The Sweeper: Spins, Lies and Liverpool

Reagan_Gorbachev

Big Story
I was once representing supporters in a meeting with senior club executives on a heated issue, taking minutes assiduously throughout. Towards the end, one senior executive (who is no longer with the club) said we had accused him of something that I thought we hadn’t said. Yet he was very, very angry about it. I suggested he was mischaracterising what we had said; he disagreed. I said it was in my minutes, and offered to read them. He became even more irate, claimed he had been “recording the whole thing” (we had never been told the meeting was being taped), and stormed out promising to prove his point (he never returned, nor provided any proof). I don’t, of course, rule out the possibility that my own interpretation and minutes were in the wrong.

But the point is, without such a tape recording, even with written notes meetings are subject to such wildly different interpretations. Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly (SOS) supporters’ union experienced something similar following their meeting with Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow this week: neither side could reach agreement on what Purslow had said when they compared notes after, so the Sons of Shankly published both their own and Purslow’s minutes in full.

Read them over, because it’s remarkable how different they are. The key difference the media have focused on is whether or not Purslow said Liverpool’s owners are now “out of money”. What doesn’t seem to be in question is that Purslow accepted Liverpool badly need £100m, though interestingly, the Times uses Purslow’s minutes of the meeting and does not mention the SOS’s differing take on how Purslow phrased the urgency of this need. Compare:

SOS minutes:

SOS – Can you also confirm that the intention (as reported) would be to secure investment from a third party for a 25% share of the Club – is this still the intention? If not, what is the current intention?

CP – It is not a given that £100 million will buy 25%. I need to find £100 million, and if this is for 1% or 100% I don’t care. I am concentrating on getting the investment needed. Some investors may have issues with working with the present owners, but some don’t just want a percentage, some want 100%. No investor is going to want to invest £100 million and have a smaller stake than the present owners.

Purslow minutes:

SOS – Can you also confirm that the intention (as reported) would be to secure investment from a third party for a 25% share of the Club – is this still the intention? If not, what is the current intention?

CP – I have seen this reported and I think it comes from the sales document prepared by the owners bankers last year. The reality is much less proscriptive. The owners and the board are considering different sorts of proposals which could involve new investors taking a stake or a full takeover. The market will determine valuation and we have enough interest to suggest that the owners valuation is realistic.

The current lead bank RBS is highly supportive of the club and this is a vitally important and positive thing. With new investment they have already agreed that they would provide new long term facilities and would also like to participate in financing the stadium and they are not the only bank who has met with the club and expressed interest in the stadium project, many have.

But the common denominator of all these financing providers is that we need new investment first and so this is the key first step.

Critically, SOS’ minutes paint a far different picture of the bank’s current view of the club: missing from Purslow’s minutes is the following on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) frustration with Hicks and Gillett.

SOS – If the bank want £100 million paying down on the debt as part of the last re-financing, what will they ask for in the summer? Will it just be for 12 months again?

CP – I have got a conditional agreement for a 3/4 year loan deal. At the last re-financing agreement, Hicks and Gillett paid down the debt with their own money. A new investor will pay down the £100 million needed now. The banks want us reducing debt and being cautious. RBS are annoyed and unhappy with Hicks and Gillett and they want a change of ownership. The £100 million pay down is compulsory, it has to be done. I will not agree to a deal that is unworkable for us, but we need to have the owners own and the managers manage.

Whatever the true story, it’s sad that this attempt to communicate has failed so miserably. Purslow’s own minutes close with him saying “I assure you I will not spin or lie. I am under no obligation to meet with you-the fact I do is because all fans have a legitimate right to express views and I want you to feel that you have a channel of communication into the club you all love.”  Whether SOS’s or Purslow’s minutes are accurate, that channel itself is now presumably closed, as someone is indeed spinning and lying here.

Worldwide News

  • Speaking of Liverpool, Goal.com gives an interesting, rather potted — and I’d like to hear some Merseyside opinion on this — I’m not 100% certain entirely accurate historical overview of the transformation of the Liverpool-Everton rivalry from “friendly derby” to vitriolic battle: “The 1980s in particular were littered with football-related examples of ‘Scouse Solidarity’, as Merseyside dominated the English football scene, winning eight of the decade’s ten league titles, and exclusively contesting three major cup finals in five years.”
  • European Football Weekends has yet another excellent supporter-interview up, this time with an AFC Wimbledon trust member, whose meatiest quote comes as he considers the prospect of MK Dons some day heading to their stadium for a game as something that would “make Galatasaray look like a genteel afternoon at county cricket by comparison.”
  • How does soccer make Fox News?  Combine John Terry, Eric Wynalda, John Harkes and at least two (alleged) affairs, and the sport hits the so-called fair & balanced “news” (alright, it’s an AP wire story, but still. H/T to the Offside Rules.)
  • There ought to be more praise for Stoke winger Matthew Etherington, who has spoken openly about his gambling addiction and the treatment he has taken for it; as something that has played havoc with many players’ careers, perhaps more in the future will feel comfortable seeking help earlier than Etherington was able to.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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