I contribute to this blog from the UK and while the internet is a global thing, it’s not clear whether particular stories are making the headlines elsewhere.
The saga of Liverpool FC rumbles on, and has taken a new twist. Yesterday the High Court in London ruled against Liverpool’s current American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, seemingly paving the way for the owners of the Boston Red Sox, New England Sports Ventures, to take over the club and end a sorry sorry spell for the club under the chaotic stewardship of Hicks and Gillett. However, the recalcitrant owners it would appear have little shame and on hearing the court’s verdict in London headed down to some district court in Texas and had an injunction granted against the sale of Liverpool!
Now of course, the Texan district court has no jurisdiction over Liverpool or the UK, yet NESV and RBC (who loaned Liverpool a load of cash that they want back) do business in the US and so it seems will have to fight out this injunction.
This kind of thing makes me personally quite angry and I’m not a Liverpool supporter (although my own team, Oldham, was almost destroyed by a similarly callous owner back in the early part of the last decade). What is it about sports team owners willingly driving clubs to the verge of bankruptcy in some kind of game to eke out an extra few dollars? I’m not about to join either the brigade against overseas ownership of football teams in the UK nor the brigade that things “good character” tests of potential new owners will ever be useful things (not least because brown envelopes stuffed with cash exist), nor am I about to suggest that any kind of local/state government intervention is neccessary here. But it does start to raise questions. Sports clubs are distinctly unique entities with remarkable levels of brand loyalty and through their links with local communities are very difficult to analyse. There clearly are positive externalities to their existence (just as hooliganism is an example of a negative externality surrounding them).
But do they justify further intervention, as there will undoubtedly be after a saga such as the current one? Will more stringent “good character” tests really weed out recalcitrant owners like these ones? One hopes that the best possible outcome of this whole sorry saga might be that the clubs themselves consider ever more strongly the character of potential future owners.