Like another embattled leader who I won’t name here, it would be uncharitable to fault American Fenway Sports Group head John Henry with the sins of the previous Liverpool owners Hicks and Gillett, who left the club in total financial and sporting disrepair.
And like that other embattled leader, it would also be charitable to say that the John Henry’s regime has effectively communicated the message of renewal. And no, this isn’t another Duncan Jenkins reaction post, although it would be safe to say that the hiring of Jen Chang as communications director doesn’t seem to have impacted the club’s knack for fouling the waters on the eve of major news.
Despite the club’s early stumbles under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool is undergoing something of a major transformation. Today it was confirmed that FSG would not be seeking to build a stadium at nearby Stanley Park, the preferred site of the previous club owners, but instead would focus on rebuilding on Anfield’s current site, a project that would not entail a naming rights deal.
In other words, Anfield is here to stay.
This is fitting for a club of Liverpool’s history. After all, that history is precious to LFC’s brand, particularly as the club has failed to break a twenty-two year drought in first division titles.
Coincidentally, today also saw admissions from some of Britain’s leading pathologists that as many as 58 of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough stadium crush in 1989 could have been saved, intensifying efforts to see those responsible for the events that day being brought to justice. The continued release of details confirming what families of Liverpool’s victims have known for years has helped fuel a wider sense that a long and difficult period of ostracism from English football, both perceived and real, may be coming to an end for Liverpool.
And yet…even as the club makes itself look ridiculous with its own PR paranoia, it allows cameras in for a whitewashed documentary series in Being:Liverpool, which appears to be an extended Bill Shankly impression courtesy of Brendan Rodgers. It would be naive to think the club doesn’t earn press attention simply for being one of the most important teams in English football history, but there have been moments when LFC’s press strategy has appeared amateurish, as with the fan-boy press releases and now, Chang’s rogue cop saga with a fake blogger, which is far more remarkable for the allegations that Ian Ayre was distressed by the musings of a fraud Twitter account.
A club of Liverpool’s stature deserves far, far better from its minders. Liverpool is changing; so too should its relationship with the press, and its use of media.