The Share Liverpool FC group plans to raise £500m by persuading 100,000 of Liverpool’s fans around the world to cough up at least £5,000 each. They would then use the money to buy out Tom Hicks and George Gillett (the Americans who bought the club last year) and fund the proposed new stadium, leaving the club fully-owned by the fans.
It might sound unlikely, but there’s a serious team behind the bid. Dr Rogan Taylor is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association; Supporters Direct, a government-backed organisation that promotes democratic supporter ownership, whose CEO PHil French used to be director of communications at the Premier League; and lawyer Kevin Jacquiss, an expert in co-operative law.
And there’s a decent financial argument too. Hicks and Gillett have just completed a £350m refinancing of the club, with £105m of this debt tied to the club. With annual interest payments of £30m, it will ultimately be the fans who end up paying this bill – just as they have down the East Lancs road at Manchester United. And with hostility towards the Americans running high after a series of run-ins with manager Rafael Benitez, many fans are unwilling to feather their owners’ nests.
‘The fans know that in the end, it will be they themselves who will have to pay it off through increased ticket prices and other schemes,’ says Taylor. ‘In such a case, why not simply buy the club yourselves?’
The group’s main inspiration is not Remington’s Victor Kiam (of ‘I liked it so much I bought the company’ fame), believe it or not – it’s actually Spanish giants Barcelona, who have always been owned by 100,000 ‘fan-members’. And judging by the club’s numerous domestic and European honours, it doesn’t seem to have done them much harm. Several other clubs in Spain and Germany are also run on this model, so there is a precedent.
So will Liverpool go the way of Ebbsfleet United, run by fans over the internet? Probably not - what's mooted here is a rather different model. And in an era when Russian oligarchs are pouring hundreds of millions into top football clubs, it seems a bit hard to see how a co-operative fan group could compete. But it’s an interesting concept – and with the amount of money pouring in from television, it might not even be the total waste of money that investing in football has always been.
Though the question remains – if they couldn’t bring the title back to L4, who’s going to sack them...?