For many Liverpool fans, the bi-annual Liverpool derby between Everton and Liverpool is one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season but the roller-coaster events of the past week have put things rather more firmly in context.
Even before the sensational events of last night, Liverpool were a club in dire straits. They currently sit in 18th place in the table with only 6 points to show from seven games. The club come into Sunday’s game with Everton off the back of a humiliating home defeat to newly-promoted Blackpool. With Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard both struggling for form, the international break was supposed to be a time where the team could go away with their national teams and then return back to the club refocused and ready for the challenge of facing Everton.
However, the drama that has unfolded has put paid to any such notion.
Yesterday in the theatre of a London and Dallas courtroom, Liverpool were witness to their very own Greek tragedy.
It all began with great hope for Liverpool fans. Last week, chairman Martin Broughton announced that John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox and his investment company NESV have had a £300 million bid for the club accepted by the board. In their first move of subterfuge, owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett attempted to sack managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre and replace them with Hick’s son Mack and Lori Kay McCutcheon, a VP at Hick’s Holdings. Needless to say, their plan didn’t work and the takeover by NESV was approved by the Premier League on Friday.
Obviously, Liverpool fans were joyous at the news that the deeply unpopular Hicks and Gillett were finally being run out of town. The prospect of new investment and ownership would hopefully be the kick-start to their stuttering season so far. But Hicks and Gillett weren’t going to lie down that easily.
In another extraordinary move, Tom Hicks brought the proposed sale of the club to the High Court in London, claiming that Broughton and the board had conspired to accept an offer for the club that is well under the valuation that Hicks and Gillett were seeking for the club.
Then came the news of a higher offer from Singaporean businessman Peter Lim. The offer of £320 million was £20 million more than that of NESV and would be paid for in cash. The deal would also include £40 million towards the purchase of new players in the January transfer window.
In the space of only a few days, Liverpool now had two sizeable offers on the table for the club. Things were looking up despite the looming High Court date.
Speaking of the court date, yesterday saw the case of the Liverpool sale heard before the High Court in London. The Court ruled in favour of Broughton and the board which paved the way for a quick sale of the club. Once again, the Liverpool fans went from a state of anxiety to one of jubilation as the Hicks and Gillett era was apparently coming to an end.
But that state of jubilation was to last only a few hours. As the board convened to hopefully dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a potential sale to NESV, Hicks and Gillett made one last desperate play to cling onto the club by filing a temporary restraining order on the Liverpool board and RBS in a Dallas courthouse.
The TRO was filed at around 10 p.m. with Hicks and Gillett claiming that the sale of the club is an “epic swindle” while seeking $1.6 billion of damages from the Liverpool board, RBS and NESV for selling the club “hundreds of millions of dollars below true market value”.
While the jurisdiction of a Texas court order regarding matters is not immediately clear, RBS, NESV and Broughton in his role as chairman of BA have sizable commercial interests in the state of Texas which would be at risk if they were to go ahead with the deal.
And so Liverpool fans are back at square one after being put through the emotional wringer. The TRO filed in Dallas was a one-sided affair with evidence heard only from Hicks. The TRO doesn’t stop the sale; it only delays it until 25th October when a hearing date is set. The most recent development will see Broughton and the Liverpool board return to the High Court today to try and overturn the Texas judge’s verdict and facilitate the sale of the club before the 25th October.
In the midst of the chaos at Liverpool, Everton have been preparing for Sunday’s game with little fuss. They come into the game only one place above Liverpool in 17th but their last game saw them pick up their first win of the season against Birmingham at St. Andrew’s. With Liverpool in limbo, David Moyes will see Sunday’s game as a perfect opportunity to beat his cross-town rivals as they look to continue their momentum and climb out of the relegation zone.
But for Liverpool, the game with Everton is the least of their worries. They have their future to sort out and sadly, it is being played out in the courtroom rather than on the field.