• Premier League

Liverpool's biggest challenge is clubs ignoring FFP - Henry

ESPN staff
April 21, 2014
John W. Henry feels rival clubs are getting around UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations © Getty Images

Liverpool principle owner John W. Henry claims the club's biggest challenge this season has been overcoming teams that have been ignoring Financial Fair Play.

While not naming them directly, Henry appeared to take a swipe at Premier League title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City's lavish spending in the transfer market.

Brendan Rodgers' side are five points clear of Chelsea at the top of the league, but Henry believes the biggest threat to Liverpool's ambition to secure a first title since 1990 this season has come from off the pitch rather than on it.

"The biggest challenge for us has been the ignoring of Financial Fair Play," Henry told the BBC. "It makes it very difficult to compete, but by the same token there are many clubs who can't compete at Liverpool's level. So I guess I shouldn't complain that vociferously.

"It's challenging, it makes it difficult. There are only four Champions League spots, we have three teams that seem to have unlimited budgets, at least two so it's challenging."

With a planned new 60,000-seat stadium in Stanley Park failing to materialise under previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool are edging closer to a redevelopment of Anfield with plans to boost the capacity up to 50,000.

However Henry feels it is not their comparative match-day revenue that is holding Liverpool back - rather the loopholes that other teams are finding in UEFA's FFP regulations.

"The stadium [rebuilding Anfield] was never going to solve the problems that Liverpool was facing economically," Henry added. "Financial Fair Play is a much bigger solution to the problems Liverpool and other clubs are trying to compete [against]. That's a much larger issue.

"We really don't have Financial Fair Play, or at least people are not abiding by it. If UEFA does something about it and people have to comply, even then the rules are somewhat suspect. I'd love to think that UEFA can do and will do what needs to be done, but we'll see."

Liverpool and Manchester City's players acknowledged a minute's silence for the Hillsborough victims © Getty Images

Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives during an FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.

It is a date now also synonymous with Henry's Major League Baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, who on Sunday paid tribute to the victims of last year's April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, something that Henry believes ties the two cities.

"It's ironic that both clubs and both cities have this same date now," Henry added.

"On the night of the 15th, I watched the ESPN Hillsborough documentary which was devastating. But these two cities are linked by these two tragedies.

"We wore the '96' on our uniforms, on the kit. We're aware of the importance of what these families went through, for a quarter of a century, to lose the loved ones and then the injustice that followed - it was something that the club recognises and feels."

Henry feels the Boston bombing had a "galvanising effect" on the Red Sox last year as they went on to win the World Series, and gets the same sense with the Hillsborough anniversary and Liverpool's current title charge.

"There's no doubt about it. From that day forward we played a strong brand of baseball," Henry said. "Again, you don't know what else you can do to help a community heal. In this case, these players all came together as one.

"It was the tightest, warmest clubhouse in terms of the interpersonal relationships I've ever seen, following a year where it was just the opposite, where we were a dysfunctional clubhouse, so a lot of changes took place during the off-season. As [Red Sox manager] John Farrell said, it had a galvanising effect after the tragedy.

"Over the last year and a half there [Liverpool], there has been a feeling of vindication in the air. But the 25th anniversary, I think, really brings it back full centre to everybody including the players."

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