The summer transfer window is fast approaching, which means endless speculation and big price tags for most Premier League clubs. But whilst David Moyes will be telling Ed Woodward who he wants to sign, it won’t be that simple for Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool. The club’s owners, who also own the Boston Red Sox, have introduced a transfer committee at Anfield, to determine who the Reds will attempt to sign in the summer.
The committee includes a head of analysis, head of development, head of medicine, Brendan Rodgers and Ian Ayre. It’s the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy that has worked so well in baseball, and Fenway Sports Group have decided to implement the strategy in their ‘soccer’ too. The philosophy is about discussing who the best signing would be, as well as avoiding overspending. And while Rodgers is the Billy Beane of Liverpool, it seems head of analysis Michael Edwards is the Paul DePodesta of the ‘Moneyball’ scheme. DePodesta was Beane’s assistant at the Oakland Athletics, were the philosophy was successfully used, and provided him with all the statistical information.
But what are the benefits of a committee as opposed to one man doing the job? Well with Liverpool’s committee, the Reds will be able to discuss and debate who is the best signing for the club. With a statistical input, Liverpool can sit down and work out if Brendan Rodger’s target is really a good fit at the club, or if there is a better option. Rodgers is keen to focus on the mental ability of players too. The Reds have a recent past of signing in-form players who fail when on the big, Anfield stage. But the Northern Irish manager is eager to look at the mental strength of players, to determine if they would be able to handle playing for a team with such high expectations. With medical experts contributing to the discussion, the committee can make an informed choice.
Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayre was quick to clarify that the committee don’t just look at numbers on a computer screen: “That doesn’t mean somebody else is picking the team for Brendan, but Brendan needs to set out with his team of people which positions we want to fill and what the key targets would be for that. He has a team of people that go out and do an inordinate amount of analysis work to establish who are the best players in that position.” The scouting team puts together lists at least three players deep for each position the club are looking to fill, and then the committee have the final say over any transfer, not just Rodgers. The plan is that the committee will be there for the long term, as the job safety of a manger is so low that the boss can always change at a football club.
So as well as helping determine if the player is a good signing for the club, the committee will also work to keep transfer fees low. Whilst Kenny Dalglish was in charge of the Reds, the ‘king’ spent £110million of FSG’s money in just a year and a half. But with the Red Sox to look after too, the owners can’t afford to waste so much money on players such as Carroll, Downing and Henderson anymore. The trio, who cost £71million, have failed to live up to their high price tags. And after Rodgers spent £15million on Joe Allen, the committee has been swiftly brought into place to avoid anymore wasteful signings.
It’s a good time to start saving money too. With UEFA implementing a financial fair play scheme, the Premier League have followed suit with their own rules, coupled with UEFA’s. Suddenly clubs will have limitations on their spending and wage budgets, and will suffer possible point deductions and exclusion from the Champions League if they break these rules. Liverpool’s committee can not only look at the statistical influence of a player, but look at their wage demands and expected transfer fee, and see if it will fit their current financial situation, or if it would lead to them breaking the FFP rules. Not only will the committee save money for FSG, they will also be able to control the club’s Premier League spending too.
Saving money seems to be the focus for Liverpool and the committee. With the club wanting an increased capacity, the owners have started work on expanding Anfield, and buying houses around the area. With construction costs set to come in within the next few years, Liverpool won’t be able to spend £35million on one player anymore. But it’s not just the building costs that will hinder the Reds.
After they decided to renovate Anfield instead of building a new stadium, the Reds will be hampered by a drop in ticket revenue. Parts of the stadium will become unusable for safety reasons, and Anfield’s capacity will decline whilst they continue to build on the stadium that was opened in 1884. So as well as having to pay construction crews, the Reds’ income will be lower as well, and the club will find themselves in a position where they are unable to spend big money on players.
Liverpool’s committee will have two priorities: to find the best player to fit at the club, and to seriously control the club’s spending. A lot of Dalglish’s signings were not only a bad fit for the club, but they also came with hugely overpriced transfer fees. The committee will focus on debating who they should sign, with an eye on keeping money tight to their chest. Baseball’s committee has worked in America, so why not over in Merseyside? The opinion of four men is greater than one at Anfield, and that should limit the amount of transfer mistakes that are made by the club. The committee should bring success in the transfer window, whilst keeping the American owners happy.
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