The board of a group Liverpool FC supporters said they have enough funds in place to underwrite a full share issue and to buy a stake in the club.
The move has been welcomed by two Anfield greats, John Aldridge and John Barnes, both long term supporters of ShareLiverpoolFC.
The aim is for Liverpool to emulate the model of European clubs like this year’s Champions League finalists, Bayern Munich, where fans own 80% of the club. The announcement follows the appointment by ShareLiverpoolFC of a financial advisory committee. The organisation is also in the process of restructuring its current board to bring in individuals with experience in corporate finance and sports business.
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who is a ShareLiverpoolFC board member, said: “I’m delighted ShareLiverpoolFC is now able to push on and issue the share offer. We’ll need a tremendous response from the fans but I think millions of them are desperately worried about the current situation both on and off the field. At last, they’ve got a chance to actually to do something about it. Our fans have brought us ‘back from the dead’ in matches many times before: think only of the ‘miracle’ of Istanbul. They can do it again – this time at the heart of the club itself.”
Ex-Liverpool midfielder John Barnes, a long-time ShareLiverpoolFC supporter, added: “It’s excellent news to hear fans will get the opportunity to pool their money and buy a stake in the club, whether it’s a majority stake or just a significant piece of the action, all under stringent financial regulation. No one who has ever played for Liverpool can be in any doubt that these fans are the football club: the unique, core ‘brand’, as they call it these days, of LFC. If they are it, why shouldn’t they own it too?”
Liverpool FC’s American co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, announced in April this year that they will be selling the Premier League club after they appointed Martin Broughton – chairman of British Airways – as chairman to help them find a buyer. Liverpool FC currently has debt of around £350m and Broughton said that any new buyer must commit to building a new stadium for the club.
ShareLiverpoolFC said it has over 35,000 registered supporters and its current pledges alone could raise up to £40m in order to acquire a stake in the club.
Dr Rogan Taylor, a founder member of ShareLiverpoolFC, said: “ShareLiverpoolFC board will now look to specify a date for a share issue later this summer. This is a serious and rigorously professional undertaking and we believe our core aspiration is both desirable and deliverable. This is our time. It presents the best – and perhaps the only chance – of fans gaining control or at the very least a significant equity stake in the club they love and support.”
The ShareLiverpoolFC plan involves a minimum investment of £500 to buy a share in the company seeking to own equity in the club. The share is not-for-profit; one fan: one share, and confers the right to stand for election to the board and the right to vote in any elections.
Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mirror, co-owner Hicks has allegedly prevented at least two offers for Liverpool from happening, due to his £800m valuation of the club. The report is also claiming Barclays Capital, which has been charged with selling the club, is growing frustrated with the American’s stance in negotiations.
As well as issues off the field, Liverpool FC offered Rafael Benitez a severance pay-off package, reportedly a sum of £3m, for him to leave as club manager with immediate effect. The Spaniard left five days ago amid a mix response from the supporters.
Liverpool FC legend Kenny Dalglish, who is an Academy ambassador at the club, and Christian Purslow, Liverpool’s managing director, are leading a search for a new manager to replace Benitez, who famously won the Champions League in his first season with the club in 2005.