Wednesday, April 16, 2008


As this report makes clear, the on-going ownership meltdown at Liverpool keeps fluctuating between tragedy and farce. It seems likely that someone, probably some sort of transnational oligarch with billions of what they call quid at his/her disposal, will have to bail the Reds out of their disastrous bondage to a pair of American idiots. In the meantime, said idiots seem hell-bent on reducing the club to splinters.

As Comrade Lenin once asked, What is to be done? As long as football clubs are set up as private entities (or, worse, traded on the stock markets, which value nothing but growth and, as America's major newspaper companies have discovered in recent years, deliver swift and vicious punishment when said growth doesn't meet their expectations), fans will see their beloved teams bought, sold and asset-stripped. Manchester United is now as much a debt sinkhole as a football club. Chelsea could collapse tomorrow if Roman Abramovich suffers a heart attack or one of the misadventures mysteriously common to successful post-Soviet entrepreneurs. The Premiership's weaker sisters are vulnerable to fire-sale emergencies and hostile takeovers. Meanwhile, the league's run-away success makes it likely that other competitions around Europe and the world will try to match the English model of massive private investment.

Not to come across all Black Bloc or anything, but I think the only solution is some form of collective ownership: substantive control exercised by fans. Barcelona and other Spanish clubs operate that way, as do the members of the Bundesliga, one of the best-run and most populist major sports leagues in the world. A plan for a fan takeover of Liverpool already surfaced in response to the year's troubles. It may not be going anywhere, but it speaks to the larger truth. It's time for fans of the game everywhere to get stuck in and demand a real say.

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