Liverpool FC

FSG may be forced to make major Liverpool change after Julian Ward exit

Liverpool FC

For a club that has looked to have stability at its core over the past 12 years of ownership, the current landscape at Liverpool appears far less steady than it did.

A little over a fortnight on from Fenway Sports Group revealing that they were open to offers of both investment and a full-scale takeover. there has been continued change, with FSG’s point man at Anfield, Mike Gordon, stepping back from his day-to-day involvement. He has handed over his responsibilities to Reds CEO Billy Hogan while he focuses on leading the search for investment or bids for a full sale.

On Thursday, further unexpected change arrived. It was announced that sporting director Julian Ward would be ending his 10 years with the club at the end of this season, just six months on from assuming the role after the departure of Michael Edwards. Also leaving the club is Dr Ian Graham. Liverpool’s director of research will also depart at the end of the season having been a key piece of FSG’s puzzle from early in their reign in getting their data analytics strategy off the ground.

READ MORE: Billy Hogan has Liverpool boost after surprising and disappointing Julian Ward decision

READ MORE: Ian Graham to leave Liverpool as FSG left with another major hole in transfer department

The Reds were said to be ‘surprised and disappointed’ at Ward’s decision. His departure arrives at a time of growing uncertainty at Anfield with significant investment required in an ageing first-team squad that has shown deficiencies this season.

With Champions League football next season by no means cut and dried, there is a need to add real quality if Liverpool are to avoid falling too far behind the likes of Manchester City, and at a time when Manchester United are resurgent and Newcastle United are both performing on the pitch and able to call on mammoth financial backing off it.

The timing is, of course, interesting. Just two weeks on from FSG signalling that they were unsure of their own long-term future at Anfield, the decision of Ward to express his desire to leave at the end of the season is less than ideal for the Reds and their owners, who must now traverse the need to both look at options for their exit and also decide upon measures for the longer-term strategy at the club.

Strategy is understood to remain core to pursuit of success inside Liverpool with manager Jurgen Klopp likely to play a significant role in what happens next. But with the next two transfer windows requiring FSG to break from their tried-and-tested model and shell out some serious cash to address their squad issues, and afford the Reds the best chance of continuing to challenge for honours across the board, something that their extraordinary revenue growth over the past five years has been predicated upon.

Names such as Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice have been linked with the former likely to cost well in excess of £100m. There is a requirement for FSG to spend, and with no obvious saleable assets for them to help shoulder some of the financial burden, a decision not to make significant moves in a couple of windows over the last two years will bring with a significant cost.

While there has been a commitment to strategy from within, the instability caused by recent changes, and on the back of the departure of Edwards in the summer, has raised questions around whether it remains workable year in, year out. A fallow year for player sales can’t mean limited transfer spend, with the pace of spending of their rivals meaning that they will be unable to stand still.

There has been the suggestion that the data driven approach, something that FSG chief John Henry was a major champion of with the Boston Red Sox and then at Liverpool, is not providing the edge that it did, and that further change could be on the horizon, something that would chime with the owners’ decision to explore the potential sale of the club or at least them looking for an equity share.

But while some question whether the FSG approach can maintain a successful team at the very top of European football, there are ownership groups out there who are subscribing to that very notion in a bid to steer their clubs away from having to take such an active and expensive role in the Wild West of the transfer market.

Chelsea co-owner Behdad Eghbali, the co-founder of private equity firm Clearlake Capital, spoke last month at the Sportico Invest in Sport conference in New York, where the ECHO was in attendance, about how they were seeking to change the course of action that their newly acquired club had taken under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.

Eghbali said: “These (Premier League) teams generally, in our view, are not well managed. Fenway Sports Group with Liverpool and the Abu Dhabi group with Manchester City have done it well but for the most part these opportunities have not bee…

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