Investment needed with some urgency, starting with the stadium...Liverpool need a "rescue" rather than just a takeover, according to football finance expert David Bick, who believes the club is at an important cross-roads in its history.
Bick, chairman of Square 1 Consulting, believes fans of the Reds should not be fooled by financial results set to be released by the club, which he believes will see them announce a profit of around £35 million.
The expert sees similarities with Manchester United's figures last year — where the club's profits, a result of Cristiano Ronaldo's sale, paved the way for a bond issue that alleviated the club's short-time problems but only caused greater long-term concerns.
Bick also believes the Merseyside club, whose owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have reportedly set an asking price of around £500 million, has been over-priced and needs investment in almost every aspect of the club's infrastructure — starting with a new stadium.
"Liverpool has potentially reached its most important historic point," Bick wrote in an open letter, as reported by ESPN Soccernet.
"The club has now gone 20 years without winning the English league title. It has never won the Premier League. It was drummed out earlier than expected from this year's Champions League and now, as one of the world's biggest clubs, faces the ignominy and reality of failing to qualify for next season's premier European competition.
"To my mind, the people running the club over the last two decades must bear the bulk of the responsibility and the brunt of the criticism.
"Whether it comes down to incompetence or thoughtless arrogance at Liverpool, we have seen the club left behind by the other great clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs. They have rebuilt their stadia to high standards and, largely speaking, to capacities that accommodate their substantial fan bases.
"Yet all Liverpool fans have heard is talk and a string of broken promises."
While their rivals have adapted to the modern game and taken advantage of the money-making avenues open to them, Bick reckons Liverpool's owners have long been slow to adapt.
"The other clubs have built their revenue streams or attracted owners that have given them the wherewithal to compete effectively at the top of the modern game," he noted.
"It seems to me that the Liverpool fans are being treated to a 'product' that is rooted in the 1970s. Sadly, in very recent times, Liverpool has also been owned by people who have said much and delivered little of the stated vision. Replacing them is a very urgent imperative.
"Liverpool claimed in a recent statement that it has 'overseen a significant improvement in the financial performance of the club since 2007'. Well, that's difficult to assess. The management has not published accounts for Kop Football (Holdings) Limited - the main trading company - since the filing for the year to 31 July 2008 and, in that year, the business showed net losses of over £42 million and net interest payments on debt of £35 million not covered at all (let alone adequately) by operating profit - pre-player amortisation and trading - of £25 million."
Manager Rafael Benitez's agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon, revealed exclusively to Goal.com UK on Tuesday that assurances over transfer funds would be vital to keeping the Spaniard at the club. Bick believes that, if the club's finances are as bad as he suspects, Benitez might be disappointed with what he is told.
"Debt remains stubbornly near a reported £240 million, so what profits are produced do not leave much, if anything, for the manager to work with, even if we believe rumours of a £35 million profit for the year that will end this 31 July," Bick said.
"In short, Liverpool's financial structure can't work in my opinion and, since the sale of the club in 2007, it was never going to.
"If the manager cannot operate competitively in the transfer market, he has no chance of competing regularly in the top four. We have now seen the first concrete sign of this with the failure to even stay in the top four.
"Right now, Liverpool is at risk of losing its manager and some of its best players, demoralised by a recent Europa Cup semi-final defeat and a poor season. While no-one is irreplaceable, such an exodus will leave a new owner with an even more difficult task. Therefore, the new chairman of Liverpool needs to act with some swiftness."
The saga surrounding the building of New Anfield — which Hicks and Gillett promised to start work on soon after arriving at the club in 2007 — has been a major controversy in the last three years, and Bicks believes it is essential work is started sooner rather than later.
"Financially at least, Liverpool must have a new stadium if it is to have any hope of restoring past glories," he writes.
"But the finance for that, and any subsequent financial benefit to owners, must accrue to those who put up the money. In any case, this will not be a conventional acquisition of a football asset - it is more likely now to be a rescue.
"The new owners will need to be people of high calibre. They will need to have access to very large sums of money to build the new stadium, revitalise the management and allow for a well thought-through strengthening of the playing squad.
As a result, things could get worse before they get better for Reds fans.
"Once decline becomes precipitous, even money may not prevent the decline spiralling into permanency," Bick warned.
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