Liverpool have found themselves headlining the back pages quite often this season, but the reasons have been from both ends of the footballing spectrum. When results were going well, the coverage was heaping praise on the incredible pressing displays from Klopp’s men. The fact they could dispose of title challengers with relative ease was encouraging to fans and title talk quickly gathered pace. Pitch the Reds against a team of ‘lesser quality’ however and all of a sudden results became a struggle.
For some it was a case that the players were feeling burnt out from this new fluid style of play, while others feel that the lack of substantial funds provided by John W Henry was causing the club to go backwards, leaving the team suffering with a diminished squad that couldn’t cope with the fixture congestion the Premier League throws upon all members.
I’m in agreement that the team doesn’t have enough depth to compete at the very highest level consistently and if Klopp had been able to turn to an Aguero or Mkhitaryan then I’m pretty sure some results would have been different. He must work with what he has got however and after the success the German had at Mainz and Dortmund it’s evident he didn’t need to rely on big names, he just made names big.
Now the Premier League is totally different to the Bundesliga but a talented manager can develop players no matter where they play or where they are from. Klopp will succeed, no problem at all there. The point of this piece is that when I go on Twitter or Facebook or any fan sites I see that a large percentage of fans are as fickle as the media. Celebrate when it’s a win and then find every possible victim to blame when it’s a defeat. Obviously due to the positive impact Klopp has had and the exciting performances he has guided the team to victory in he escapes the blame. The owners though never do and for me that is a constant irritant. Let’s look at the bigger picture first then break it down.
When NESV added LFC to their portfolio, Reds fans around the world were jubilant. The dark days of two maverick, shady businessmen were over and a group with plans to reestablish Liverpool as a major player in European football was now walking the corridors of power at Anfield and it all felt positive.
What must not be forgotten is that all clubs these days are a business interest for the owners first and a hobby second. Unless you are a Chelsea or Manchester City, a PSG or any of the other oligarch clubs who can buy their way to success and when they don’t get it, just chuck another few million at whoever has inherited their hot seat. A club like Liverpool has always been built on values. From the days of John Houlding down to the stewardship of David Moores, the club was there for its people and it’s people were there for it. When Moores sold up to Hicks and Gillett he genuinely believed it was for the best interests of the club and for the first few months people wouldn’t have doubted him.
The signings were positive, the promise of a new ground was encouraging and the objectives weren’t set too high that the club would be seen to fail if they didn’t achieve them. It wasn’t until it became evident that neither of the American duo were particularly savvy when it came to running a business, saddling the club with an insurmountable debt that fans became concerned about whether to prepare for a trophy laden era or a relegation battle.
It came close to the latter with the appointment of Roy Hodgson, which in my opinion was a money saving exercise as there were many other managers out there who would have crawled to Anfield to run the club if it had been offered to them. It was at that point that I believe David Moores was wishing he had sold up earlier. It tore him apart to sell in the first place, but he knew he couldn’t match the Abramovich money down in London, and maybe if he had, better owners would have been in place earlier and the club might have avoided those dark days and enjoyed the success the billionaire boys were enjoying.
Obviously things have panned out this way and it’s something that can’t be changed, but when NESV signed the contract and took ownership of the club it was in a mess. A far bigger mess than many believe, and not just on the pitch but off it too.
Revenue streams were limited. The club shop was well run at the ground but performed awfully online, sponsorship agreements were falling behind the other big clubs and international outreach was limited. Step forward to today and it has changed dramatically but what must be remembered is that we are only now seeing what the other clubs were doing a few years back. Previously, the LFC website was a .TV site, it’s now .com, a small change but a significant one as people simply remember more sites with a .com domain than any other website address, expanding global outreach, thus boosting club shop revenue, social media interaction and general exposure.
At the time of writing, there are at least 13 sponsorship agreements in place with American companies. This brings LFC into the American mainstream for the first time in a very, very long time and revenue has subsequently increased through these companies paying sponsorship, while the previously unaware American public are now seeing the Liverpool team in the flesh in a whole load of lucrative pre-season games, again ensuring enhanced revenue.
Aside from new overseas initiatives there are additions to the LFC bank balance here in the UK. The new main stand houses enough fans to generate a substantial increase in match day revenue, both general public and corporate. The Anfield forever scheme that allowed fans to have a stone laid in their name on a unique walkway brought fans closer to the club and the new improved opportunities for fan/ex player interaction increase brand awareness as well as reputation.
There are not trophies being stacked up year on year and for that reason people are being instantly critical, but take a step back and look at it this way. If the Premier League was a pie, and clubs had fairly even slices, Chelsea came along and decided to cut themselves a bigger chunk, smaller clubs got smaller and therefore ended up with a smaller piece. Manchester City then arrived with billions and made those slices even smaller. Liverpool have taken their relatively small piece and are slowly making it bigger by investing in order to grow.
Success won’t be immediate but the business model being executed has kept LFC close to its fans and those fans close to the club. This, with the club’s growing exposure on an international scale means that LFC will stay relevant, successful and in existence long after Abramovich and Co have become bored with English football and retired to their yachts.