Liverpool FC for long kept out corporate influence since the establishment of the Premier League maintaining its institutional values. However the current crisis and lack of silverware has seen Liverpool abandon the collective values developed in the past and become the target of predatory corporations looking for quick profits.
Since the establishment of the Premier League two decades ago English football has gone through a huge transformation, making the Premier League a global brand.
At the close of the 1991 season, a proposal for the establishment of a new league was tabled that would bring more money into English football. The argument given that the extra income would allow English clubs to compete with teams across Europe, as English teams were re-admitted back into UEFA competitions following a 5 year ban. The Premier League was established as a limited company in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. This saw the influx of huge sums of money as the Premier League established lucrative deals for television rights – It is here that the Premier League became an attractive money making vehicle for those with little interest on what happened on the football pitch
Today the Premier League is one of the richest football leagues in the. As a result a number of corporations and individuals view Premier League clubs as cash crops – quick money making opportunities.
In capitalism money is all that matters and the Premier League became the playthings of investors with questionable backgrounds. Football’s watchdog, The Football Association, did not bother to investigate properly the background of the many foreign nationals buying top clubs. As long as the money kept flowing in it did not matter where it came from or how it was generated.
Roman Abromovich the Russian oligarch, was the first to see the Premier League as too good an opportunity to miss when he brought Chelsea in 2003, despite the controversial origins of his fortune. Today Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Fulham, Portsmouth and West Ham are owned by corporate interests. with only one interest – making money – and little interest in the game of Football.
The irony of all this is the sale of Liverpool FC. Liverpool FC was developed and constructed as an institution with its own values. Bill Shankly established Liverpool FC as an institution during the 1960’s and turned it into one of the most successful clubs in European history. Shankly was born in a mining village and in poverty used socialism, to build Liverpool FC and instilled collectivism, which helped the club dominate Europe during his reign. “The socialism I believe in is not really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life.”[i] Well into the 21st century Liverpool FC held out to lucrative deals that would dilute the values that Shankly built the club upon. However with little silverware to show for the last two decades, Liverpool FC gave in to Capitalism and this has come to haunt them.
In 2007 American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks brought out Liverpool FC for £218.9 million, with debts of £44.8 million. However by 2010 the club was on the verge of bankruptcy with the club’s creditors asking the High Court to allow for the sale of the club. When Liverpool’s ex-owners bought the club they did not fund it with their own cash. They took a short-term loan of £350 million split between the football club and Kop Football Holdings. The club’s owners essentially never invested a single penny into the football club they were supposedly buying.
Corporate interests have taken a club that reached the Champions League final in the year of their arrival to one playing in the Europa League and languishing in the relegation zone.
The question to ask is what is the single factor that has had the biggest affect in corrupting the so-called ‘beautiful game.’ Surely it’s Capitalism – the wanton desire for profits above all else.
The Capitalisation or commercialisation as it is today known has corrupted everything it has touched, be it religion, sport or politics. Capitalism creates a greed amongst its participants that is only destructive. The commercialisation of Christmas has turned it into the season for the corporate world to break-even and created practices such a father Christmas that have nothing to do with Christianity. Similarly in politics we see MP’s taking kickbacks or abusing their positions for the highest bidder. football is not the only sport that has been corrupted by Capitalism, cricket has gone down the same route with the launch of the Indian Premier League – where once again television rights have seen the league commercialised, with corruption and match fixing the order of the day.
The events surrounding Liverpool FC, the most successful football institution in the UK, was a result of the greed Capitalism creates, which is the making of money irrespective of everything else and irrespective of the consequences.
Liverpool should have always walked alone
[i] Shankly by Shankly, Bill. Barker Limited, Arthur, London. 1976. p. 32#