LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Liverpool owners Tom Werner (L) and John Henry speak prior to the Carling Cup Semi Final Second Leg match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on January 25, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Following a disappointing end to the summer transfer window that saw Liverpool left woefully thin in attack and forced John Henry to write an open letter to fans wherein he admitted mistakes had been made at the club under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group, supporters union Spirit of Shankly has today released a statement of their own calling for Henry and FSG to install an autonomous Liverpool-based chief executive to oversee the club on behalf of the owners.
Given Ian Ayre's continuing inability to convince as managing director of the club when it comes to football matters and not financial dealings or sponsorship agreements, and given that along with the rest of FSG's upper management Tom Werner remains based in the United States with a primary focus on his role as chairman of the Boston Red Sox, the complaints made by Spirit of Shankly today seem far from unreasonable.
"Following yet another summer where off the pitch activities at Liverpool Football Club have dominated the headlines," begins the statement, "we once again find the club ownership attempting to explain away business decisions that have overshadowed footballing matters.
"As pointed out by the union in May, there remains no ownership presence on this side of the Atlantic. It is our opinion that this situation has led directly to the 'mistakes' alluded to in Mr. Henry's open letter. Should the club’s absentee owners not wish to establish a full-time base in Liverpool, it remains imperative that they appoint a Chief Executive of a calibre commensurate with the club’s global status, to act with the full authority of the owners in their absence.
"Without this Chief Executive, it is far from sufficient for a club of Liverpool’s stature to have a part-time Chairman, based on another continent, with various other interests, and from whom little or nothing of consequence is seen or heard. In case FSG need reminding, they are now employing their third manager, have already dispensed with the services of their Director of Football, and now accusatory fingers are pointing in the direction of their Managing Director."
There is at the very least the growing appearance that to this ownership group, Liverpool Football Club is something of an afterthought. That despite their ability to consistently say the right things, the repeated claims of good intentions have grown increasingly hard to reconcile with a reality that sees the club struggle through one crisis after another without competent and at least semi-autonomous upper management on had to guide it.
No matter one's opinion of Fenway Sports Group, Spirit of Shankly asks a legitimate, important question, and it's hard not to wonder if a full-time, Liverpool-based chairman with the ability to make decisions for the club on behalf of Fenway and a track record in football could have helped them avoid this latest crisis. After two years in charge, it's also not unreasonable to begin to ask when, exactly, that they're new to the job and still learning stops being a valid excuse for a long list of mistakes and an increasing tendency to over-promise and under-deliver.
Spirit of Shankly's full statement can be found here.