The board of Liverpool fans’ group ShareLiverpool FC has announced plans to launch a share issue which would enable supporters to purchase a stake in the club, further turning up the heat on unpopular Reds owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
The move comes hot on the heels of news that the ‘Spirit of Shankly’ supporters’ union intends to launch a fan-ownership scheme of their own this summer, after talks of a merger between the two groups proved fruitless.
ShareLiverpool founder Rogan Taylor revealed that the group now possesses the funds to underwrite the costs of organizing and delivering a full share issue.
This would enable Liverpool supporters to collectively seek to purchase equity in the club, and would comply fully with the stringent rules outlined by the UK Financial Services Authority.
Taylor said: “ShareLiverpoolFC board will now look to specify a date for a share issue later this summer. This is a serious and rigorously professional undertaking and we believe our core aspiration is both desirable and deliverable.
"This is our time. It presents the best – and perhaps the only chance - of fans gaining control or at the very least a significant equity stake in the Club they love and support.”
The news represents a major step forward for ShareLiverpool, whose ultimate aim is to make Liverpool the first major UK club to be owned by its supporters.
Board member Barrie Baxter said: “This is our opportunity as fans to make sure what has happened to Liverpool FC during these last few years will never be allowed to happen again. It will need a huge number of LFC fans to participate in this incredible journey.”
Devised in 2008, the group aims to secure a minimum investment of £500 from thousands of Reds supporters, in order to buy a share in the company which will seek to own equity in Liverpool FC. At present, more than 35,000 fans have registered for the scheme, though with Gillett and Hicks said to value the club at as much as £600million, there is clearly a long way to go, as Taylor concedes.
Former Reds striker and ShareLiverpool board member, John Aldridge though, is buoyed by the announcement: “I’m made up that ShareLiverpoolFC is now able to push on and make the share offer. We’ll need a tremendous response from the fans but I think millions of them are desperately worried about the current situation both on and off the field.
“At last, they’ve got a chance to actually to do something about it. Our fans have brought us ‘back from the dead’ in matches many times before: think only of the ‘miracle’ of Istanbul. They can do it again – this time at the heart of the Club itself.”
Meanwhile Aldridge’s former team-mate John Barnes, himself a long-time supporter of the scheme, also welcomed the news. “It’s excellent to hear that the fans will get the opportunity to pool their money and buy a stake in the Club,” he said, “No one who has ever played for Liverpool can be in any doubt that these fans are the football club: the unique, core ‘brand’, as they call it these days, of LFC.
“If they are the club, why shouldn’t they own it too?”