that it could take years to get the club where it needed to be." In London, Ian Herbert notes Henry "subtly echoed" Ayre's contention that clubs should be allowed to negotiate their own int'l TV deals when he "insisted that Liverpool's proposed new or expanded stadium was not the 'game-changer' that" former club Managing Dir Christian Purslow once suggested. Henry: "(The stadium) is not the full solution. Barcelona and Real Madrid are dominant clubs because they are able to maximise all aspects of the revenue generation. We have to try to do that as well. It's an important component" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/14). Also in London, Jim White writes, "Make no mistake, Henry and his team are not here for the long-term benefit of English football. ... They are here for the long-term benefit of New England Sports Ventures. Sure, their ownership might also result in long-term economic benefit for Liverpool FC. But they have no interest in maintaining the wider strength and continuity of the English game" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/14).

STAYING HOME: In Boston, gossip columnists Fee, Raposa & Johnson report Henry on Thursday "canceled his trip to England to watch his Liverpool footballers take on" ManU. Henry and his wife were "set to hop across the pond" Friday to join Liverpool investor and Heat F LeBron James to watch Saturday's match (BOSTON HERALD, 10/14). James will attend a Liverpool match "for the first time since he became a minority owner" the club (ESPN.com, 10/13). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes it would be nice if Red Sox ownership "thought a little less about globalization and more about the die-hards who care more about good baseball." Buckley: "The Sox’ owners have a right to make money, just as they have a right to have outside interests." But Buckely notes, "Red Sox fans don’t want soccer thrown in their faces. They don’t want auto racing. And moving forward, the only way they’re going to buy into the 'Red Sox Forever' ad campaign is if the Red Sox are forever about baseball" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/14).
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