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Football News: Rick Parry - The Embodiment Of The Peter Principle

Rick Parry - The Embodiment Of The Peter Principle
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Rick Parry - The Embodiment Of The Peter Principle


Tris if your around pal and not too busy?
I was wondering if u did article on rick parry and his works and on going's when at Liverpool and did he try to get the best deals etc I know he passed us to h+g but I'd like to know more of the good and bad! Big ask I know just not arsed googling when I know u can hit the nail on the head and be blunt and honest ???? Cheers if u can. Jay dub red

I know we ask you for a lot, but when you get an opportunity would you be able to write an article on Rick Parry and his shortcomings as a chief executive? As fans, we always hope for the best and always believe that things will take a turn for the better, which is probably why we love Klopp so much. But it is equally fascinating to read about where the club has made mistakes in the past in terms of its running, and particularly with regard to transfer dealings. LoweLFC


Those two requests sparked off this article, though initially I did consider writing it from my memory's of his time, I thought I would be fair to Parry and take some time to read up on his side of the story. As I grew to dislike him immensely while he was in the role at the time, I thought it only fair to try and get to see it from his side. Unfortunately, the guy's comments and constant whines in the media actually reinforced my opinion of him. He constantly contradicts himself and it seems like he would struggle to lie straight in bed. However, I am going to try and remove my personal distaste of Parry and his actions and attempt to give as dispassionate an overview as possible. To be fair, every comment he makes, when you have the full picture of what actually happened, shows him to be utterly incompetent and living off the back of something he actually did nothing to achieve other than being a mediator - the creation of the Premier League.

After attending Ellesmere Port Grammar School and then on to University of Liverpool to get a maths degree and train as a chartered accountant, Parry worked as a financial controller in the leisure industry. After that he moved on to a management consultancy role and was working as a senior management consultant in 1991 when he was recruited to help set up the nascent English Premier League. In February 1992 he was appointed chief executive of the Premier League and was there to profit from BSkyB's desire for a product to hang their hat on. In those days Sky was losing money, it was struggling to get subscribers with little to entice customers to part with their hard-earned cash for a monthly fee.

In those days football was not on live TV in England, except for the FA Cup final, which got huge viewing figures around the world. Sky had realised there was a gap in the market, more of a yawning chasm than a gap really, and went about filling it. They agreed a deal, in partnership with the BBC, who were given the rights to highlights for Match of the Day, for £304m, something which saw Parry given a huge amount of credit as the fee was enormous for the time. Whether or not that was down to Parry's negotiating skills is impossible to really judge but the TV deal did change the face of football in England, from being all about football to being all about money.

Parry showed his footballing brain by working with long ball merchant Howard Wilkinson to set up the rules for Premier League academies. In his final year with the Prem he brokered a deal of more than double the value of the previous one, a £700m+ contract with Sky and the BBC. After leaving the role Parry has said that he was approached by a Premier League club to be their CEO and was on the verge of taking the job when he decided that if he was going to be CEO it should be with the club he supported. So he phoned up the then-CEO of Liverpool, Peter Robinson, to ask if he could have his job. Robinson, who was planning on retiring soon anyway, agreed to bring him in as his long-term successor and David Moores appointed him in July 1998.

His first role, as the handover began from Robinson to Parry, was to set up the new academy in Kirkby, as he was fresh from his work on the Premier League's academy rules. His work was such a success that the whole academy set-up had to be ripped up and begun again under Rafael Benitez just 7 years later.

Liverpool were managed by Roy Evans in those days, with a lot of interference from David Moores, who thought, in the way that sad act manager's often do, that he was friends with the staff. Though he was seen as a joke and a soft touch to be used by the players. Evans had only managed a third place and Moores decided it was time for a change and to move away from the old boot room mentality. Except Moores was very much a soft touch and did not have the balls to show Evans the respect he deserved, and say to him it was time for a change, and then make that change. Instead Houllier was appointed as joint-manager, in one of the most stupid decisions of all time.

Parry tried to sell it by saying later: "I think it was a recognition that things needed to change, but not wanting too radically and recognising we were very much within the European game with the importance of the Champions League and the influx of foreign players. We needed to evolve but didn't want to lose our roots completely and cut the ties with the boot room. We compromised a little but compromises rarely work in any sphere, especially football. It was with the best of intentions to marry the old and the new but it was discovered fairly rapidly that it would be very difficult. To be fair to Roy, he had the courage and the good grace to say: 'We can all see it's not working and it's time for me to move on.' He made it painless from the club's point of view and deserves enormous credit for doing that." What he means is that Evans was the only one man enough to do the right thing.

Houllier had been recommended by a respected older head around the club Tom Saunders, who saw a man who was ahead of the game in France, knew the city of Liverpool well and would want the job. Even though Houllier had offers on the table from Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, he was very keen on managing Liverpool, a club he had a soft spot for from his time in the city while studying. He was brought in with the promise of being manager, though he never expected it to be a shared post when he agreed to take it. With Moores and Parry failing to show Evans the respect he deserved by telling him straight, it was left to Evans to make the necessary decision and quit when it was clear that a joint-manager role was as stupid as it seemed.

It was during Houllier's time in charge that Parry made his first signing for Liverpool, and it was amongst the most successful, though it took Houllier a bit of work to convince Parry of the wisdom of the decision. As Parry tells it: "My very first signing was Gary McAllister. When Gerard came to me and said he wanted him I paused for a minute and thought: Really? Gerard's rationale was that he was the best striker of the ball in the Premier League and with the youngsters coming through would be great in the dressing room. What a contribution he made in that 2001 season."

Houllier's time was marked with odd transfer decisions after that, probably the worst being the decision in summer 2002 not to complete the deal for Nicolas Anelka and Parry's failure to close one for Damien Duff. Instead in came El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao, Bruno Cheyrou, Alou Diarra, Patrice Luzi and agreeing to pay Leeds United £9m for Lee Bowyer, a move which thankfully fell down due to the player's obscene wage demands.

Parry says of that summer: "Two players we were looking at. One was Nicolas Anelka who had done so well here on loan. I was with Gerard when he was agonising over that one. It was a really close decision. We had the deal done with PSG for Nicolas. Gerard was aware of his history with Arsenal and was concerned that maybe he wouldn't have that passion as a full-time player rather than just being on loan and in the end decided to go with Diouf. The other player we were in for then who looked a great prospect was Damien Duff, who eventually went to Chelsea for big money a year later. With hindsight it maybe would have been more sensible to go with quality rather than quantity - buying a really good player rather than three who turned out to be distinctly average."

But does it really take hindsight to see that? Surely it was clear at the time? Surely a CEO should be capable of realising these things at the time, that quality is key, not quantity when it comes to signing players? If Parry was not sure, he would only have had to go back to the great Bill Shankly's time and see that Shanks had exactly this same issue with the board when he first arrived and wanted to bring in Ron Yeats and Ian St John, only to be told that the club could not afford to buy them. Luckily one member of the board, Eric Sawyer, had the sense to step in and say: "We can't afford not to buy them." Unfortunately Parry did not have the same vision.

Things were going downhill for the club financially, Parry did nothing to cash in on the huge deals that were flooding into the Premier League, falling further behind a financially dominant Manchester United and allowing clubs like Arsenal to overtake in revenue terms. Neither Moores nor Parry were able to secure the finance needed to rebuild Anfield, even before costs skyrocketed. Moores was unwilling to even cut his salary from the club, let alone dip into his own pockets to provide funds, when a small input (for him) would have secured the necessary finance to begin redeveloping Anfield and increasing capacity. In the end 10% of the club was sold to Granada (the local ITV station) for £20m to provide a transfer kitty.

Rather than invest his own money, Moores decided in early 2004 it was time to sell, with future Wolverhampton Wanderers owner Steve Morgan the chosen buyer. Moores and Morgan had been in dispute for years, with Morgan wanting to invest money to expand Anfield, but not while Moores was in charge. The two actively disliked each other and Moores was tired of the arguments and pressure to actually put something in, instead of taking from the club all the time.

In the meantime, while the takeover was underway, Houllier was sacked and Parry got together with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher to choose a successor. Showing what a weak CEO he was, involving two players who should have been just introduced to their new boss, not picking him! Initially the three of them wanted a British manager and Alan Curbishley, then at Charlton Athletic, and then-Southampton manager Gordon Strachan were considered, but thankfully discarded as an option. Instead the decision was made to go for someone who was a proven league winner, Rafael Benitez who had managed a minor miracle of two La Liga titles with Valencia.

At this point Morgan was so close to taking over the club that he met with Rafa after his first game in charge, which was away to Grazer AK in Austria, to discuss plans for the future. However Morgan's due diligence changed things, he realised what a mess the club was in financially, how far behind they were commercially and tried to beat the price down, but Moores was never going to take less. The deal was called off.

Meanwhile Rick Parry was to begin a pattern that continued throughout his time as Liverpool CEO. He was to get a deal lined up for a new signing, pretty much everything agreed and then he would find a way to mess it up. I am not talking about in the difficult early stages, I am talking about when a price has been agreed, the player wants the move and the manager wants the player. Sometimes even after a medical has been completed and passed with flying colours. It was not just the most well-known of his cock ups, the decision to scrap a deal to sign Cristiano Ronaldo for just £3.6m because he thought it was too expensive, there is a whole litany of them.

In the summer of 2005 Parry managed to make a hash of a deal for Rafael Benitez's number one target, in the wake of the Istanbul Champions League win, Simao Sabrosa. The price, personal terms, the medical, all done but Parry could not reach an agreement over the schedule of payments for the £10m deal with Benfica. Worse was his failings when it came to dealing with Steven Gerrard that summer. It had been all agreed that the club captain would sign a new deal in the summer and, knowing that Jose Mourinho was desperate to take him to Chelsea, having had to fend off interest from him the previous summer, Parry messed Gerrard about, leaving Gerrard wondering if this was not just a hint that the club no longer wanted him and would prefer the money.

That was when the relationship between Rafa and Parry broke down, Rafa had only been in the job a year and was already fed up of the CEO failing to clinch deals and now driving the club's captain away. Eventually Gerrard was talked round, with a move to Chelsea all but done, and signed his new deal, but Parry and Rafa's relationship never recovered. From that moment on Rafa was convinced the club needed to change the CEO if it was to be successful in the long term.

The summer of 2006 was no better, though Parry tries to explain his ineptitude away: "We had the deal finally after enormous complications - tied up for Dani Alves and then the decision was should we buy two players or should we spend all of that on a full-back? Alves wasn't the player then that he is now, but he always looked like he would be a great player. Would he have been a better signing than Pennant and Crouch for example? Probably yes, but it's easy with hindsight. Clearly, we were trying to make that final step. We didn't have Chelsea's money so we were trying to be smarter. Looking back, if I could do anything different, it would be to focus on buying one at a time rather than having to buy five or six every season." Again showing why he was abysmal at being a CEO, he always had excuses but never actually learnt as he went. It is easy to talk from hindsight, but most people would not need hindsight to know that buying better players is the way to go!

What is worse is that his story changes constantly and never fits with the facts. Crouch was already at Liverpool by this point, he joined the previous summer. Added to that, Pennant cost £8m, Alves would have come to just £8m, so there is no way the club could have bought Pennant and Crouch with the Alves money, as they spent the same amount on Pennant alone. Added to that, there was over £16m spent on Kuyt, another £8m on Bellamy, £3.5m on Arbeloa, over £2m on Paletta, another £2m on loan fees for Mascherano, £1m on 16 year old Swede Ajdarevic, so clearly the money was there for Alves. Parry simply got it wrong and made a mess of it, again.

Robert Kraft was looking at buying Liverpool at this time, but he was unhappy at a lack of cost control and salary cap in the Premier League, like he was used to in the NFL, where he owned the New England Patriots. After a time kicking the tyres he walked away. The next American to show interest was George Gillett, but he did not have the funds to buy the club and his move came to nothing. There was another interested party that stepped in, the Dubai government-backed DIC, who were extremely interested in buying the club, but they wanted Liverpool FC sans Parry and Moores, whereas the pair of them wanted a deal that still kept them in place. However Parry was of the opinion at the time that it was the best bid for the club.

DIC's plan was set out plainly, it was the same basic blueprint that Manchester City's Abu Dhabi owners later followed, which was to invest heavily in the infrastructure, regenerating the area around the ground, new training complex etc but with the clearly laid out intention to then look to sell the club later, when all that was completed, at a profit. Their plan also included investment in the team, with the intent to sell a winning team as that would maximise the value. However there were issues in the negotiations with Moores, who wanted a position as lifetime president that included all-expenses paid first class trips to every away game, something DIC saw as an unnecessary burden on the finances. Pretty much summing Moores up in a few words there!

Parry's story of the time differs depending on which day of the week it is! Sometimes he claims Moores walked away, other times he says DIC did. "It wasn't a case of us rejecting Dubai, they were the preferred bidder but they walked away," Parry said at one time. Another time he said Moores was the one pulling the plug: "The dissenting voice was actually David's, because his view is once he's shaken hands on something he's committed to it and he wasn't going to let that go lightly and obviously he was the majority shareholder. The strong view of the non-execs, the professionals, we were pretty much united in the common sense view that the DIC deal doesn't seem right. But David's view was that 'I've shaken hands, I'm not going to be rushed. I want 48 hours to sleep on it.' I went to David's house the following morning with Keith Clayton (LFC director) and he said, 'we've got to let DIC know what's happening'. And he phoned Sameer al-Ansari (chair of DIC) and David said, 'look Sameer, we're in a bit of a mess, everything's gone pear-shaped, you've missed deadlines, there's a strong view on the board that we need to go in an alternative direction.' Had I been Sameer I'd have said 'David I'll be on the next plane we can sort this out.' Sameer's response was 'if you don't commit to DIC by 5pm today, we're walking away.' David then says 'you're not going to blackmail Liverpool Football Club. No-one's going to treat us like that, we'll call your bluff.' It was that that pushed David in the other direction."

The truth is Parry is once again stretching the truth to breaking point and well beyond. What actually caused the breakdown in negotiations with DIC was when George Gillett returned to the table with leveraged buy-out expert Tom Hicks as a partner. Their plan was very similar to the one the Glazers used to buy Manchester United, they would leverage the debt against the club and use its own money to buy it from Moores. You might think that a man claiming to love the club, as Moores so often did, would not even consider a sale under those circumstances but then Gillett and Hicks added a couple of clinchers to it. They offered an extra few million over the price previously agreed with DIC and they agreed to seal Moores' position as lifetime president in the contract. For some reason Parry also decided to change his mind and make them his preferred bidders, though I am sure that the large bonus payment and guaranteeing his place as CEO had absolutely nothing to do with his change of heart. No I am positive that the beancounter in him could see the merits in leveraging the club's own money to buy out the club, ensuring it would be strapped for cash for many years, rather than outside investment being pumped into the club to strengthen it.

It was then that DIC pulled out of negotations, when a deal was on the verge of being agreed, as Moores and Parry told them to match the bid from the Americans or they would sell to them instead. DIC were disgusted by the way Moores and Parry had done business with them and walked away, never to return, despite all the rumours of interest from them in later years. But, luckily for Liverpool it instead got Tom Hicks: "When I was in the leverage buy-out business we bought Weetabix and we leveraged it to up to make our return. You could say that anyone who was eating Weetabix was paying for our purchase of Weetabix. It was just business. It is the same for Liverpool."

Hicks and Gillett came in with a business plan to net spend £20m on players each season, but, by this point, Rafa and Parry were already at loggerheads, with Rafa publicly criticising Parry, and the club, for the speed of transfer dealings in May 2007. Hicks took Rafa's side from the off after being astounded by the commercial ineptitude of the club when he arrived. His flabber was completely gasted by what he found, with a commercial department that was literally just a room above a pub with a couple of staff members. The club shop, which was also run from that same commercial department, was a mess, with huge queues each matchday, which Hicks improved upon by the simple expedient, which Parry had never thought of, putting in a couple more tills to ring up the sales. While Parry tried to run everything on a shoestring Hicks immediately sought to invest in this department, in an attempt to bring in more money, which he did succeed in doing, simply by dragging the club into the 20th century.

The summer of 2007 did see the club invest in the transfer market as Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Lucas Leiva and Yossi Benayoun all arrived to bolster the squad. However it was not enough to heal the rift between Rafa and Parry and by January 2008 Liverpool fans had already turned on Gillet and Hicks as they protested against the new ownership to show their backing of Rafa. This was following reports that Hicks and Gillett had met with Jurgen Klinsmann in order to offer him the job of replacing Benitez as Liverpool manager, as Rafa refused to sign a new contract due to his frustration with Parry. Parry claimed to know nothing of any meeting with Klinsmann. Then Hicks, who had been growing more and more frustrated by Parry's ineptitude, publicly sided with Benitez and called on Parry to quit in April 2008.

Hicks said: "Look at what's happened under Rick. It has been a disaster. We have fallen so far behind the other leading clubs. We should have had the stadium built by now. We have a few major sponsors when we should have 15. We have still got the top brand in the world of football but that's no good if you don't know how to commercialise it. Rick needs to resign from Liverpool FC. He has put his heart into it but it is time for a change. You have to be able to work with the manager and Rick has proved he can't do that."

He was not finished there and Tom Hicks continued by saying: "I will formally request George's approval to terminate Rick's contract. If he chooses not to, the record will be clear. Rick Parry has been Liverpool's CEO for ten years and we haven't won a league championship under his leadership. Our commercial revenues have not kept up with other top top clubs during that times, which has made it very difficult to compete for the Premier League. After watching him operate, I came to the conclusion it was time to ask him to resign, due to his inability to manage an organisation, his seemingly arrogant attitude to our supporters and his lack of communication with Rafa. I reached my decision a few weeks ago but waited until after the games against Everton and Arsenal. It is important to try to have a new CEO in place by May so we can begin working with Rafa on player transfers."

Parry hit back: "I stand by my track record in English football and as chief executive of Liverpool Football Club. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on these allegations - that should be a matter for the Liverpool board. In fact, I would welcome an opportunity to discuss these matters with our co-owners and board colleagues." Parry knew he was safe as George Gillett was on his side. Gillett chimed in: "Rick Parry retains our full support. Any decision to remove him would need the approval of the full Liverpool board which, it should be remembered, consists of six people - myself, Foster, David Moores, Rick himself, Tom Hicks and Tom Junior." Gillett and his son Foster, along with Moores, stood behind Parry, seemingly more because the Gilletts simply did not like the Hicks when they got to know them.

What was most damaging for Parry was Hicks' revelation that Parry had lied about not knowing anything about the Klinsmann meeting and that he had not just been there but helped to set up the meeting at Klinsmann's California home. Hicks told UK newspapers about the meeting with Klinsmann: "George became good friends with him a year ago. I get this call from George out of the blue in which he says 'have your people do their research on Klinsmann'. He and Rick set up the meeting in New York. I did go to the meeting along with my son Tom. Rick Parry had already met with Jurgen alone for a couple of hours when we arrived. We all then spoke to him for another four hours."

Parry, as usual, told a different story, claiming that Hicks turned against him because he and Moores had ensured that the majority of the refinancing of the loans taken out to purchase the club were secured against the holding company the Americans had set up to buy the club, rather than the club itself. That fails to explain why Hicks only turned on Parry and not Moores, with Parry describing working with Hicks as a nightmare. Probably similar to the description Benitez would have of working with Parry!

That summer, the one of 2008, was one of enormous turmoil as Parry once more caused problems with his inability to close a deal. Benitez had told Parry he wanted two players in particular that summer, Robbie Keane and Gareth Barry. While Parry managed to get Keane over the line, he was unable to clinch Barry's signature instead taking the bizarre, and frankly embarrassing, step of putting out a statement on the club's official website that Aston Villa were asking too much for Barry. Instead Albert Riera and Andrea Dossena came in to replace Riise, the role Barry was earmarked for, much to Rafa's chagrin.

Financial problems were growing behind the scenes as the economy had crashed and the club was loaded with debt placed on it by Hicks and Gillett. With a recession in full flow, if a recession can be said to flow, the club was required to repay its debts to RBS. By the end of their reign, interest repayments alone reached £100,000 per day. Yes you are reading that right, per day. Before it got to that point, work on the new Stanley Park stadium stopped in October 2008 with a £350m loan to RBS and Wachovia due in June 2009. It was clear there were huge financial troubles on the horizon.

Ahead of that the internecine warfare between Benitez and Parry came to a head when Rafa rejected a new contract in January 2009. He only had one objection to his new deal and that was Parry's involvement in transfers. Unless Parry was removed from an involvement in transfers Benitez was adamant that his new deal would go unsigned. The impasse was broken the following month when Liverpool FC announced Rick Parry was to leave the club at the end of the season, removing all of Rafa's objections in one fell swoop. What was not publicly announced is that, while his £1.5m a year salary would now be off the books, he took a payout of £4.295m to leave the club, despite its serious financial difficulties. So much for loving the club!

Incidentally, Parry's big mate and the other leech on the club's finances David Moores was one of the first casualties of FSG's arrival at the club. Moores had been travelling first class with the squad, all expenses paid on away trips at the club's expense, taking large amounts of money each year out of the club. That was one of the first things that FSG took steps to end, though it did take them time to rid the club of him and his crocodile tears. Over the years many millions of pounds had been leeched from the club to fund his lifestyle.

Still it has not worked out badly for Parry, who has since gone on to be called upon by TV and radio stations as a football 'expert'!?! Hard to believe but it is true. He has also unbelievably gone on to carve a career as a football consultant and somehow got onto the board of the New York Cosmos. It is reminiscent of 'The Peter Principle'. In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Moores and Parry were the most incompetent so quickly rose to the top and proved repeatedly that they were incompetent to a degree many of us could not attain if we tried. I just hope for the sake of all those who employed him afterwards that Parry learnt a lot, a hell of a lot in fact, about what not to do in future.

Audio version of this article:

Written by Tris Burke August 21 2019 13:37:02


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