Edwards will lead Liverpool into a multi-club model

Huge changes are coming to Merseyside in what is set to be the biggest reshuffle behind the scenes at Liverpool in decades.  The confirmed exit of Jurgen Klopp at the end of the 2023/24 season has sent current Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group into a restructuring overdrive.

Former sporting director Michael Edwards has made a return to the club as the leader of FSG’s footballing project.  He will be joined by Bournemouth’s current sporting director Richard Hughes at the end of the season, with Hughes viewed as the perfect sporting director to steady the post-Klopp regime.  The next on FSG’s recruitment wish list are Bournemouth’s head of scouting Mark Burchill and Benfica’s technical director Pedro Marques.

The return of Edwards and the hiring of Marques indicates FSG’s attention lies away from Liverpool but with the Reds long-term interests in mind.  Edwards himself has stated his goal is to begin a multi-club model, to build a framework of clubs around the world to give Liverpool an advantage.

Currently the world’s largest multi-club organization is owned by the City Football Group.  Since Abu Dabhi United Group’s takeover of Manchester City in 2008, they have developed a network across every continent with their portfolio amassing 13 clubs.

This has allowed the City Football Group and ultimately Manchester City access and infrastructure across the globe to not only identify talent in all facets of the game but also an opportunity to develop talent in their ranks with far less risk.

Liverpool are more than a decade behind their competitors when it comes to multi-club ownership.  Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brighton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United are all involved in multi-club organizations.  Burnley and Everton are both on the verge of joining a multi-club organization while Manchester United shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s ownership of OGC Nice sees the Red Devils join INEOS’s portfolio.

More than half of the Premier League clubs involved in the 2023/24 season have ties to clubs across the world with the intention of enhancing their resources and in Edwards’s view Liverpool are being left behind.

There are ethical concerns to the motives and practices of multi-club ownership.  The idea of a club, that has been supported and loved for generations being bought by a foreign entity with the sole purpose of feeding another does not sit well with the majority of fans.

Chelsea’s multi-club experiment is a prime example of the predatory nature of this expansion.  RC Strasbourg were purchased by Chelsea in June of 2023 as the first member of the BlueCo consortium’s stable.   Strasbourg are currently in a relegation battle having won only a single game in 2024.

A club that was founded in 1906, being one of just six clubs to have won every major French trophy and for most of its history has been owned by Alsace locals now faces the real threat of relegation for Chelsea’s gain.  Fans have been outraged at the treatment of their club who were in the UEFA Europa League just more than three seasons ago.

One of the major policies that has caused friction is the transfer of talent between clubs.  Chelsea are prioritizing game-time for their loanees and limiting incomings to guarantee minutes for players they have sent to the club.  Even when Strasbourg do spend money, it is with the view that these incomings will move to Chelsea in the future.  They are actively sacrificing the current performance of Strasbourg for the development of players that careers lie elsewhere.

Liverpool’s intention to purchase another football club has not started with the return of Edwards.  Just over five years ago resources were put aside for the possibility of purchasing a club in South America but ultimately the response from fans who disagree with the potentially anti-competitive and unethical nature of multi-club ownership was enough to stop any talks from progressing.

This time however it seems that FSG will expand their footballing portfolio regardless of the response from supporters and fan organizations.  It has been reported that a European club, more specifically teams in Belgium, France and Portugal are the ideal acquisitions for the first phase of their multi-club expansion.

The return of Michael Edwards and the rumored arrival of Benfica’s technical director Pedro Marques indicate this will likely happen within the next 12 months.

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Dylan Johnson