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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 18:03 GMT
Fans make Liverpool takeover move
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Front page of Share Liverpool FC website
The website is asking supporters if they would support a buyout
Liverpool supporters have unveiled details about a scheme to buy the club from its current American owners.

US tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks recently finalised a 350m refinancing of the club which they bought in 2007.

But the Share Liverpool FC Group has revealed plans for 100,000 Reds fans around the world to possibly take over.

The model proposed is a Barcelona style "member-share" scheme aimed at raising 500m to purchase the club from its US owners and build a new stadium.

Initial expressions of interest are being asked for via a new website, www.shareliverpoolfc.co.uk, launched on Thursday evening.

In the first hour after opening the website crashed, a problem that site designers Navy Blue said had been caused by the high volume of people trying to access the site.

606: DEBATE

Earlier, culture media and sport secretary Andy Burnham, a fan of city rivals Everton, called the proposal "a fascinating development".

Should the money be raised the US duo at the helm would be under no obligation to sell. Liverpool FC told the BBC it did not want to comment on the issue.

Club refinancing

The person behind the move is football business lecturer and Liverpool fan Rogan Taylor.

Share Liverpool FC
Initial expressions of interest asked for via website
Investment limited to 5,000 per applicant
Investors can be individuals, or families or other groupings clubbing together
Aim is to sell 100.000 investment blocks
Any interest earned used for internet and legal costs
Detailed constitution to be drawn up
No money will be asked for until constitution written
Two bishops of Liverpool to verify accounts
Source: www.shareliverpoolfc.co.uk

Advice has been offered by fan-trust body Supporters Direct, and lawyer Kevin Jaquiss - an expert in launching co-operatives.

"The time is right to offer a different solution to the rising concerns that football fans have about the patterns of ownership developing at our major football clubs," said Taylor, who is director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool.

He said the "time is right" for such an initiative in the UK.

Many Liverpool supporters have been unhappy at the recent uncertainty surrounding the refinancing of the club.

Thousands of Liverpool fans have already demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs
Rogan Taylor, Share Liverpool FC Group

After much delay, and reports that either one or both of the owners was willing to sell a stake to Dubai's DIC, a refinancing deal was signed last week with the Royal Bank of Scotland and US bank Wachovia.

Hicks confirmed to the BBC last week that of the 350m refinancing package, 105m of that will be debt tied to the club.

Of that total, 45m will be used for future player transfers and to meet the club's working capital needs, and the remaining 60m is thought to be free for start-up money for a new Liverpool stadium.

However, some supporters are unhappy about debt being placed on to the club, and there is also a perception that the owners' support for manager Rafa Benitez has not been as strong as it might.

Debt burden

"Thousands of Liverpool fans have already demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs," said Taylor.

"Large amounts of debt often devolves onto clubs newly purchased, but the fans know that in the end, it will be they themselves who will have to pay it off through increased ticket prices and other schemes.

Liverpool players celebrate - from left, Torres, Gerard, Babel
Liverpool's refinancing includes a sum to buy new players

"In such a case, why not simply buy the club yourselves?"

He said that many fans were unaware that there were other ways of financing and taking ownership of big clubs.

Taylor said that in Germany and Spain most top-level football clubs were not for sale as they were owned by many thousands of "member fans".

"The Champions League has been won on six occasions in the last 15 years by clubs owned and run in such a way," he said.

Barcelona, which won the Champions League in 2006, is owned by its fan-members, of which there are 156,000 members.

Stadium plan

Earlier this month a survey carried out by the Liverpool Supporters' network showed that 76% of 2,000 fans questioned said they would "seriously consider reducing their financial commitment to the club" if the current owners stayed in charge.

When asked to choose between the owners and the manager as to who had the best interest of the club at heart, 99% backed Benitez.

However, Hicks and Gillett have insisted that they are fully behind Benitez.

They also say the club plans to build the 71,000-seat venue close to Anfield in Stanley Park in time for the 2011-12 season.

SEE ALSO
Hicks plans long stay at Anfield
27 Jan 08 |  Liverpool
Liverpool complete 350m package
25 Jan 08 |  Liverpool
Q&A - Liverpool refinance plans
21 Jan 08 |  Liverpool
US business duo at Liverpool helm
06 Feb 07 |  Business

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