Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I had to chime in, man...

Two things:

There's been a lot going on in European football this week. I decided I couldn't wait until the weekend to chime in on a couple of events, else I forget some of this stuff.

First, Liverpool FC is now owned by American investors George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Both Gillett and Hicks already own sports franchises in the NHL, and Hicks is the owner of the Texas Rangers (let's just hope Hicks isn't responsible for recruiting football players given his record for buying pitchers in MLB). Three top-teir Premiership clubs (Liverpool, ManU, and Aston Villa) and three American majority owners. If one looks at the previous two American takeovers, we see the tale of two football clubs.

ManU, a wildly successful club, has enjoyed prosperity and was one of the few Premiership clubs that was debt-free. The Glazers changed the debt part of that equation, saddling the club with the 660 million pound debt which was the result of borrowed capital in order for the Glazers to buy this franchise in the first place. Also, the ManU fans were dead set against the takeover, and likely remain hostile to the Glazers to this day. Another reason for the hostility is the reluctance of the Glazer family to speak publicly to the supporters. On the flip side, Randy Lerner, owner of the Cleveland Browns, purchased Aston Villa. Villa has been a struggling club, and fans welcomed the takeover in hopes of fresh directions and ideas.

Supporters were all too happy to bid adieu to Doug Ellis, the former majority owner. Hicks and Gillett have been very savvy in this takeover.

They have addressed the Liverpool faithful.
"We know what you want, you want to win," said Hicks.

The two Americans also did not make the mistake of referring to Liverpool FC as a "franchise," which, in the UK denotes a soulless corporate entity.

They also kept Rick Parry on as chief executive and David Moores, the former majority owner, will be the "Life president" of the club. A shrewd move ensuring that the day-to-day business of the club will be minimally affected. So far, the two Americans are doing all the right things. For the Liverpool supporters, let's hope that this acquisition leads to future trophies and titles.

Second, most of the Italian Serie A games were postponed this past weekend as a result of some deadly hooliganism at last Saturday's Palermo/Catania match. Severe riots erupted, resulting in the death of an Italian policeman. This hooliganism is unfortunate, and needs to be better controlled in Serie A. England has taken many measures to clean up the hooliganism surrounding club and national team matches, as evidenced in this past World Cup. As a result of the violence, the Italian football federation have been meeting to discuss strategy. For the short term, several matches will be played, but with supporters not filling the stadium to capacity. Some stadiums will not even allow fans. Also, an assesment of stadium safety will likely be underway in all of the top Serie A venues.

Times are changing, and it's becoming more obvious than ever that these hooligans are not at the football stadiums for the sport.

-Christopher J. Brigham

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