New American owners might find these soccer fans a pretty tough crowd
Two months ago, Red Sox owner John Henry and his partners in New England Sports Ventures purchased Liverpool FC, historically one of Europe’s greatest soccer teams. Obviously, Henry, who admits he knows nothing about English soccer, is hoping to turn a few quid in the globalized sports marketplace.
So far, Henry’s brief stewardship has been uneventful. The team is having a bad year under a mediocre coach, but its problems redound to the previous, despised American owners. Tom Hicks and George Gillett generated huge debts, public relations debacles, and no Premier League championships. For now, the Red Sox PR machine is pumping out happynews about Henry’s visits to grotty Liverpool — Worcester without the glitz — and about his wife’s inane Twitter messages to the fans, e.g. “Wow! Anfield [the team’s stadium] really is a special place!’’
The few sane people I have talked to about Liverpool understand that these are early days for New England Sports Ventures and that meaningful changes probably won’t come until Liverpool’s season ends in May. None of those sane people are in Liverpool, however. Even by the deranged standards of European soccer, Red fans are totally bonkers. Their excitable Internet fan sites are still agonizing over a 21-year-old soccer riot that killed 96 people. One website, Thisisanfield.com, is publishing yet another exhaustive history of the incident, and still actively promotes a boycott of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun, two decades after the paper accused Liverpool fans of pickpocketing the corpses, and other outrages.
In a lengthy interview with one of the fan sites, Redandwhitekop.com (kop refers to a part of Anfield stadium), Henry confined himself to boilerplate Belispeak: “This club needs everyone on the same page every day. Every day. We need everyone focused on what needs to be done in the next match facing us and during that match,’’ blah blah blah. He comes across as bloodless and dispassionate, talking about soccer in the same breath as his auto racing interests and baseball — one management template for all. That kind of talk won’t sit well by the Mersey, believe me.
Thisisanfield.com is also publishing a generally positive, three-part history of the Red Sox under Henry & Co., written by an anonymous Bostonian who is a rabid Liverpool fan. He praises Henry’s work with the Sox and with Fenway, but warns of “some startling, and potentially worrying, differences’’ between the Sox and Liverpool: “Liverpool is in a precarious situation with regards to finances. And we’re a bit, shall we say, passionate about winning, and have never been losers. Ever. . . . Can NESV navigate the minefields of English football? Too early to say.’’
There are other worrisome facts: It’s impossible to imagine a high-gloss player-franchise, a la David Beckham and his appalling wife, moving to doggy Liverpool. Likewise Premier League financing rules will change next year, not necessarily to Liverpool’s benefit. I suspect my friend Steve Stark may have it correct, writing on the Atlantic magazine website: “Just like their precursors, these Americans will eventually be run out of town too, wondering what the hell they were thinking when they bought Liverpool FC.’’
This was brought to my attention by duskyblueskies earlier, and I'm horrified that someone could write something like this. I'm honestly so angry someone can say SO many terrible and hurtful things to such a devoted fan base. What do you think?