Wednesday 23 May 2012

This Is Not Looking Good

At the end of the next football season it will be sixty years since Liverpool were relegated from the then Division One to Division Two in 1952-1953.  To add insult to injury they were replaced by Everton who had been relegated a couple of seasons before.  The other side that went down was Middlesbrough replaced by Leicester City.

The previous season, 1951-1952 Liverpool had finished at half way after showing some promise but which tailed off in the later half.  Those of us with memories of that unhappy time will be uncomfortably aware that we could be in for a repeat.

It was a time when the owners were in dispute, there was disarray in management and in the dressing room and the club, despite the level of its support did not have the cash to rebuild a team that had enjoyed success since the end of the War.

This season after the turn of the year Liverpool’s form was that of a relegation team and it was only that enough points had been gained earlier to keep them up at the half way level.  If they begin next season in this way they may not recover. 

Their luck in the Carling Cup means that they have a place in the lesser European contest but as too many clubs have discovered the fixture and injury complications from the many games these involve, not exactly big crowd games, could seriously impair what needs to be done in The Premiership.

Next years Premiership has all the signs of being highly competitive with a number of well funded teams able to take care of themselves.  It would be very easy for Liverpool in their current state to be locked into the grim struggle as one of four or five teams desperate to retain their place.

Sixty years ago they were not scoring enough goals.  This season has been much the same and has meant dropping points against sides in games they should have been taking the maximum points from.

The lower divisions of the football league are littered with teams that were once great names, even in the Conference there are some to be found that at one time enjoyed a time at the highest level.

In the next few seasons it is inevitable that some teams now in the Premiership will drop down to lower levels to join all those clubs of the past whose ageing fans cling on to either their own memories or those of their parents or grandparents.

Often in the past such falls have been down to bad management, disagreements between owners and over optimism about the accounts.  All these are in place at Liverpool who in addition have the modern curse of the cloud of agents, financial advisers, lawyers and consultants taking much of the money and increasing the levels of debt.

From “The Political Economy Of Football” an item “Talking To The Lawyers” taken from “The Lawyer” of 22 May “Heading Skills” dealing with the legal in and outs of several Premiership Clubs.  This is the item on Liverpool.


Liverpool FC

When things are going well at a football club, as it is for Manchester City’s Simon Cliff, it can be a dream job for a sports-loving lawyer.

Two years ago, when The Lawyer spoke to Liverpool general counsel Natalie Wignall (22 March 2010), this was undoubtedly the case. But if two years is a long time in football, sometimes so is a day.

Between The Lawyer arranging to speak to Wignall last week and the actual interview the following day, manager and club legend ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish had left the club and Wignall was tied up in negotiations.

It has been a tumultuous season for Wignall and her beloved Reds, with several executive departures creating a climate of uncertainty.

Liverpool’s director of football Damien Comolli left last month, followed quickly by club sports science head Dr Peter Brukner and goalkeeping coach John Achterberg.

There has been speculation that the club’s owner, the US-based Fenway Sports Group, was unhappy with the way the Luis Suarez race claim case was handled by its legal advisers.

Wignall supported McCormicks senior partner and sport, media and entertainment specialist Peter McCormick, along with club secretary Zoe Ward, when Liverpool striker Suarez was found guilty by an FA commission for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.

But the club was then roundly condemned for its stance in support of Suarez after he was banned for eight games.

Wignall previously told The Lawyer that the in-house legal role was her “dream job”. She has been at the club during a testing time, with legal wrangles on and off the field, including the international dispute over the club’s ownership (, 8 March 2012).

The ongoing action has brought work to a number of the North West city’s law firms.
“I have to pinch myself when I come in to work every day,” the born-and-bred Scouser, who lives within walking distance of Liverpool’s Melwood training ground, told The Lawyer in 2010. “It’s just the best job in the world.”

She conceded that the intense scrutiny of the club can be difficult to deal with.

“It’s the extent to which everything you do is in the public eye,” she says. “It’s just not like any other business where you might win and lose big contracts, but either way you get on with it. Here the performances on the pitch affect the business so much more.”


In the media we are constantly told that the English Premiership is the market leader in the world with huge revenues to come from all those foreigners daft enough to be persuaded to show loyalty to the brands in question.  We are told that this is all “good for growth” and national pride and all that.

With most of the Premiership now in foreign ownership, most of the leading players from further shores, most of the huge debts owed to global financial interests and most of the revenue going into players off shore accounts it would be a sector of the economy that would be closed down if it were not still capable of being able to part fools from their money.

Or the Premiership may simply be one of the world’s most obvious money laundries.  I do hope George Osborne enjoyed his works outing to Munich with the Chelsea people.  Perhaps he learned some lessons in debt management there.

Liverpool may survive at the top, but don’t bet on it or ask one of the teams of lawyers to advise you.


  1. "Or the Premiership may simply be one of the world’s most obvious money laundries."

    That occurred to me too.

  2. I hereby confess to two counts of imprpoper conduct within these grounds. I am an Everton supporter and a Yankee. Though some perverse pleasure was experienced during the Reds' struggles, this was mostly motivated by Benitez's "small club" insult which was dealt in one of the Toffees' most difficult seasons.

    When my interest in the English game displaced interest in American sports in 1995 Liverpool and Everton were my favorite teams until I was told this was not acceptable by a British citizen. For what it's worth, your loyalty to the Reds will secure my desire to see them survive this coming season. In good form.