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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


eos0000: "1216 And All That"

'Cause you soccer fans need it

A big thanks to eos0000 for keeping the soccer tradition alive here at The News Blog - THANKS EOS!

In 1216, the French invaded England.

Forces led by Prince Louis (son of King Philip II Augustus) landed in
Kent in May; finding little resistance, they entered London within days.
But instead of fighting these foreign invaders (or even just slipping
quietly out of town), the noblemen and burghers of London decided to
throw one hell of a party for their new Capetian overlord, capping it
off by proclaiming him King of England at St. Paul's Cathedral.

(Of course, one reason for the French prince's happy reception was the
fact that he'd been invited -- the barons were once more at war with
King John, and Louis had already sent a detachment of French knights
(nowadays they'd be called "advisers") to protect London the previous

In related news, the American sports businessmen Tom Hicks and George N.
Gillett Jr. are now finalizing their takeover of Liverpool Football

Indeed, the Hicks/Gillett takeover would seem to represent a textbook
example of How To Do This Sort Of Thing. They've managed this whole
process with the cooperation of the current management and with a
minimum of acrimony (unlike the Glazers, for example); they're actually
wiping out the club's millions of pounds of debts (again, unlike the
Glazers) while putting up hundreds of millions more for a new stadium.
Even Gillett's misstep in using the F-word ("franchise") didn't seem to
dampen the optimism surrounding their arrival.

And, at least in the short term, LFC's financial prospects look
dazzling: the club already generates about $230 million/year in revenue,
and the new owners can look forward to an additional financial boost
from that planned new stadium.

But what happens after that?

Premiership clubs -- especially at this highest level -- would seem to
have already maximized most of their revenue opportunities; how much
more money could the elite clubs make from television revenues, shirt
sponsorships, merchandise sales, higher ticket prices, etc.? Even
though the current financial climate for the gigarich would seem to
argue otherwise, there must be limits to the money splashed about.
(Well, for everyone except Roman Abramovich.)

Furthermore, these revenue opportunities are performance-dependent to a
degree unknown to owners used to the comfortable franchise system of
American sports; for example, Manchester United's early elimination from
the Champions League in 2005/06 made a noticeable dent (millions of
pounds worth) in their revenue for the year. And then there's the case
of Leeds United, which has gone from the semifinals of the Champions
League in 2001 to financial ruin (initially due to the club's having
taken out loans against future revenues that failed to materialize due
to a single failure to qualify for the Champions League) to battling to
avoid relegation to the *third* level of English football.

Now, it's extremely unlikely that Hicks & Gillett could screw things up
that badly -- indeed, their best-case scenario (a new stadium plus
continued high performance on the field resulting in further revenue
growth) does seem to be a definite possibility. Their chances do seem
better than those of the Glazers at Manchester United, who have burdened
the club with hundreds of millions of pounds worth of debts; and better
than those of Randy Lerner at Aston Villa -- a club that has thus far
not been able to break into the topmost tier.

And regardless of whether Hicks & Gillett (and the Glazers, etc.)
succeed or fail, or just muddle through, or become disenchanted with
sports ownership entirely and retire to log cabins on Baffin Bay, there
are plenty of other billionaires looking to get a piece of the English
action. (Another US consortium is now eying Coventry City.) So it
seems reasonable to assume that this latest invasion of England will
continue apace.

At this point, it's hard to make any definitive predictions as to what
will happen -- indeed, the situation looks somewhat 1216-ish: there is
plenty of optimism, and plenty of reasonable reasons for that optimism
all around (both on the part of the invaders (Prince Louis/Hicks &
Gillett et al) and the gladly invaded (the barons/the Premier League).

But it may be a good idea to recall what happened to Prince Louis after
being acclaimed as king by the people of London in the spring of 1216.
With the barons flocking to his side and King John on the run, Louis
could be forgiven for thinking that he'd won the rich prize of England,
and that all that remained was the mopping up.

However, Louis failed to press the siege of Dover to a successful
conclusion, calling a truce in October and returning to London. Then
King John died; William Marshal (regent for John's son Henry III)
rallied the Plantagenet forces; the barons began to peel away from the
prince's side; finally, the nascent Royal Navy (commanded by Hubert de
Burgh from Dover) prevented the landing of any French reinforcements.

By September 1217, Louis was back in France.

(A final indignity: by the terms of the Treaty of Lambeth -- despite
having controlled much of England for a year and a half and receiving
the homage of the King of Scotland -- Louis was compelled to declare
that he had never been King of England.)


[Best wishes to Mr. Gilliard -- hoping that he recovers soon.]

- posted by eos0000