Liverpool fans celebrate in the reception of Slaughter and May.
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Watching reporters and Liverpool fans alike bundle into the reception of law firm Slaughter and May’s London offices to hear John W Henry and Martin Broughton announce the sale of Liverpool Football Club to NESV on Friday, there was just one prevailing feeling: relief.
Relief that a club of the stature of Liverpool had been prised from the hands of a poisonous regime that, until the very bitter end, attempted to hold onto it to their own ends; relief that a passionate legion of supporters had avoided seeing their club plunge to any further depths; and, most of all, relief that one of the most interminable sagas ever to afflict English football had finally come to an end.
To be a Liverpool supporter over the past week has been a truly tortuous experience. Scousers, and reporters if truth be told, not possessed of a degree in corporate or international law have been bewildered by an array of legal terms - declaratory judgements, injunctions, temporary restraining orders. It’s enough to make you feel like a bumbling, incompetent Lionel Hutz.
Of course, the nightmare may not be over yet. In a matter befitting of Dr Evil, Tom Hicks has raised his little finger to his mouth, arched an eyebrow and declared he wants $1.6 billion in damages. The temptation to react like Austin Powers’ U.N. and burst out laughing would be tempting if it were not so serious.
But this is not how the destiny of a football club should be decided; the fate of a team should be determined on the pitch, not in the courtroom. The very fact that the future of one of England’s great sporting institutions was at one point dependent on a court ruling in Texas tells you all you need to know about the farcical situation that Hicks and Gillett forced Liverpool into.
Seeing football placed on the altar of the legal system does the sport no favours; it’s like seeing your pet puppy flattened by an articulated lorry, or your favourite band announce a new experimental direction by appropriating the musical styling of Justin Bieber. In short, it’s just plain wrong - the two worlds should never co-exist.
And when Liverpool fans burst into the reception of a top law firm and serenade a corporate chairman with chants of “We love you Martin, we do”, all that is left to ask is: How did it come to this?
Let’s just call the whole sorry episode a morality tale for modern football.
Sunday’s Merseyside derby will ensure the focus finally, slowly switches back to football. It’s time to swap law suits for tracksuits, and what a relief that will be for everyone.