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Apr 11, 2008

Blood in the boardroom

Just when the off-field shenanigans at Liverpool finally appeared to have dissipated so Tom Hicks has deemed it necessary to plunge the club into new depths of uncertainty and instability.

Less than 48 hours after Liverpool had beaten Arsenal in a classic Champions League encounter at Anfield, to reach the semi finals of the European Cup for the third time in four years, the club's Texan co-owner called for the resignation of the club's long-standing chief executive, Rick Parry.

It is understood that over the course of a three-page letter Hicks criticised Parry for a variety offences, chief amongst which appears to be his oft strained relationship with Rafa Benitez and the commercial running of the club, which Hicks believes is not lucrative enough.

Although these might well be genuine and just criticisms, it doesn't take a rocket scientist, or perhaps more pertinently, an occupational psychologist, to decipher the real reason behind the call for Parry's resignation.

Hicks clearly feels that Parry is working to undermine him and is threatening his investment in the club through his closer working relationship with George Gillett: Liverpool's other co-owner who recently admitted that his relationship with Hicks had become 'unworkable'.

For Hicks having two such opponents working closely against him is not acceptable, and presumably it is unlikely that Parry's continued contact with Dubai International Capital, Liverpool's erstwhile suitor, will have counted as a positive.

One interesting piece of tattletale doing the rounds is that Hicks called for Parry's head in retaliation against Gillett who, while at Anfield for the Champions League win over Arsenal, managed to offend Liverpool's commercial director Ian Ayre, a Hicks favourite.

All of which sounds more than a little petty and incredulous, but then the same could be said of the whole sorry saga.

Sadly for Hicks he can't force Parry out because with an equal 50 per cent stake in the club as estranged co-owner Gillett neither has the required majority to action change. Parry's bullish statements following the call for his head are indicative of a man determined to retain his role and confident of doing so.

It is understood that during his visit to Anfield Gillet restated that he has no intention of relinquishing any of his 50 per cent stake to Hicks, which means that with the continued support of Gillett and Gillett's determination not to hand control to Hicks, Parry retains his mandate and enough support on the club's board from the likes of former chairman David Moores to fight for his job.

Parry, who has taken legal advice over the matter and admitted there is a 'lack of unity at the top', insists 'It is my intention to remain focused on the job of serving Liverpool FC to the best of my abilities at this very important time of our season'.

At the risk of letting sport muddy the waters of this increasingly murky and depressing fiasco which is so mired in 'debt financing' and 'commercial revenues' and other such phrases that make football fans baulk, there is a risk that this burgeoning crisis will impact Liverpool's summer transfer activity.

While it is true that both Hicks and Gillett need a successful Liverpool to make their business plan work, signing off on transfer spending when the two aren't on speaking terms and one of them isn't on speaking terms with his chief executive is no way to run a football club.

Furthermore it's no way to go about attracting world class players. While the cache of signing for Liverpool goes a long way when it comes to attracting new players, the prospect of joining a club in turmoil is not particularly alluring.

If Liverpool are to have any chance of proving themselves as genuine contenders in next season's Premier League title race they need to make two or three signings and more importantly to begin the season on a stable footing.

Along with Benitez's infuriating rotation policy, the main hindrances to Liverpool's title aspirations this season have been the incessant squabbling between Hicks and Gillett, the inappropriate sounding out of Jurgen Klinsmann for a job that wasn't vacant, and persistent links with DIC.

The most galling element of this latest twist is that it comes at a time when stories and leaks from a discontent boardroom had actually slowed, thereby allowing Benitez and his team to focus on matters on the pitch without having to field questions about ownership at every press conference (tellingly Friday's pre-match press conference was cancelled).

It is no coincidence that a period of reduced speculation off the field has coincided with a marked improvement in performances on the field.

As if Hicks hadn't done enough to install himself as the most hated man in the red half of Liverpool, his latest move will have sent blood pressure through many roofs, and if the move to oust Parry undermines their Champions League semi finals chances against Chelsea then Hicks will find his rock-bottom standing at an all-time subterranean low.

While it might be true that some Liverpool fans hold Parry responsible for the current mess by virtue of his role in facilitating the Hicks and Gillett takeover, and are not too impressed with the way he feathered his own nest as part of the deal, Parry does represent stability and continuity.

Since Hicks and Gillett's takeover in February 2007 Parry has done nothing but try to facilitate success for the club he has been a part of for 11 years. By contrast Hicks has done nothing more than destabilise and undermine Liverpool FC for his own financial ends.

In an increasingly distasteful story of greed and football it is almost impossible to predict what the next development will be, what is certain though is that Liverpool are in the middle of destructive civil war.


  • Any thoughts? Then you can email Phil Holland.