Could the owners get even less popular?
Rafael Benitez’s struggle to keep pace with the Premier League elite is revealed in documents which suggest Liverpool’s net summer spending will be locked at £20m until 2014 – a figure which will also include wage increases accruing from contract renewals. The figures, which suggest the manager must continue to sell before he can buy, are contained in a prospectus published in March by investment banks Rothschild and Merrill Lynch to attract potential investors in the club.
The prospectus, which provides a sense of how desperately Liverpool‘s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett need new finance, reveal the Americans were considering increasing the average ticket price by eight per cent to help ease the club’s debt problems. They were also seeking to raise £100m from investors and loans as pressure built to refinance a debt of £290m.
Gillett and Hicks paid £50m four months later, in July, to get a year’s extension to the debt facility they have used to purchase and run the club since their takeover in February 2007. This season they have secured a new £20m-a-year sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank, a major improvement on the previous £14.6m Carlsberg deal and hope to retain a role for Carlsberg, commercial director Ian Ayre revealed yesterday.
Yet the underlying lack of finance for Benitez remains a problem. It might not be as dire a position for the club as suggested by the banner unveiled by Liverpool fans before the Carling Cup tie with Leeds at Elland Road on Tuesday – “We are the new Leeds,” it read – but Benitez is clearly limited in his options in the transfer market. The section of the Rothschild/Merrill Lynch document relating to “player transfer payments” states: “Management believes that the normalised long-run level of new net player capital expenditure is £20m.” (Independent)
Quite how Rafa can be expected to make do with this level of funding is beyond me. This measly £20m figure, £100m over the five years, will have to go a long way, thankfully a number our high profile players are already tied down to long contracts but others who are up for renewal will expect increases and that too will come out of this chunk of change.
The fact this figure seems ring fenced for the coming 3 or 4 seasons worries me greatly, how the hell can we hope to compete with the other inhabitants of the ‘top four club’ when we can’t even outspend Stoke and Sunderland!
It really does seem that we have the very worst kinds of owners at the club. Owners who bought the club with debts, debts that the CLUB is paying back, and owners who have no intention of putting their money where their mouths are.