A Nuanced Look At Fenway Sports Group

It is fair to say that Fenway Sports Group have their critics. I know that as soon as I post this piece to social media, I will be inundated with tweets from people with #FSGOUT in their bios. Such morons will get in touch to tell me I’m wrong, but few, if any, of them will have bothered to read this article. There is a sense of FSG’s fiercest critics that those of us that aren’t campaigning to get them removed from the club are active supporters of them. Such a hardline approach to the owners is not helpful. If you want to have a conversation about FSG then you need to be sensible in your approach. I was told recently that the owners ‘don’t spend money’. It is that sort of nonsense that is of no help whatsoever when it comes to being critical of the ownership and their approach to the running of the club. Just because we haven’t signed the players you want or spent the money you’d spend doesn’t mean we haven’t signed any players or spent any money.

Both last summer and in January, the vast majority of Liverpool supporters wanted at least one midfielder. In the summer, we signed Darwin Núñez for around £85 million, Fabio Carvalho for £7.7 million and Calvin Ramsey for £6.5 million. In January, we signed Cody Gakpo for around £37 million. None of those are recognised midfielders, but pretending that we’ve spent ‘no money’ is idiotic when we very clearly had. That is to say nothing of the fact that the Reds are one of the highest spenders in the league on agent fees and player wages, both of which are crucial to being able to persuade people to play for the club. FSG have made, and continue to make, mistakes during their tenure and I would like them to spend more on players. Yet if you are just going to claim that they don’t spend any money then you’ll sound ridiculous and no one sensible will take you seriously. It is entirely fair and reasonable to be critical of the owners, with not even John Henry thinking they’ve been perfect, but there has to be a sense of nuance.

We’re Up Against Nation States

When Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool, back in the days when they were New England Sports Ventures, the belief was that Financial Fair Play would be able to control the big spending of the richest clubs. When Manchester City were expelled from the Champions League, it looked as though UEFA were going to be taking a hard stance against such financial doping, only for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the verdict. Right now, the Premier League is investigating the club, having issued 115 charges against it. Even so, there is little doubt that they have found ways to circumvent any true sense of FFP, whilst Newcastle United now being owned by Saudi Arabia means that they will also be bending any financial rules in their favour. Despite the claims of Khaldoon al-Mubarak that City have a ‘commercial machine here that is one of the best in the world’, everyone knows that they’ve been massaging figures left, right and centre, but the game’s rulers haven’t done enough to reign them in in any meaningful way.

If you want proof of that, you only need to look at what is happening right now with Saudi Arabian clubs and the likes of Chelsea. Chelsea, of course, have spent huge amounts of money to put them in a financially precarious position, but are seemingly being rescued by clubs that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia has majority stakes in. PIF, meanwhile, have invested heavily in Clearlake Capital, the majority owner of Chelsea. There is dodginess everywhere in football right now and FSG would be forgiven for being frustrated that nothing is being done to stop it. Any conversation about their ownership and the club’s achievements during their time in charge without any sort of mention of all of this is not sensible. If City’s financial misconduct had been reigned in, we would have won three more titles without the owners having to have done anything different. That is a crucial part of the conversation that the #FSGOUTers always fail to acknowledge.

What Owners Would Be Better? I Probably Don’t Want Them

The truth of the matter is that FSG have brought a knife to a gunfight. They are still trying to run the club in a financially sensible manner, sticking rigidly to the rules of FFP whilst the teams that we’re up against, like City and Newcastle, have abandoned all sense of following any rules. What this means is that Fenway Sports Group are being excellent, sensible owners at a time when you basically won’t win anything unless you’re owned by a nation state. What we have achieved during this era is genuinely incredible, but if the owners aren’t willing to take a few more chances and loosen their purse strings just that little bit, then they have taken us as far as they are able to. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that. It is clear that we need owners that are willing to take more risks than FSG are if we are to compete in an era of sports-washing, but what said owners look like is the big question that many people are refusing to ask or aren’t bothered about the answer.

I have said it before and I will keep saying, but if Liverpool are bought by a nation state then I will be done with football. Those that are happy to abandon their morals in exchange for medals will often come up with bad faith arguments such as ‘you’re owned by Americans, they’re just as bad’ don’t realise that I’d be just as against us being bought by the United States of America as I would be Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. England can’t criticise when it comes to human rights records, certainly not with this Tory government in charge. Who, then, can come in and leave those of us totally against sports-washing still invested in the football club? I’m genuinely not sure that there is a suitable answer. Looking around the rest of the league, which team has owners that are significantly better than FSG in terms of how the club is run but don’t come with any sort of human rights issues? FSGOUT is all well and good, but WHOIN? should be the question asked.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *