Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The owners of the Boston Red Sox are expanding their sporting conglomerate to Old England, purchasing soccer team Liverpool FC. The acquisition itself will cost New England Sports Ventures (NESV) about 300 million Pounds, or $476 million.
That's actually a fairly low price for a world famous soccer club like Liverpool. In January, Forbes Magazine valued Liverpool at just around $1 billion. So why the discount?
Because, as they say in England, Liverpool is in the shit. Both competitively, and financially.
They're currently 18th in the 20 team English Premier League. And in case you don't know, the 18th, 19th, and 20th placed teams in the Premier League are demoted to the minors at the end of each season. It's called relegation.
But it's early in the season, and Liverpool should avoid that fate. At the same time, they'll likely fail to qualify for the European Champions League (a competition between the top club teams in Europe, which also pays out huge cash prizes for qualification, advancement, and winning. The top 4 English teams qualify).
And that brings us to Liverpool's financial woes. The club is 280 million Pounds ($445 million) in debt. That's why they were so cheap to buy. And as part of the purchase, NESV has claimed that they'll repay that debt. So in essence, NESV is paying $476 million to buy the team, then another $445 million to get it out of debt. That's a $921 million total price tag.
You could pay Adrian Beltre $15 million a year, for 61 years, with that money.
I'm not John Henry's financial advisor. I don't care if he makes money or loses money on this deal. I'm a soccer fan, but Arsenal FC is my team, and I'm fairly indifferent to the fate of Liverpool.
But I am a Red Sox fan.
And as a fan, it irks me that our ownership is taking on such a massive undertaking. They want to return Liverpool FC to competetive prominence (18 English titles in their history, but 0 since 1990). They also want to return it to solvency. It's an involved and difficult project that will take time, effort, ingenuity, and resources.
It sounds eerily similar to something like buying a Boston based baseball club in 2002. An historic franchise that hasn't won in awhile, plays in an antiquated facility, and struggles to make money. Is that the Red Sox in 2002, or Liverpool in 2010?
But the competition is much stronger and much higher in number for Liverpool. The Red Sox only had to contend with one New York Yankees. In England, there are several teams with that level of resources and clout. Manchester United, my Arsenal, Tottenham. Not to mention clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, which are owned by sketchy international billionaires that pour huge sums of cash into their teams.
And it doesn't stop there. Liverpool has to compete with teams from Spain, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and so on. These teams are constantly bidding against each other for talent (players are rarely free agents, their contracts are typically bought and sold by teams, for huge amounts of money), not just playing each other on the field.
These teams also compete for fans (and ultimately, money) across the globe. Liverpool has an international following, but not nearly on the scale as Manchester United's, or Real Madrid's.
As a Sox fan, I don't like this situation one bit. The Sox need to be rebuilt, after finishing 3rd. Fenway Park has improved over the past decade, but it's still a 100 year old relic. The Yankees are improving, both competitively, and financially. And the Sox are remaining stagnant. Could you imagine the Yankees front office publicly (or privately), discussing a "Bridge Season?"
How does the purchase of a financially struggling soccer team help the Sox? Is there any synergy? NESN can't broadcast Liverpool games, because like the NFL, the Premier League negotiates TV contracts as a whole. Maybe Liverpool can come to Fenway every summer and play a game. But how much extra cash can that generate? Englishmen hate baseball. And Americans hate soccer.
I didn't mind NESV's acquirement of 50% of a NASCAR team a few years ago. The team had recent success, but just needed an influx of capital. The team's other owners still ran the racing and the business, and it didn't seem like NESV needed to pay much attention to what was going on.
At the same time, it's not as if Roush-Fenway has been a spectacular success. And it's certainly helped the racing team more than the baseball team.
It's disturbing that while the zeal for improving the Red Sox has gradually petered out, it's coincided with this notion of resurrecting Liverpool. There's a new flame in John Henry's life. He has a new challenge. And he'll dive into the dealings of Liverpool FC, and probably hire the right people to turn it around, invest resources properly, and maybe Liverpool will return to the elite echelon of the soccer world.
But it will come at the expense of the Red Sox. Henry and NESV won't let the Sox get worse. But they won't do everything possible to improve them, not like they did back in 2003 or 2004. We'll have more bridges than Madison County around here.
Hopefully I'm wrong. But every time the Sox pinch a penny instead of retain/acquire talent, we can guess that Liverpool FC needs to buy a new midfielder.
Red Sox Nation, John Henry has found someone else. He's not interested in us anymore. It's not us, it's him. Remember, he's from Quincy, Illinois, not Quincy, Massachusetts. And to any Liverpool fans reading this, he's not from Merseyside either, so enjoy his attention and affection while it lasts.
The weekend the Bruins had in Prague could have been used to sum up the entire 2009-10 season. And that's what worries me. They played uninspired, flat hockey. Then they were sparked, played hard, fought for loose pucks, made smart decisions, and outworked their opponent.
This routine repeated itself over and over last season. The B's would play three great games, then look lackadaisical for a pair of games, then reinvigorated for two more games, then listless for three, et cetera.
It even happens during the game itself. The Bruins consistently play their worst hockey when up by 3 goals. That's absurd. They get careless, they don't fight, they just try to cruise by until the clock hits 0:00. That doesn't work in hockey. And you'd think after what happened against Philadlephia last year, the Bruins wouldn't be so complacent when up 2-0 on Phoenix with 15 minutes of hockey left to play.
I'm also going to relentlessly criticize Tuukka Rask. Why? Because those legions of Tuukka Time Tards gave Timmy "I won the Vezina for Boston" Thomas far too much of the blame for the Bruins' struggles, and gave Rask far too much of the credit for the Bruins' success.
Furthermore, I don't like Rask. I don't like how small he is, I hate his collapsing style, and I hate his face.
Rask was awful in Saturday's game. The Bruins played better in front of Thomas on Sunday, so Timmy was never put in the same unfortunate situations that Rask faced on Saturday. Then again, Rask put himself out of position far too often.
The power play unit was dreadful. When the Bruins had the man advantage, the Coyotes had better offensive opportunities. That problem needs to be immediately addressed. I like Hunwick out there. I don't like Blake Wheeler out there.
On the bright side, Nathan Horton looks phenomenal. And Seguin's poise and comfort during his breakaway goal was impressive.
So while at first I was satisfied with how the Bruins turned things around in their second game out there, I'm going to refrain from commending them for doing so. At least until they've put together a nice long streak of good efforts. I'm not expecting 82 games of playoff-level intensity. But lack-of-effort games like Saturday's should be rare and occasional. At the moment, it comprises half the season.
I'll have a very thorough (although late) season preview for the Bruins before their next game. Which is Saturday night in New Jersey.
The Patriots sent a 4th round pick to Seattle for the services of Deion Branch. And everyone who bought a discount Branch jersey from the Pro Shop feels great about it. Although, he'll likely have to wear a different number, as Welker currently owns his old digits.
The critics/haters/morons-who-think-they're-smart out there will deride this deal. "You replace Moss with Branch, just to move up 30 picks in the draft?"
Yes. Because how many problems has Branch created in his career? Branch and the Patriots didn't part on great terms after '05, but there wasn't much animosity. And unlike Moss, there's no wake of destruction left behind him.
Branch is no Randy Moss. He's 7 inches shorter, has never had a 1,000 yard season (had 998 in '05), has never averaged over 15 yards per catch, and only has 20 career TDs.
Branch has only caught 13 passes for Seattle this season, for 139 yards. He'll contribute as a 3rd or 4th option in certain plays. He'll catch a few passes, but won't disrupt defenses the way Randy Moss did.
Nor will he disrupt the locker room. You can pretty much guarantee that. And while Randy hadn't yet disrupted the Patriots locker room, I challenge even the most anti-Moss-trade people out there to attempt to guarantee that for Randy Moss.