This line from John W. Henry’s apology video showcases arrogance over Super League plans

After re-watching John W. Henry’s apology to Liverpool supporters over the now-cancelled plans to form a Super League, one line jumped out at me, highlighting the arrogance that landed FSG in hot water in the first place.

Football was irreparably damaged last week. Make no mistake, football’s billionaires will try to form a European Super League again in the future.

Their failure to push forward plans for a £3billion Super League is merely a setback and the plans to restructure the Champions League shows that UEFA are no better even if they have been acting as though they’ve been wronged.

They’re just angry they were left out of an arrangement that would have had dire consequences for their flagship competition. UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has been scathing in his response to the clubs involved in the Super League debacle.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin looks on during a press conference following his re-election, at the 43rd Ordinary UEFA Congress on February 7, 2019 in Rome. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

On Wednesday, April 21st, Liverpool published a surprise video on their official YouTube channel of John W. Henry apologising to the supporters for his role in the club’s decision to commit themselves to the Super League.

He said: “I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours.

“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.”

The apology from Henry was sincere and heartfelt. Yet it seems as though it’s a case of being a little too late. The damage to the club’s reputation is done and to clubs outside of the so-called ‘Big Six’, Liverpool are now just as bad as the oil-money sides that we always criticise.

Henry has now shown that Liverpool, as an entity, are only concerned with making money.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 25: Liverpool fans display a banner as they protest against ever-rising ticket prices during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Hull City at Anfield on October 25, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography/Getty Images)

It’s important to remember that this is not a first offence from John W. Henry and Fenway Sports Group. In 2016, an estimated 10,000 supporters walked out of Anfield in the 77th minute to protest the owners’ plans to hike ticket prices to £77.

Then, during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown last year, Liverpool announced plans to make use of the UK government’s furlough scheme to pay non-playing staff’s wages.

FSG’s continued lack of appreciation for the culture within the city of Liverpool is astounding.

And one paragraph from Henry’s apology on YouTube stands out to me as a signifier for his and FSG’s arrogance towards Liverpool as a club.

He said: “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.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 09: John W. Henry, owner of Liverpool ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City at Anfield on August 09, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

While FSG have done some great work at Liverpool in restoring them to the top of the European game once more, it’s arrogant to insinuate that without the American owners, the Reds would be nothing.

The only reason FSG were able to buy the club for as little as £300million was because another American ownership in Hicks and Gillet had run the club into the ground. There is no denying that despite some awful leadership at the top of the club over the years, Liverpool are the grandest side in the country.

The most infuriating aspect of the Super League fiasco is that the owners of most of the clubs involved, FSG in particular, have very little to do with their respective side’s history and success.

Before they took over the club, Liverpool had won 44 major trophies and since they’ve taken over, only three have been won. One of the major requirements for consideration in the Super League as a founding club was past success and FSG have nothing to do with Liverpool’s grand history.

Yet they were set to gladly accept £250million a year from the Super League.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Thursday, October 22, 2015: Liverpool’s co-owner and NESV Chairman Tom Werner, Director Michael Gordon and owner John W. Henry before the UEFA Europa League Group Stage Group B match against Rubin Kazan at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fenway Sports Group runs Liverpool as a business first and foremost. The unwillingness to sanction huge fees for the world’s best players on a regular basis is presented as a way to bring sustainability to the club but it’s about making money.

If your club sells players for more than it buys them, it’ll make money and if your club wins silverware, that’s more money in the coffers.

The ‘Moneyball’ approach that FSG has taken at Liverpool has worked but it would not have done so without Jurgen Klopp. There is not a single manager in the world that could achieve what he has with the resources he has.

The German’s subtle anger towards the owners is a concern for the future and while the former Borussia Dortmund coach will remain at the club beyond the summer, it’s difficult to see what the long-term future holds for him.

MADRID, SPAIN – JUNE 01: Liverpool owner John Henry hugs Liverpool Head Coach / Manager Jurgen Klopp at the end of the UEFA Champions League Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

A comment left on John W. Henry’s apology video raised a good point. This is a classic case of it being “better to ask for forgiveness, than for permission.”

The grovelling from Henry might have calmed the waters for now but there are some fundamental issues that need solving in the club’s ownership.

Michael Mongie
Football Central Media Group founder, owner and editor.

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