ERSTE INTERVIEW MIT NEUE LIVERPOOL BESITZER TOM HICKS UND GEORGE GILLETT

Startbeitrag von Graham aus Liverpool am 06.02.2007 16:21

ERSTE INTERVIEW MIT LIVERPOOL FC NEUE BESITZER GEORGE GILLETT UND TOM HICKS



First of all, why Liverpool Football Club?

George Gillett: Firstly, we're not going to sit here and pretend to be the most knowledgeable of Liverpool fans because that's clearly not true. I can say, though, that our families are big football supporters. We have been watching European football for several years and on a recent visit to this country we were advised about the possibility of meeting with the Chairman and Rick Parry.

Tom Hicks: I have been in the sports business for 12 years and with 162 baseball games and 82 hockey games a year, I was not looking for another team. George called me about a month ago and explained what he thought was the vision and the opportunity at Liverpool. I have followed the English Premier League from afar because some of my business friends are ardent fans of the game. When I looked into this over the past month I was awe-struck with the history and the true passion of the fans compared to other sports I am involved with. The Texas Rangers have been around for 36 years and the Dallas Stars have been around for 13 years, so to have a chance of getting involved with a team with more than a hundred years of history and with fervent fans is something which really excited me. After a couple of weeks I told George I was seriously ready to be his partner. We came over last week to do some due diligence and to meet David and Rick. We went to the West Ham game which was a good win and then the following night we went to see the new Arsenal stadium when they played Tottenham. We made our pitch to David and the board and, fortunately for us, they accepted it.

George Gillett: Tom and I have been involved in sports for a long time. When you sit in our little country you get an unusual perspective and probably an incorrect one, because we think our sports are pretty popular. Then you come over here and see the tribal aspects of the fans and their affection and support for the team and realise it's a game which is watched by billions. You quickly see this is the most popular sport in the world and that this is one of the most popular clubs in the world. To have the opportunity of getting involved in this is a rare privilege.

It's a well managed club but we believe we bring some experience which the management can draw on to make things even better. Tom and I are a little put off that people assume everything is about money, because we really hope we have some ideas as well as some capital.

Tom Hicks: We have both been involved in building and modifying new stadiums so we think we can bring a lot of good ideas to the work which has already been done which will be to the benefit of the fans and the club.

The reason any businessman goes into sport is because they have a passion for winning. Despite all the success I've had in life, nothing has given me more satisfaction on an emotional level than winning the Stanley Cup in 1999 and being able to get my hands on the trophy. At that moment my smile touched both ears.

It's been an uncertain time for the fans over the last few weeks, so how can you reassure them that the club they cherish so much is moving into safe hands?

Tom Hicks: I don't think David Moores would have chosen us to be the new custodians of this football club unless he was convinced we share that same sense of responsibility. We view this as a very long term process. Most people who come into sport do make mistakes but we have been in the business a long time and we know the importance of stability in terms of the team, the players and the fans. We are fortunate here that with Rick and Rafa we already have stability.

What do you hope to achieve with Liverpool Football Club?

George Gillett: We had the privilege of spending some time last night with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and they delivered us the message. They are all about winning and all about the passion from the fans. They asked us three specific questions:
They wanted continuity of management with David and Rick. They have enormous regard for them. They also spoke extremely warmly about Rafa and made us aware that they feel this man is truly one of the great geniuses in the recent history of the sport. They wanted to communicate to us the feeling from the dressing room was of great respect for the management team.
Secondly, they wanted to talk about players and to encourage us to support Rick and Rafa's efforts in building the team.
They were also clear with their views on the stadium. They made us aware the sound, the energy and the passion that Anfield provides needs to be incorporated into the design of the new stadium.
They were the three messages they wanted us to hear and we heard them loud and clear.

Did you understand what Jamie Carragher was saying?

George Gillett: We did! He's definitely a scouser, that's for sure. The first thing the two players did was give us their shirts with a nice message so that was a special moment for us.

You were determined to get hold of this football club, weren't you?

George Gillett: We were. I think both Tom and I have learnt that it's a great honour and a rare privilege to be considered to hold one of the greatest assets in sport in trust. To have that privilege is really special.

I don't know how to properly communicate how much care David Moores put into making this decision. He questioned us aggressively about our commitment, our passion and our willingness to help take the club forward. He wants to ensure we can re-emerge as the greatest team in the Premiership and be fully competitive in Europe. The interview process was rigorous, it was not foregone and it was not about money. It was about our passion and our understanding of the fans of this club.

David is an amazing man and this club is his life. This was the most difficult decision of his life because every single fibre in his body is in this club.

Tom Hicks: This club has been in David's family for fifty years and when we left his house it was a very poignant moment because there were tears in his eyes. He has agreed to be a Life President at the club and he will still be sitting in the directors' seats at Anfield. From the players' point of view, the best thing that can happen is that they feel nothing has changed except for a new stadium being built and more aggressive support in the transfer market.

George Gillett: The less the fans see any change the better for this club. Neither Tom or I are high-profile. We are both hugely supportive of our families and of our franchises but the less people write about us and the more they write about the fans, the challenges and the opportunities then the better for everybody.

It sounds like David has really put you through it in terms of making sure you were the right people to take over…

George Gillett: Very much so. There were two processes and ultimately he had to make two difficult decisions. The club felt they had two very well qualified potential buyers and it's no secret that one had extraordinarily deep pockets whereas ours are deep but not that deep. I think they correctly chose the other party and we were not offended by that.

On the other hand, if there's any trait that the Gillett's and the Hicks have then it's patience and stubbornness. In hockey we have a saying that it's really tough to score if you're not in front of the net. We stayed in front of the net and we tried not to do anything which was offensive or negative. We wanted to reinforce our respect for what David and the team had built and ultimately we were given a second chance because the Hicks joined us. There's no doubt that we increased our price because they were with us and enabled us to have the capital to be more aggressive.

There were reports you were interested in a ground share…


Tom Hicks: I can categorically say we have no interest in a ground share with any other team. We are going to build the finest team for the finest stadium in the Premier League and that is Liverpool.

George Gillett: I don't know how this story got started. It didn't get started with us. I look forward to meeting the officials from Everton some day because we are both in this wonderful city, but I have never authorised anyone to talk or act on our behalf relative to the possibility of ground sharing. I have no idea where this has come from. It was not true and we can categorically deny it.

The first time I met Rick Parry I asked him the question and that's the only time I can recall the topic coming up. He looked me in the eye and said that if I ever brought that topic up in a serious way again then I could have his resignation because he wouldn't be involved with or support that kind of discussion. That was very clear and so the subject never came up again from our side.

More recently someone close to the club said that if the topic did come up then it was the surest way possible for us to be lynched.

We want to build the greatest facility for the players and the fans and make this the best location for players to play and for fans to come.

Can we bring the title here under your ownership?

George Gillett: I really hope so. Rick has told me of a Shankly saying that 'first is first and second is nowhere' and that sounds good to us.

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