Liverpool future in the balance
English Premier League club in London's High Court over ownership dispute as improved bid comes in from Singapore.
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2010 15:22 GMT
Liverpool fans protest at an English Premier League match against Sunderland at Anfield [GALLO/GETTY]

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim raised his offer for Liverpool football club to $507 million as the battle for the Anfield side's ownership began in London's High Court.

One of the most famous clubs in football, Liverpool have been in a downward spiral both on and off the pitch since winning their last league title in 1990 and the European Champions League in 2005.

On Tuesday, their unpopular American owners began a fight to block the sale of the club to another United States consortium as the news of the increased Singapore offer came through.

The case, which is being watched intensely by Liverpool fans who want rid of the current owners, will also go a long way to determining whether the club will go into administration over a $375.6 million debt.

Such an eventuality could see them hit with a nine-point deduction that could see them relegated from the English Premier League.

Liverpool have picked up just six points out of 21 from seven matches this season.

Owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are trying to block the club's sale after the board agreed a $478.1 million deal with the Boston Red Sox baseball team owner, New England Sports Ventures (NESV), against their will.

Packed court

Inside a packed court room, lawyers for Hicks and Gillett admitted they had breached their contracts with major creditor Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) when they tried to sack board members in a final bid to keep control of the club.

They said Hicks and Gillett were forced to do this because those board members had failed to consult them properly and to consider alternative offers for the club.

The Americans' lawyers also argued in court that there were alternatives for RBS other than putting the club into administration.

One fan in court, Justin Room, wearing a red Liverpool shirt, told the Reuters news agency: "I've gone from five years ago in Istanbul watching us win the European Cup to being here, in a courtroom, almost bottom of the league and watching a judge decide our future.

"They've just got to get out, the owners. They're hated, absolutely hated."

"I've gone from five years ago in Istanbul watching us win the European Cup to being here, in a courtroom, almost bottom of the league and watching a judge decide our future"

Justin Room, Liverpool supporter

The waters surrounding the club muddied further on Tuesday with the improved offer from Lim.

"I am committed to rebuild the club," Lim, who promised $63 million for new players, said in a statement.

"I believe that if its massive debt burden can be removed, the club would be able to focus on improving its performance on the pitch."

Lead Liverpool creditor the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) said in a statement on Monday that Hicks and Gillett were in breach of their contractual undertakings agreed when their loan was extended in April, but said the start of court action does not represent plans to appoint an administrator.

The holding company of the club could already technically be in default, but that would make little difference to proceedings, which will hinge on the outcome of the court case.

The case will examine whether chairman Martin Broughton had the authority to agree the deal with NESV.

According to the court's website, RBS will contest the case against the owners because Broughton believed that RBS had undertakings from the pair that only the chairman could make changes to the board.

That was required by RBS to prevent the two Americans from blocking any sale.

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