Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Liverpool chase the American dream
Liverpool's new American owners have thrown down the gauntlet to Manchester United and Chelsea by promising to make the club the biggest and best in the world.
Tom Hicks and George Gillett laid out their vision for a bright Red future at an Anfield news conference little more than an hour after clinching an historic £470million takeover of the club.They will be in direct competition with fellow Americans the Glazer family but, unlike the owners at Old Trafford, the two sports tycoons insist there will be no debt tied to Liverpool from their purchase.The pair formed an impressive team, and made clear they had huge respect for the club's heritage.Gillett said: 'This is truly the largest sport in the world, the most important sport in the world, and this is the most important club in the most important sport in the world and what a privilege we have to be associated with it.'We have purchased the club with no debt on the club so, in that regard, it is different [to the Glazers]. We believe in the future of the club, the future of the league, the new TV contracts are outstanding and we are proud to be a part of it.'If you look at the Premier League today, it is a strong revenue-generating body for the leading teams. I believe it has the chance to be a growing industry over time and we need all the revenues we can possibly find to compete with Manchester and Chelsea.'Gillett and Hicks - who both own NHL ice hockey teams - will become co-chairmen, and each will have one of their sons on the board. Liverpool chairman David Moores will become honorary life president and Rick Parry will continue as chief executive, running the club on a day to day basis.The Americans had a meeting with manager Rafael Benitez on Tuesday and promised they would back him with funds for new signings, insisting they will not put a ceiling on spending.Hicks said: 'We are not going to put a budget on squad development, we are going to wait for Rick and Rafa to bring us those plans and requests and we are going to support them.'Rafa's strategies and philosophies are very similar to our own, with a strong core of veterans with highly-talented young athletes.'You need to keep your star players but also develop your young players.'Young players are the lifeblood of your team, so we talked about how we can improve that side of the team.'They also met up with skipper Steven Gerrard and fellow Scouser Jamie Carragher last night.Gillett said: 'We had the privilege of spending some time with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and they delivered us the message. They are all about winning and all about the passion from the fans.'They wanted continuity of management with David and Rick. They have enormous regard for them. They also spoke extremely warmly about Rafa and made us aware that they feel this man is truly one of the great geniuses in the recent history of the sport.'Secondly, they wanted to talk about players and to encourage us to support Rick and Rafa's efforts in building the team.'They were also clear with their views on the stadium. They made us aware the sound, the energy and the passion that Anfield provides needs to be incorporated into the design of the new stadium.'The takeover means that work is now expected to start on the new 60,000-seater Stanley Park stadium within the next two months, and the new owners will consider selling the naming rights on the ground.The pair also made clear there was no chance of sharing the ground with Merseyside neighbours Everton.Hicks said: 'I can categorically say we have no interest in a ground share with any other team. We are going to build the finest team for the finest stadium in the Premier League and that is Liverpool.'Gillett persuaded Hicks to join his bid after meeting him at an NHL All-Star game, and it did not take long for Hicks - who also owns the Texas Rangers baseball side - to become hooked on the project.Hicks added: 'I had obviously heard of Liverpool but once I had a chance to read about the 118 years of history, the 18 league championships, the bleak years in the 1930s and 40s through to the 60s and then the tragedies of the 1980s, I was just awe-struck by what this community has done, it is very, very special.'Gillett also insisted that, though he and Hicks would be aiming for the club to return a profit, that was way down the list of priorities.He said: 'If you put down the objectives, money would be no way near the top of the list, it would have winning, passion, heritage and legacy above that.'Rick has told me of a Bill Shankly saying that `first is first and second is nowhere' and that sounds good to us.'