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Liverpool Football Club is up for sale
Liverpool Football Club is up for sale

When Roman Abramovich sold Chelsea to Todd Boehly and his USA consortium for £4.25 billion earlier this year, it was inevitable that the owners of other Premier League clubs would start to consider what value they might be able to achieve for their shareholders.

Some would argue that the global popularity of the Premier League and the record broadcasting revenues it generates represent the peak of the market and now is the time to take the huge profits they can make, whilst the interest from the USA and the Middle East in particular is at its height.

Fenway Sports Group and John Henry and his partners purchased Liverpool from George Gillet Jr and Tom Hicks for £300m in October 2010. They bought at a time when Liverpool was underperforming on the pitch, and they looked a million miles away from repeating the successes of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They appointed Jurgen Klopp in October 2015. That proved to be a masterstroke and the glory days of yesteryear returned as they won the Champions League, Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Club World Cup, the European Super Cup and the Community Shield. They are also developing the Anfield stadium and they have a new state of the art training ground. And at the same time, they have played an attractive brand of football that has increased their popularity around the globe with all the attendant additional revenue that brings.

In 2020, Fenway sold an 11 per cent stake in the club to Red Bird Capital Partners for £655 million and perhaps Liverpool’s stuttering start to this season has made them think this is a good time to cash in their chips. I suspect that also in the mix is the fact that the so called top-six clubs in the Premier League were wounded by the reaction of ordinary football fans in this country to their attempts to join a breakaway European Super League. Additionally, the extreme wealth behind Newcastle United will see them join the competition at the top of the Premier League in the coming years and Liverpool will come under pressure to match the Saudi spending as well as the considerable might of Manchester City.

It is being reported widely that Fenway has asked Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to test the market based on achieving a sale price that matches or betters the price Chelsea secured. Liverpool is attracting all the publicity around a sale this week but make no mistake there will be similar discussions in the boardrooms at Arsenal and Tottenham as well, as their owners will need to spend big in the coming years to compete at the very top.

There will be challenges facing the Premier League as the USA and the Middle East tightens its grip on the top clubs in this country and they will need to act in a consistent manner to avoid legal cases as the Saudi takeover at Newcastle has established a precedent.

VAR continues to cause controversy
VAR continues to cause controversy

In cricket and rugby, the review system has slipped seamlessly into the way on field decisions are reviewed and because it was so successful in those two sports it was championed widely by all the key stakeholders in football, who felt that so many mistakes were being made by officials that it simply had to be brought in and all would be fine. After all, goal line technology allowed for the referee to make an instant decision by a quick look at his watch so what could go wrong with the introduction of a Video Assistant Referee (VAR)?

It was heralded at its introduction as a system that would be used only to correct clear and obvious errors made by the officials. As use of the system has evolved, it is now far removed from how it was originally envisaged to be used. In many instances, it is used to persuade the referee to reverse his initial decision. A multiple of lines are drawn and if a toe is beyond the opponent offside is given.

In the Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Manchester City, the referee Anthony Taylor decided from the start to let the game flow and he allowed a number of dubious challenges to go unpunished. It made for compelling viewing. He initially waved on a tussle between Fabinho and Erling Haaland but when the incident was slowed down and viewed from every angle, he was persuaded to review the incident on the touchline screen and reversed his initial decision.

During the Champions League match between Tottenham and Sporting, it took four minutes to rule out a goal for offside. If it takes that long, then the premise that it is correcting a clear and obvious error is a total nonsense. Of course, Spurs fans and management were up in arms at the decision but if the goal had been ruled out at the other end, I think we all know there would be a very different reaction.

One of the important elements of football that makes it the exciting game it is, is the enjoyment of that moment when players and fans can celebrate a goal together. But fans now have to wait to see if VAR is about to rule out the goal. Consequently, the moment is lost, and half the time fans in the stadium have no idea what VAR is reviewing as they can’t hear the discussion taking place as is the case in other sports.

Used properly, VAR can enhance the decision-making processes but if it takes four minutes to decide if a mistake has been made then something has gone badly wrong. It should not be about rigid lines and analysis of a pass five minutes before the goal. Used as it is, it is eating away at the core emotion of the game. Mistakes will be made but that is part of the game.

In the Charlton v MK Dons match earlier this month, a penalty was awarded for the first goal when the tackle was clearly outside the penalty area. A free kick was then awarded for the second goal on the edge of the penalty area when the tackle was clearly not a foul. But these things have a way of evening themselves out over the season and of course there is no VAR system in the EFL.

In my view, VAR should not be about trying to have a 100% accurate scientific exercise of drawing and re-drawing lines. It was never meant to be that and it is damaging the core of what football is all about. As fans do we celebrate the goal or just look at the screen before we react?

Technology is here to stay and used properly as with the goal line system it can help the officials immensely and in that case the decision is immediate, but football’s governing bodies need to re-think how VAR is used currently because there is nothing wrong with the technology, it is all about how it is being applied.

Ronaldo’s strop must be dealt with firmly

Every footballer in a club’s first team squad at every level wants to play. When you train all week, you want there to be the buzz of a game to look forward to.


Most clubs have between 20 and 30 players to select from and as only 11 can start each game the manager is unpopular to varying degrees with those he or she leaves out. The one thing no player can do is to publicly vent his/her frustration as that undermines the manager’s authority and erodes the discipline that is a vital component part of all successful teams.


In my time in charge of a club I was given some very tough decisions to make around player discipline. One player attacked another in the training ground corridor in full view of other players, there were failed drug tests and other issues that were kept private, but uppermost in my mind when coming to a decision in consultation with the chairman and the manager was that any outcome was seen to be fair and that the discipline which is so vital to maintaining team spirit was upheld.


Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player but at 37 he has to accept that his time on the pitch will be more limited. Refusing to accept the manager’s decision to substitute another player and then walking off down the tunnel cannot be accepted.

It is disrespectful to the manager but also to his fellow players particularly when those players on the pitch had played so well. It meant that instead of them getting the plaudits their performance deserved the media wanted only to talk about Ronaldo’s behaviour.

Ronaldo was left out of the Manchester United squad for last Saturday’s match at Chelsea and made to train with the U21s and fined two weeks wages, but the punishment can’t end there. All of his fellow players will now be looking closely to see what the manager does next.  If he is selected to start a match those not selected will question, why he is selected above them when their behaviour is beyond reproach and his is not. I think it is almost certain that he will move clubs as soon as the January transfer window opens.


There are many component parts to being a successful team, but good discipline and professionalism is right up there.


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