To basketball fans, the news of Liverpool Football Club being up for sale may not be the first thing that leaps out from your news cycle. However, given the reported interest of several current NBA franchise owners, it could come to mean a little bit more to supporters from both sides of the pond. Steve Ballmer of the Los Angeles Clippers is one such name that has been linked to a potential takeover, so what would that mean for Clipper Nation?
On the face of it, not very much. The fact that Ballmer is even being classed as in the running for an asset believed to be valued at around $5 billion suggests that he isn’t exactly short of funds. With that being said, there’s no indication that a bigger allocation of resources in the United Kingdom would have any impact on the Clippers’ payroll or their ability to throw their financial weight around to provide winning basketball.
Fenway Sports Group, who currently own both Liverpool and MLB franchise Boston Red Sox – and have reportedly been in the market for an NBA team themselves – have generally adopted a hands-off approach to their foreign business interests. Therefore, the blueprint is in place for Ballmer to do the same, so his vociferous support from the sidelines is unlikely to be found wanting from The Crypt to the Intuit Dome.
It could mean that a hell of a lot more eyes are on Ballmer and therefore the Clippers, though. Liverpool are one of the biggest football clubs in the world and have a particularly passionate following which has grown from their home city in England to a global stage, thanks to both historic and recent successes and a general unity between the club and its supporters.
One of the biggest criticisms of their previous owners was a lack of spending in football’s transfer market, which they’re hoping will be remedied by the free-spending Ballmer should he step up to take the reins. The fact he has amassed one of the biggest payrolls in the NBA with the Clippers and swallowed the subsequent luxury tax penalties would suggest that won’t be too much of a problem.
There’s also hope that his investment in the community within Los Angeles will carry over to Liverpool. Not only do the Clippers have a new arena to look forward to, local residents have had courts built and renovated for their leisure, while the players have also thrown themselves into an increased amount of charity work on behalf of the franchise under the current ownership.
Although ‘FSG’ have built a new training ground for Liverpool’s senior and youth team players and renovated their stadium, there have been valid complaints about a lack of investment in their women’s team and the local community that immediately surrounds their home turf – one of the most deprived areas in the UK. It’s another aspect that any future ownership will be heavily judged upon.
As both a Liverpool and Clippers fan myself, I’d cautiously welcome the synergy this could bring to my life while remaining hesitant around the idea that any billionaire could possibly be squeaky clean and come without their flaws. Ballmer presents himself as politically neutral, encourages fact-based voting and has invested a lot of time and money into philanthropy. That’s the sort of thing the people of Liverpool can get onboard with. His deep pockets could sweeten the deal. Plus, it may even mean a handful of new fans to help fill the Clippers new arena.
Win-win then, right?