Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NESV Ready With Baseball Style Masterplan For Liverpool

NO top table or posing for staged pictures, no bold declarations or promises they can't keep – Liverpool's new owners slipped quietly into town on Saturday, starting as they mean to go on. While it was possible to say the scene which unfolded as John W Henry and Tom Werner settled into their seats in Anfield's Legends Room was similar to that when Tom Hicks and George Gillett arrived in February 2007, it was, essentially, a world apart. Humble and courteous from the outset, the manner in which the men behind New England Sports Ventures conducted themselves – and the way they spoke about their aims for the future – was both hugely refreshing and reassuring. Henry, Werner and their associates may have just invested the best part of £300m buying English football's most successful club but they are absolutely not self-publicists or – most significantly – people who are going to take unnecessary gambles. Hicks may have claimed NESV got their hands on Liverpool for a song thanks to an "epic swindle" but, after months spent poring over the books, Henry was quick to counter with an answer that made it clear this purchase was not made on a whim. "There were big financial issues but in the end we made a decision we really wanted to compete at this level," said Henry. "I know some people are saying this was a cheap price. There is no way we look at this as a cheap price for this club." Evidently this is not a rich man's plaything. Henry and Werner did a lot of thinking and investigating before deciding to press on with their acquisition and just because they are now stewards does not mean the club is set to embark on a huge spending spree. Yet if Henry and Werner can implement the business model that has proven so successful for the Boston Red Sox since 2001, there are real reasons to believe Liverpool's long-term financial future will enable them to flourish on the field.

"I don't have 'Sheikh' in front of my name," said Henry, who, fittingly, entered the Legends Room quietly through a side door. "Seriously, we look at revenues in sports as being the ability to send out a strong team on the field. That is what Joe Januszewski and his sales group at Red Sox have been really good at. "When we arrived at the Red Sox, the New York Yankees were a juggernaut and it wasn't that much of rivalry. I believe we turned it into a rivalry where we have gone toe-to-toe with the Yankees even though they have got a much higher revenue. "They keep going up but we have gone up faster. We have got to the point where if you look at our wins and losses against the Yankees over the last nine years, we are almost dead even. We play 19 times a year. "If you think Boston is somehow on a par economically with New York that's simply not true. When we looked at Liverpool the first thing that struck us was there are opportunities here to really build a winner. "The revenue potentials around the world – it is a global football club – and especially with the financial fair play rules, it is really going to be revenue that drives how good your club can be in the future. That is one thing that we think we are good at." The "listening" promised by Henry and NESV started at Melwood on Saturday morning when Henry and Werner had lunch with Liverpool's first team squad and Roy Hodgson and will continue during the coming months as they get to grips with the task that faces them. Henry said: "What am I thinking? How much work this is going to be. How steep the learning curve is going to be. This is not going to be easy. If I could leave just one message today it is that we realise the challenge that lies ahead if we are going to go toe to toe with the other big clubs. We are not asking for a long honeymoon. This is a contact sport we are in and the going can get rough sometimes. We realise that. We are not going to make any promises but we are going to listen and consider." And at this stage, that is all anyone can ask.

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