Why ‘bitterly disappointed’ John Henry may have already suggested Liverpool sale as £2.8bn deal hit – :ORA SPORT MANING
The European Super League suffered its latest defeat, but it is the failure of another controversial project that may explain why FSG may be ready to sell Liverpool
While club football at the elite level may have taken a bit of a backseat due to the World Cup in Qatar, there have been upheavals across European football.
The discovery that Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, were willing to listen to offers for the club after more than a year of seeking minority investment, set off something of a chain reaction, and Manchester United’s owner, the Glazer family, explored a similar exit strategy just two weeks later.
Following these two major board decisions at the world’s two biggest football clubs, the owners of Paris Saint-Germain, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), have announced that they are open to selling a 15 per cent stake, valuing the club at £3.5 billion, as they seek to raise new capital to support their efforts on and off the pitch; above all, their desire to move out of the Parc des Princes, owned by the Council of Paris, to their own home.
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The three decisions to sell out or sell a minority stake came in the same year Chelsea entered the market and were sold for £2.5bn following sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich in the wake of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. forced sale. It was an asset that attracted interest from around the world and was acquired by a consortium led by Todd Boehly, which included Clearlake Capital founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano, as well as Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.
On Monday, Juventus had their own big announcement.
While the owners of the Italian giants are yet to change hands, there have been massive changes at board level, prompted by an investigation into the Turin club’s financial statements by Italian prosecutors and market regulator Consob over alleged market manipulation of transfer fees and false accounting. These are allegations which Juventus denies.
President Andrea Agnelli, one of the most prominent figures in the board of European football who was and still is the main agitator for the creation of a European Super League, has joined the resignations of Vice President Pavel Nedved and the rest of Juventus. board, and the decision came after the club reported a record loss of £220m for the latest set of financial figures for 2021.
The decision, according to a statement from Juventus, was made after obtaining “new legal and accounting opinions” from independent experts. in the best interest of society, recommend that Juventus equip themselves with a new board of directors to address these issues.”
The departure of Agnella, who retains a stake in Juventus, not only leaves the club with a rather uncertain future, but also deals another devastating blow to a European Super League that is trying to get off the ground.
When 12 clubs: Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid signed up rather secretly for the ESL in early 2021, the project fell apart to dust just 48 hours after its release, prompting a backlash from fans, governing bodies and the wider football family.
Liverpool fell back, as did eight others, and the owners of FSG were forced into a rather embarrassing step down as John Henry had to apologize to Reds fans for his part in dragging the club into ESL talks.
But as football steadfastly rejected the idea, Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona have not been deterred by promises of huge financial gains to bolster their own balance sheets, which the impact of the pandemic and further reckless spending have led to huge losses. Barcelona has crossed the £1 billion mark in debt and has been forced to sell off some of its operations and media rights to bring the situation under control.
In Madrid, the trio filed a lawsuit, arguing that UEFA has a monopoly on European football, with the aim being that clubs can legally clear the way for another change to a revised, more affordable version of ESL in the future. This is an argument that keeps spinning, and the company behind the project, A22, which appointed a new CEO in October with German director Bernd Reichart, is something that refuses to die.
But while the Juventus board resignation in this case is unrelated to ESL’s plans, Agnelli’s departure as club president is a major blow to the league’s chances of forming, which were previously thought to be slim.
The decision by FSG and the Glazer family to test the waters when it comes to seeing what the interest is and where the price lies in the market is due not only to the high value and high interest Chelsea has created, but also to the failure of two major structural changes in the European and domestic football that have not gained any grip.
The motivation of the clubs to join ESL was largely due to the fact that they did not want to be left out if given the green light, not to mention the welcome bonus of around £250m plus which US bank JP Morgan has committed to spend £2.8bn pounds to get going, which was attractive at a time when incomes were under serious threat. But for English clubs, the rejection of the Big Picture project was more damaging as Liverpool and Manchester United were the driving force behind this particular project, which was supposed to give more money to the EFL, but in return wanted a smaller league and a shortened calendar, with competitions such as the EFL Cup abolished; the idea was that the “big six” clubs could organize the more lucrative European exhibition matches in their spare time.
Both ideas have been driven into the long grass, and with them hopes of hundreds of millions of pounds of guaranteed revenue.
The decision by the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United to assess their future points to a failure for both ESL and Project Big Picture. And with Agnelli, who along with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Barcelona president Joan Laporta have been the biggest proponents of starting the ESL competition to “save” football that Perez described as “sick”, it sends a clear message that, at least for the foreseeable future, ESL is not something that will come.
This could have an impact on clubs’ interest as prospective owners know they will not be able to be the catalyst for any structural change for some time. The departure plans of both FSG and the Glazers may also give the market some indication of the direction they see it heading and the prospects for future growth of these global assets.
“John Henry is deliberate in his statements, he knows how not to say things,” Stefan Szymanski, author of the lauded “Soccernomics” and Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan, told ECHO.
“Looking at the European Super League and Project Big Picture, I think people underestimate how significant the latter’s defeat was.
“I think Henry was bitterly disappointed in the failure of that, and I think that’s when he realized it was a cultural thing he couldn’t change. He gave an interview where he said he was disappointed with the other owners and their lack of ambition. I found this a very revealing statement on his part. The fact that he felt he was focusing on the stars and they were staring in the gutter seemed to be a pivotal moment.
“Fenway’s exit would be a significant signal to the market, for some it would mean that the event is sort of over.”