Liverpool’s principal owner, John W Henry, has finally broken his silence over the Super League fiasco to apologise to fans, Jürgen Klopp and the players for “the disruption I caused” by signing up to the proposed breakaway.
Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owner, has been widely condemned for its leading role in a project that collapsed inside 48 hours and provoked internal opposition from their own manager, the captain, Jordan Henderson, and the club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish. Neither Klopp nor the first-team squad were consulted over the controversial move.
FSG’s handling of the embarrassing episode has also attracted fierce criticism from supporters and led Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool player who is now Sky Sports pundit, to claim it has no future at Anfield. No one from the Boston-based company put their name to statements announcing Liverpool’s participation in, and then withdrawal from, a super league project. The only people quoted were the Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer, the Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, and Juventus’s chairman, Andrea Agnelli. There was no apology from FSG initially but, in a video recorded for the club on Wednesday morning, Henry took full responsibility for the damage caused.
“I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours,” he said. “It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No one ever thought differently in England. Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.
“And I want to apologise to Jürgen, to Billy [Hogan, chief executive], to the players and to everyone who works so hard at LFC to make our fans proud. They have absolutely no responsibility for this disruption. They were the most disrupted and unfairly so. This is what hurts most. They love your club and work to make you proud every single day.
“I know the entire LFC team has the expertise, leadership and passion necessary to rebuild trust and help us move forward. More than a decade ago when we signed up for the challenges associated with football, we dreamed of what you dreamed of. And we’ve worked hard to improve your club. Our work isn’t done. And I hope you’ll understand that even when we make mistakes, we’re trying to work in your club’s best interests. In this endeavour I’ve let you down.
“Again, I’m sorry, and I alone am responsible for the unnecessary negativity brought forward over the past couple of days. It’s something I won’t forget. And shows the power the fans have today and will rightly continue to have.
The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.
“If there’s one thing this horrible pandemic has clearly shown, it’s how crucial fans are to our sport and to every sport. It’s shown in every empty stadium. It’s been an incredibly tough year for all of us; virtually no one unaffected. It’s important that the Liverpool football family remains intact, vital and committed to what we’ve seen from you globally, with local gestures of kindness and support. I can promise you I will do whatever I can to further that.”
FSG has made a habit of backtracking and apologising for controversial decisions during its ownership of Liverpool. Executives performed a U-turn over plans to hike ticket prices in 2016 following a mass walk-out of fans at Anfield and after receiving a barrage of criticism for looking to furlough some staff at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The former chief executive Peter Moore also issued an apology when an attempt to trademark the city of Liverpool’s name was rejected by the Intellectual Property Office.
Joe Blott, chair of Spirit of Shankly, said of Henry’s apology: “It all feels very weasel-word-like. He’s saying the things he thinks we want to hear but within that he’s talking about not wanting to go ahead with this without supporters’ involvement. I was on the phone to the club every day last week over a whole host of issues and not once was the European Super League mentioned. If that was true he’d have been having the conversation with us. They’re not sorry. The only reason they are sorry is because they have been caught out yet again.”