Piercing Purslow's PR exercise

By Brendan Leary on Sep 22, 10 02:39 PM in Columnists

This much can be said for Christian Purslow: he's not the root cause of the problems at Liverpool.

And you can extend things further than that: he's clearly quite canny.

Just look at the PR work he's done in recent days.

First, wasn't last week's story about Hicks and the Blackstone Group rather strange?

As best as I can tell via NewsNow, that story was broken via the Telegraph last Thursday night/Friday.

The question is, who informed them?

Presumably neither Hicks nor Gillett. None of the content flattered them.

It could have been Blackstone themselves. But it isn't normal for Blackstone to talk out of school. Especially about a deal that was already dead.

Yes, already dead. Monday's Financial Times reported Blackstone's decision not to take up Hicks' proposal came last week.

So why were we hearing about it on Friday through to Monday. To quote Mr Purslow,

"a good rule of thumb is that if you're reading about it, then it probably isn't real."

So who's the leaker?

What about the club's senior independent officers?

Well, they actually came out of the re-financing story pretty well:


"Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre blocked the American's last attempt to refinance in June. They did so only having taken legal advice from Slaughter & May that they were able to do so."

Ah, the good guys. Stick it to H&G, fellas!

Kind of fits well with Mr Purslow's key messages from the Q&A, doesn't it? Judging from the order of questions, here are the Q&A highlights I believe Christian wanted to advertise to Liverpool fans...

"The club offered me the job."

"I'm a third-generation fan, I've been a season ticket holder for many years"

"the possible sale of the club - and I consider it the most important thing I will ever do in my business career "

"All I can do is make sure when they are willing to do so that I can say hand on heart that these are the right new owners for the club. I assure you I consider that to be an awesome burden of responsibility but I am very well qualified to do that properly."

"any incurrence of indebtedness by Liverpool Football Club needs full Board approval. The non-owner directors have made it clear that's not what we want to see happen."

"It's not about me. I don't have a contract."

"The Board didn't sack Rafa. Rafa's exit was about as clear cut a case of mutual consent as I have ever been involved in in my life."

There's nothing wrong with using the media intelligently for self-promotion. And for what it's worth, I think Mr Purslow is simply streets ahead of Rick Parry.

But it's up to fans to appreciate when we are getting played.

Back to the Telegraph.

The Telegraph's Paul Kelso and Rory Smith have become something of a go to source for Liverpool's boardroom goings-on. For instance,

Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are considering appointing an independent chairman at Anfield and have sounded out leading business figures, including British Airways chairman Martin Broughton, about taking on the role, Telegraph Sport can disclose.

That's a boardroom scoop if ever I heard one. But how about,

Chinese businessman Kenny Huang did not enter a formal bid for Liverpool after his "anchor investor" walked away because of the torrent of publicity surrounding the deal, Telegraph Sport can disclose.

Impressive. How about,

A Liverpool board meeting scheduled for Thursday to discuss offers for the club has been postponed, providing further evidence of the complications and uncertainty surrounding the club's future.

Seriously, is Paul Kelso taking the Board Minutes? Might as well be with access that good. Here's another:

Sources with knowledge of the deal told The Daily Telegraph on Thursday night that the decision was taken to shift the American's £237 million loan to RBS's Global Restructuring Group when Hicks and Gillett were in negotiations over extending their financing deal with the bank.

Can't see RBS or H&G leaking that one. How about,

"Telegraph Sport can disclose that the club board, led by new chairman Martin Broughton, has concluded that Benítez is no longer the man to deliver progress at Anfield." (2 Jun 2010)

Hang on .....

That one doesn't sound like the "about as clear cut a case of mutual consent as I have ever been involved in in my life." that Mr Purslow spoke of on Wednesday.

And if you "go back and check" as Purslow suggests, here's Rafa's positions, as expressed within the fortnight before he was forced out (19 and 22 May):


"My future is with Liverpool,"

"I have four more years of contract and I want to succeed.

'I have four years left on my Liveprool contract, I'm very happy, settled, the fans are fantastic and I am delighted,'

I have no offer [from another club]. I hope to make a competitive team.

"Does the manager have absolute power in England?"

"My critics in London say that I am not a good manager and experts with an English accent here [in Madrid] say the same. But Liverpool has had an average of 69 points in the last 12 seasons. The club made a huge mistake, which was to start winning four trophies [under his management]. Then people will ask for more. [Sir Alex] Ferguson took seven years to win the Premier League.

"No, it depends on a budget and on the executive director that negotiates the signings of players.

"And it depends on the money you have and the intelligence with which you operate in the market place.

"Look at the wages picked up by the players on Chelsea or Manchester United's substitutes' bench: (John) Obi Mikel, (Michael) Owen, (Salomon) Kalou, (Dimitar) Berbatov, (Michael) Carrick could be on £4million a year!

"When Portsmouth offered Peter Crouch more money than we were paying him and promised him a starting place, it became very complicated for us to keep hold of him. The arrival of Fernando Torres meant he couldn't play as often at Liverpool."

"Some people say I have spent £280 million.

"But we have spent £220million on players and generated £160million in player sales. That is the equivalent of a £60million net spend over six years: in other words, £10million spent per year.

"Deduct from that figure the £120million revenue from the Champions League success and qualification over that period, and we have in fact generated an additional £60million benefits for the club."

Does that sound like a man who'd decided it was best if he moved on? Hardly. They put a gun to his head.

Just shows that while it may be the case that in a technical, legal sense Rafa wasn't sacked, but he certainly received the club's moral dismissal.

He and we fans deserved much better.

How about being a bit straighter with us on the questions, Christian? We aren't that stupid.

Have you got questions you want Christian's straight answers to? I know I do.

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