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The John W Henry Interview - Part Two

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Veinticinco de Mayo:
I am delighted to say that this morning we received the next set of answers to the questions you set for John W Henry.  The questions are below but I thought that I would introduce them with a short little anecdote that a fellow RAWKite kindly shared with me by PM.

Mike Forde, Director of Football Operations at Chelsea gave a presentation at London Business School last week in which he talked in depth on football operations, team culture and specifically their player recruitment process.   In the process of this he discussed his travels to different sports institutions around the world in some depth.  He also has apparently spoken to Billy Beane from the Oakland A's several times, and is really impressed by the sabermetrics approach.  The interesting bit was his recounting of his last conversation with Billy - Billy told him he thought the Red Sox are perhaps the best run sports organisation in the world.  In (roughly) Beane's own words - "the difference with the Red Sox is that there's an organisation with both the brains and the money to succeed.  There's a lot out there with the money, and a lot with the smarts, but almost none with both"

So, on to the questions.  Once again he has provided some full and interesting answers.  Please feel to comment or discuss them but PLEASE, LETS NOT MAKE THIS ANOTHER MANAGER THREAD.  We know that the overwhelming opinion of posters is that we need a change of manager and there are plenty of threads available to discuss that.

And a little note to any other sites that might want to use the answers, you are more than welcome to do so, all that we ask as usual is that you acknowledge the source and provide a link through to this thread.

Veinticinco de Mayo:
So here are the latest answers.  The first batch were all wanting to know what NESV's (now Fenway Sports Group) plans were for the club and in particular who would be running the club on a day to day basis:

10.  Mr. Henry & co. - Liverpool Football Club has one of the largest fanbases in the world with passionate Reds in every corner of the globe. With the greatest of respect, the sport of baseball in which your team has achieved great success is a major sport in Northern America but is not comparable to Liverpool Football Club or the Premier League in terms of fanbase / viewing figures etc etc.  How do you plan to market the club globally and expand and enhance the club's profile worldwide in the future?

I think you might be surprised at the actual number of Red Sox fans around the world.  Essentially we aren’t allowed to market outside of New England and that has always been disappointing to us.  It was one of the reasons we were attracted to the Premier League.  The best way to market Liverpool FC globally is to win because, as you point out, the fanbase is already so large globally.  If we build the right team on the field, everything off the field will take care of itself.  We also have a very strong commercial team that arrived over the past couple of years lead by Ian Ayre.  Ian and his team have already made great strides.  We will be working to give him the resources to expand the LFC presence globally.

11.   For the last 18 months there has been an absence of football expertise and experience at senior management / board level and this has resulted in some poor footballing decisions.  This is something that needs   addressing before any big changes are made and a future footballing strategy is decided on. What do you intend to do to rectify this situation?

Our first appointment was Damien Comolli.  Damien has a philosophy that is similar to ours and what has made us successful in Boston.  But he is just our first appointment.  We don’t know English football, but we do know the sports business and what it takes to be successful.  You must first of all have the right people in place and you must be able to give them the resources they need to be successful.  With the new Financial Fair Play Rules coming into effect next year, we know that we need to emphasize revenue growth.  That is an area we feel we are very strong.  And LFC already has a strong commercial team.

12.  What level of involvement will you have in the day-to-day activities?  Will we be seeing you and Tom in Liverpool regularly? Will anyone in the organisation be based in Liverpool permanently?

We will be in London and Liverpool with regularity.  There is a lot to be done.  We speak about the Sox and LFC daily – seven days a week.  We are working on teleconferencing as well as spending time in Liverpool.  In the digital world of today one can say almost nothing is local.  It has never been easier to work from a distance.  But like Fenway, Anfield will be hard to stay away from.  We’ve really enjoyed our time in Liverpool thus far.

13. Having completed the take over, you mentioned that "we have terrific strategic thinkers". Could you expand on that, please?

The most strategic thing I can do is to not comment on that.  What I can say is that our partnership and our staff are very strong overall.  We are changing the name of our partnership from New England Sports Ventures to Fenway Sports Group.  This group has strategic relationships as well as strong, bright “strategic thinkers.”  We are always discussing what we can do to improve in various areas – from venues to player performance.  Always.

14.  What are the qualities and values that you personally believe you and   your consortium can bring to Liverpool FC to enhance it and complement   its   traditional values? We know what Liverpool can give to you.   Beyond the numbers and investment, what can you give to Liverpool, in   terms of a personal vision, quality, philosophy, and personality?

It is up to us to solve the problems that have plagued the club for some time now.  The club has terrific revenues, but they need to be allocated properly.  Where revenues, in fact, suffer are in relation to match day.  That is a problem we have to solve.  It will be difficult to solve.  If the match day issue had been easy it would have been solved a long time ago.  Many EPL clubs have this problem.  We will have to be bold, thoughtful and aggressive in order to do the right thing for the community, for the supporters and for the club long-term.

Liverpool values are well known.  What makes Anfield so special beyond the history of the ground are the people who populate Anfield each match.  They value the club first and foremost.  That is what we have to ensure every person who wears a kit or works for the club at any level has in the their minds first and foremost – the club comes first.

In Boston every player who puts on a Boston Red Sox uniform knows what it means to wear that uniform.  It’s something very special.  Wearing that uniform has a great deal of meaning.  We have a Red Sox way that is discussed in spring training each year.  It is a privilege to work for the Boston Red Sox at any level.  We have Red Sox Ambassadors who spend their days ensuring that people outside of the organization know how much all of us inside the organization appreciate our fans and visitors to Fenway Park.

The values that we have to strive for within the club at Liverpool emanate from the supporters.  We cannot have anyone at the club who when they walk into the Academy, Melwood or Anfield, aren’t aware of club values and that the club comes first and foremost.  We have to have everyone from top to bottom on the same page – exactly the same page.  And we will.  We will make mistakes and it will be up to us to correct them.  With the level of support this club has, if we are all on the same page, we will be incredibly successful.

I think we were all delighted to see in Mr Henry's meetings with fans immediately after the sale that he recognised our feeling of disenfranchisement.  This is a major concern at the moment and the next question reflects that.

15.  Are you considering engaging fans with the club, either by letting the fans take a stake in the club, having an elected fans representative in a non-exective position on the board or by instituting regular fan forums or other channels of communication between yourselves and the fans?

These are issues we are just now beginning to tackle.  It’s up to us to discuss these issues, communicate about these issues and implement something that serves Liverpool FC for the long-term.  Consider this email exchange a part of that effort.  But it really has just begun.

And finally, sign of the times, we got round to asking a few questions about what was happening on the pitch.  Can anyone remember the halcyon days when that was all that really mattered?

16.  We see that in Boston you have given a lot of priority to producing your own young players.  Under the previous manager the club began to set up a good youth system based on the Barcelona model.  Two promising players from that system were sold in the summer and as a result fans are concerned that this is not the priority it once was.  Can you confirm that you will be looking to invest in a best-in-class youth system to produce talented youngsters for the team?

I’ve been to the academy three times and I’ve met with Jose Segura and Rodolfo Borrell.  They are key people for the future of Liverpool.  They know their work is now a major priority for us.  I’ve made a personal commitment to them.  We intend to give them the resources to build LFC for the future.

We need “top four” young players.  They will not produce a quick fix, but our philosophy in football will be based on the long-term.  That is what has made Arsenal and Manchester United so strong.  They understand something we understand in Boston – to be consistently strong on the field, you must have a consistent flow of young talent that has be nurtured and developed the right way.  We will focus on that.  That is also the philosophy of Damien Comolli.

17.  Over recent years we have started to see some of our best players leave the club.  Are you planning to work to keep Fernando Torres at the club?

The club has gone through a very difficult period and the period has not ended.  We’ve dealt with baseball players and race car drivers at the highest level.  LFC also have players at the highest level.  These players all want the same things.  They want to win.  It’s up to us to build a winner going forward.  It’s up to them to determine to win now.  We saw a certain team on the field against Chelsea last week that showed what they can do.  We also know how competitive the EPL is this year.  There are no guaranteed matches any longer for any club.  This club can be better.  Blaming the manager or any one particular player is simply wrong.  This club needs to play up to their potential every match.  If they don’t, they won’t win.

That being said, we have work to do and must invest in this club to improve it on the field.  Can that be successfully done in January?  A number of people I’ve talked with doubt it.  Most people seem to think it will be the summer before we can really begin to improve.  So the players – all eleven each week – have to be on the same page every match and have to live up to the history and respect this club has engendered – no matter what.

I’ve met with a number of our players and had private discussions with some of them.  I’ve been greatly impressed by them personally.  They are all exceptionally bright and they all want to be here.  The question they have had, rightfully so, is whether or not the club is going to go in the right direction.  They all want to see that.  I have been very forthright about our philosophy and about what we are going to try to achieve.  Some would prefer a quick fix.  Others prefer to focus on the long-term and that is very difficult for most players.  But, as I wrote previously, this club needs everyone on the same page every day.  Every day.  We need everyone focused on what needs to be done in the next match facing us and during that match.  The club should not have to settle for less.  As one insightful player told me, “The spirit of the side needs to be there like a family – as one.”

RAWK and SaveLFC 2010

Very encouraged by the answers to questions 14 and 16 in light of this:

Veinticinco de Mayo:
As usual respect and thanks goes to Smithdown Andy for being the communications guru.  Also a big thanks to all the lads involved with SaveLFC who through their tireless efforts helped to make all this possible.  Cheers fellers.

Good work, VdeM. Love number 13....


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