Wednesday, May 6, 2009

KPMG Warn That Liverpool Could Become the Next Leeds

Just like a sudden sharp pain down your left arm on a cold Tuesday night, Liverpool's supporters were blindsided by financial auditors KPMG's latest findings into their club.

Unable to repay their loan debts in January, Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, made arrangements with RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) and Wachovia to repay their financial arrangements on July 24, a sum of £350m.

This arrangement has been thrown into turmoil following KPMG's findings that not only are the club in severe debt, but their parent company Kop Football (Holdings) Ltd are also in debt to the tune of £42.6m and have only been able to pay off £36.5, the interest on their substantial loan in the last financial calendar.

Despite the club showing a profit of £10m before tax, for the first time in years it would appear as if Liverpool FC were on the verge of a precipice, as their profits are being swallowed up by their loans' interest payments alone.

KPMG have warned Kop Football Ltd of the "material uncertainty" of their product. In other words, should Liverpool fail to bring the EPL trophy or the Champions League trophy home next season, then the debt would increase substantially, as there would not be any monies available to pay off their debt.

In another statement by KPMG, a spokesman said, "The group (Kop Football) has credit facilities which expire on July 24. The directors have initiated negotiations to secure the replacement of finance and these are ongoing.

"These conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the group's and the parent company's ability to continue as a going concern."
Comments such as these from KPMG will make the financial world, as well as the FA, sit up and listen.

Liverpool as a club are close to running into arbitration. If this happens, then the FA will have to step in and appoint an arbitrator who will asset strip the club to clear their debts, as well as imposing a points deduction on the club, which could be significant.

Since Rafael Benitez took over in 2004, the club have backed their manager to the hilt. They have given him £172m to spend on players, and in that five-year period the squad has expanded to 64 players with a wage bill of £89m per year.

In 2004 the club's wage bill was £64m and has risen in excess of 40 percent in the intervening period as the club chased the Premier League title.

Last year in a meeting at Stamford Bridge called "The Leaders of Football," Lord Triesman spoke of the problems that seem to have arisen in the EPL since its inception.

The general feeling from Lord Triesman and the FA is that most foreign owners are not interested in the long-term viability of a club, but are more interested in the higher profile their new "plaything" provides. Early evidence seems to suggest "new owners" spending above themselves to either continue success or try to bring success to their new club.

Liverpool are now in financial peril. Their current debt stands at £350m, but their current plans of building a new stadium could see that debt double. The Anfield side also face the stark reality that finishing outside the top four could bring. That looks more likely for one of the big clubs now that Manchester City have become the richest club in the world.

Lord Triesman remarked, "Not only is debt at such high levels, but transparency lies in an unmarked grave."
These comments sparked EPL supremo Peter Scudamore into action, as he reacted to Lord Triesman's speech:  
"[The top four] are very sustainable brands. We have to be careful we don't adopt Michel Platini's view of debt, which is that it is bad. Debt is inevitable. You say debt is not healthy, but debt to a degree is healthy."
On pitch level the club are well run, but that has come on the back of substantial spending provided by the board.

In the boardroom the club are in a shambles, and every Liverpool fan will be looking towards the end of May wondering if they are going to be the next Leeds.

In reality, this should not happen. KPMG's statements will serve as warnings to the board and management at the club, but they will also serve as an advertisement to prospective investors who may be interested in taking on a franchise such as Liverpool FC.

It would seem ironic that with the club finally on the verge of launching a concerted assault on the EPL, this financial crisis, which has been looming for some time, has finally come home to nest.

The current financial crisis and the management structure both combined for Liverpool to miss out on the Gareth Barry signing. With Rick Parry having resigned and with Rafael Benitez now in charge of transfers in and out of the club, as well as being the manager for all things on the pitch, the Spaniard's attention was elsewhere while Garry Cook from Manchester City began negotiations with Aston Villa two weeks ago.

Now City and Chelsea are both threatening to gazump the Reds for Carlos Tevez and Glen Johnson respectively, while Real Madrid have begun negotiations with David Silva, who flew into Madrid on Wednesday.

Liverpool's fans will be waiting with bated breath for July 24 to come around so they can see if their club will become the next Leeds—or if they will take that elusive step and become prospective champions.

twitter / PremLgeReport