November 5, 2010 9:29 pm

Wage bill shock for Liverpool’s new owner

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New England Sports Ventures, Liverpool ’s new owners, say they were taken aback at the size of the club’s wage bill and want a squad consisting of more homegrown players.

Three weeks after completing their acrimonious £300m purchase of Liverpool, the new owners also said Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules, being introduced to curb excessive spending, were a key factor in their decision to bid for the club.

Praising the sustainability of Arsenal , John W Henry, NESV’s principal owner, said: “I like that term, ‘sustainable’. Uefa is doing a great thing in making clubs sustainable and that’s good news for us.”

The purchase of the debt-laden club was bitterly opposed by previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who plan to sue NESV and other parties involved in the deal, including lenders Royal Bank of Scotland.

Though much of the debt has been cleared, Liverpool has the third-highest wage bill in the Premier League. Although it has the fourth-highest revenues, they are far behind those of Arsenal and Manchester United.

Mr Henry, who gave assurances about retaining manager Roy Hodgson, said the wage bill was one of “a number of unpleasant shocks” when NESV, owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, conducted due diligence on Liverpool.

“The wage bill is high, it’s going to be high next year, it’s going to be high in the next year and we are not a young team,” he said at a media roundtable in London. “That was disappointing,” he added.

Tom Werner, NESV’s chairman, said: “We certainly feel we can do a better job bringing in more players that are home­grown.” Liverpool this week made its first big appointment under NESV, bringing in Damien Comolli as director of football strategy, to work on player investment.

Mr Henry said investors in sports franchises were not in it for the money. “I don’t think you go into sport to make a profit,” he said. Every dollar generated by NESV in baseball and Nascar racing had been funnelled back into the team or facilities, he added.

“We hope some day that Liverpool will be much more valuable than it is today,” said Mr Henry.

Mr Werner, Liverpool’s new chairman, met club shirt sponsors Standard Chartered with Mr Henry on Friday. NESV, he said, would increase Liverpool’s revenues by exploiting its untapped global potential. “The support the club has in Asia is already considerable,” he said.

The new owners, while insistent that “we are not making any promises about anything”, dismissed the idea of increasing ticket prices and said it was too early to say what it would do to increase stadium capacity.

However, Mr Henry said he had no concerns about raising debt for the stadium option it chose. “I think fans will understand that stadium debt is different from acquisition debt,” he said.

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