Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
John Henry, head of Fenway Sports Group, the company that owns the Red Sox and Liverpool.
John Henry, head of Fenway Sports Group, the company that owns the Red Sox and Liverpool.
Photo: Getty

It’s hard to tell your supporters, “This Means More,” when you’re punting all your non-playing staff. It only took a day or two of public shaming for the owners of Liverpool FC, Fenway Sports Group, to figure that one out. I suppose billionaires who are even capable of feeling shame or embarrassment are minimally better than the ones who aren’t. You can find the latter in our government currently.

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Over the weekend (it’s always over the weekend, isn’t it?) FSG announced that it was furloughing all its non-playing staff from the club. In the UK, there is a program that all furloughed workers can get 80% of their salary from the government. And Liverpool promised to make up the difference of the other 20%. Still, joining the ranks of Daniel Levy of Tottenham or especially Mike Ashley of Newcastle, is not a good look. That should have been enough of a marker for FSG to spot this as something incredibly shitty to do.

The current government of the UK won’t win too many people’s sympathy given its slow, balloon-handed response to the coronavirus and its intent of spiking Britain’s economy into the Earth’s core to get around some regulations, but that doesn’t mean it should be taking on every possible salary of furloughed workers. The government’s money supply isn’t endless, and organizations and companies that don’t have to stress it shouldn’t do so.

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Liverpool, who just a few months ago announced a profit of some 42 million pounds ($52M) in the 2018-19 season (and that was in a year where they splashed 233 million pounds on transfers, something they very much did not do before and during this current season), are one of those organizations that should not be going to the government to get them out of paying people who almost certainly need the money.

It was an especially bone-headed move for a club that goes well out of its way to tell everyone who will listen that their club is different, is uniquely interconnected with its community, and is just so much more special than any other football club.

It’s been a wonky few months for FSG. While they presided over a historic campaign for their soccer team (so far), their plans to expand Anfield even further have brought up some of the same issues the first expansion did and old concerns about the neighborhood around the stadium. On these shores, they of course forced the trade of the best player on the Red Sox, Mookie Betts, simply due to financial concerns. Of which they shouldn’t have any, considering the revenues both the Red Sox and Liverpool rake in (and infuriatingly, they very well may get away with it without seeing Betts every play a game for the Dodgers, or seeing what the Red Sox would have been without him this season, though obviously that’s miles down the list of infuriating things at the moment).

But after a couple days of immense outrage from fans and former players alike, Liverpool reversed course. While it’s merely guilting a group of billionaires into the right thing, in an age where most people feel powerless to stop all the injustices and incompetence taking place, any victory is one worth marking. The hope is that Liverpool’s about-face could guilt other clubs like Tottenham and Newcastle into doing similar.

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But finding more billionaires with anything resembling a conscience can be a challenge, as we have and continue to learn.

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