Liverpool set to ignite gloomy Christmas for modest Newcastle at Anfield
Amanda Staveley will take her place in the Anfield directors box tonight when Newcastle United visit the Premier League. She’s been there before. For nearly a decade, his ambition was to buy Liverpool. Both fan groups are grateful that this did not happen.
he first time Staveley’s name became known in Merseyside was when she ran for Dubai in 2008. The Yorkshire-born businesswoman was involved in the Manchester City takeover by Abu Dhabi earlier in the year and, armed with more Emirati money, aimed to displace the hated regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
A photo of Staveley in the Liverpool directors’ lodge was once on display at her home. The club’s high-profile lawsuit put it in the limelight but failed to achieve anything else. The warring American owners of Anfield were too busy fighting each other to agree on a number for a sale.
Staveley has tried Hicks, Gillett and the Spirit of Shankly Supporters Union with varying degrees of success. The feeling grew that Staveley was more inclined to close the deal than his Arab supporters.
The offer may have failed, but it gave the 48-year-old a taste for more football involvement. By the time she turned to Liverpool again eight years later, Staveley had developed the model that would be used at Newcastle. She no longer wanted to be a mere agent in a takeover. She wanted a piece of the club for herself.
In 2015, John W Henry, the main owner of Liverpool, told confidants he was ready to listen to the offers. He made it clear that Fenway Sports Group (FSG) was in no rush to sell and was keen to protect its legacy by finding the right buyer, but Anfield was on the trading block. In public, the FSG denied this.
This time, Staveley asked for Chinese help. The initial approach caught Henry’s attention. China Everbright, the leading financial services firm, has been named the lead bidder alongside PCP Capital Partners of Staveley. It was serious enough that FSG put potential buyers in touch with Allen & Co, their New York-based investment bank.
But media leaks embittered Henry, as did the lack of solid information about the money. Over the weeks, CYTS, a conglomerate belonging to the Communist Youth League of China, got involved and even invited Henry to Beijing to discuss the matter. One thing, however, never reached the FSG or its bankers: proof of funding.
There was a window to buy Liverpool at the end of Brendan Rodgers’ tenure and at the start of Jurgen Klopp’s spell. The figures look ludicrous just five years later: One proposal was Â£ 850million up front with Â£ 150million deferred, so the overall figure could be Â£ 1 billion (1.17 billion euros).
In March, RedBird Capital Partners paid Â£ 533million for around 10% of FSG. While this includes other branches of Fenway’s business such as the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool’s current price tag is significantly higher than the figures announced in 2016.
Staveley traveled to Newcastle to the delight of fans in the North East. It worked out well for everyone because Geordies was finally gotten rid of Mike Ashley, who was vilified at St James’ Park as much as Hicks and Gillett were at Anfield.
Was âThe Kopâ lucky? Definitively. As FSG spent the first five years of its ownership seeking cohesive leadership, Klopp’s commitment marked an important turning point. Much like the fans, the Boston-based owners were energized by the German and the stability and support the manager received from the boardroom meant everyone was pulling in the same direction – which was not. still the case in pre-Klopp FSG times.
Newcastle’s problems since the takeover show the difficulties of the type of property sharing offered during the Chinese appearance at Anfield. The Reuben brothers’ Staveley and RB Sports and Media own 10% each, with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund controlling the rest of the club.
Many of Newcastle’s problems were caused by the timing of the takeover – mid-season when there were few managers available and between transfer windows – but it proved difficult to quickly set up a system that works well.
The behind-the-scenes dissonance that characterized the Ashley years cannot be brushed aside quickly enough.
It’s a matter of time before Newcastle build an effective machine but – at least in the short term – the clock is no friend of the team. A fear of relegation lurks around Tyneside. A bad loss to Liverpool would usher in a gloomy Christmas, with the upcoming home games against both clubs Manchester. As Eddie Howe’s side return to Merseyside to face Everton in their final game of 2021, security could be much further away.
It could be an uncomfortable night at Anfield for Staveley. Henry and FSG were among the most vehement opponents of buying the Saudis in the Premier League. The Newcastle manager’s email last week to other top clubs, which suggested the proposed new sponsorship rules were anti-competitive and threatening legal action, will have caused fury in Boston. Staveley will receive a frosty reception.
If Howe’s side defend like they did in the 4-0 loss to Leicester on Sunday, it will be a long night.
It may cross Staveley’s mind, “This is what you could have had, this is what you got.”
There is a huge divide between the clubs at the moment. Closing the gap shouldn’t even be a consideration for Newcastle’s new owners.
Survival is the only thing on their agenda.
Liverpool v Newcastle
Live, BT Sport 1, 8.0
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