The potential departure of Fenway Sports Group from Liverpool FC is a sign that football has reached its peak

When reports surfaced that Liverpool FC owners Fenway Sports Group were considering selling the club, it wasn’t manager Jurgen Klopp who turned himself in to the media.

Just a few weeks ago, the German went all out to highlight the ‘ceiling’ the Merseyside giants faced compared to the likes of Newcastle United and Manchester City.

So it would be interesting to know if he takes the statement that FSG “under the right conditions would consider new shareholders” as confirmation of this stance.

Instead, Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders was tasked with staring at the crowd of cameras ahead of the Reds’ Carabao Cup game against Derby. The coach made an interesting concession; The leadership team was aware of the club’s position before the news broke.

“We knew beforehand, of course,” he added, “a week and a half ago or so.”

This season, more than any other season, football players and coaches are confronted with questions that go far beyond their regular remit.

Whether it was financial disparities, as Klopp was ahead of the game against Manchester City, or the ethics of hosting the World Cup in Qatar, which the Liverpool manager also ranted about, the news agenda was often far from the football field.

Even then, one had to sympathize with Lijnders, who took the brunt of the initial media attention and did a good job of towing the regular party line.

“First of all, everyone who has seen us in recent years has recognized who we are as a club [and that] We have a strong relationship with the owners,” he said, later adding, “What I want to say is I always know that the owners are acting in the best interests of the club and they always have. I think they always at least tried. That relationship was very important to us.”

Why now?

Football is a sport where short-term thinking is often frustrating. When news broke of Liverpool’s potential sale, discussions inevitably turned to this season’s patchy form and proposals for a major overhaul of the squad.

Also held was the theory that the FSG felt it had been stretched to the limit given the financial power of competing owners.

“FSG perhaps recognizes that they have taken Liverpool as far as they can in their current state. In fact, their ownership came with an accepted exit strategy,” lead author Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo told readers.

“Like almost every other European club, he just can’t match that support, as evidenced by his unwillingness to invest beyond his means in the transfer market. This has caused frustration among some fans and boss Jurgen Klopp has indicated that he would prefer a little more risk to be taken in hopes of a bigger reward,” he added.

Former Reds defender Jamie Carragher went even further, speculating on an even shorter timeframe of events.

“Maybe they woke up on Monday morning and read how much Manchester City was making commercially and thought, ‘You can’t stop it, can you,'” he said, referring to the continued surge in revenue at Citizens.

The truth is, organizations like Fenway Sports Group don’t respond to recent financial results or a drop in form. These companies make decisions based on forecasts over decades.

The connotations of a possible exit should therefore be taken as a serious statement about the future of the game.

FSG’s involvement in football’s most successful league would not be abandoned if it felt considerable fortunes could be unearthed.

The decision to explore a potential sale could be a sign he believes the club’s value has peaked.

The Super League project fails

The biggest sign that football is pointing to some kind of downturn, or at least a plateau, comes in the words of the leader of the game’s most famous club.

A few weeks ago, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez said: “Our beloved sport is sick, especially in Europe and of course in Spain.

“[Soccer] loses its position as the world’s leading global sport. The most worrying fact is that young people are becoming less and less interested in it [soccer]. The current competitions, as they are conceived today, do not arouse any interest from the spectators except in the final stages,” he added.

Of course, Perez’s solution to this predicament is a plan that FSG has been very supportive of, namely the creation of a European Super League [ESL]the ill-fated breakaway competition that fell apart after fan anger caused a number of English clubs to drop out.

The debacle prompted owner John W. Henry to issue a full apology to Reds fans. “I’m sorry and I alone am responsible for the needless negativity that has been brought up over the past few days,” he said in a video posted online, “it’s something I won’t forget.” And shows the power that the fans have today and rightly will have.”

But when the ESL was created you have to ask yourself; Would Henry and FSG consider a sale now?

According to The Athletic, one of the titles that originally broke the story, the answer is no. “It’s fair to say that FSG probably wouldn’t be looking to sell now if the European Super League had got underway,” the caption wrote.

Since the late 1990s, revenues in this sport have started to skyrocket.

However, history has shown that the game is resilient to an economic recession and now global pandemics.

FSG may have misjudged the market and the next owners will see another equally lucrative period of growth.

But if Florentino Perez is to be believed, the sport may be approaching a high water mark at which Liverpool owners should cash out their chips.


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