It has been a curious summer for the “club across the water”. Tranmere Rovers, just over the River Mersey from Liverpool and Everton, ended last season having just missed out on a play-off place in League One after dropping two points at home to Scunthorpe United on the final day season. They sacked manager Ronnie Moore at the start of June and replaced him with John Barnes, and one might have expected them to have had a quiet summer working on how they could improve on their league position this time around. Their plans, however, have been disrupted this week by the news that they have been put up for sale… on Ebay.
The sorry seems to stem from owner Peter Johnson’s attempts to attract investment in the club. He engaged the services of an American company called Dornoch Capital, but Dornoch seem to have misunderstood what exactly was expected of them and put the club up for sale on the auction website with a starting price at $10m. The advertisement itself does make for intriguing reading. It makes a point of noting that the Tranmere has “zero indebtedness in a period when English Football is in the process of de-gearing/de-leveraging”, which is a pretty damning (yet hardly unfair) description of the current state of English football, and lists the ability to “upgrade the fan experience in food/beverage” as one of their interests, which would seem to indicate that Tranmere supporters either suffer from appalling catering at the moment or that they deserve catering that is a cut above what everyone else is used to.
For Peter Johnson, this was not quite what he expected when he approached Dornoch Capital. In an interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, he said that, “It’s totally inappropriate. We immediately e-mailed them and said ‘take it off right away'”, and that, “It’s not a second-hand bike we’re selling”. Johnson appeared level-headed enough to agree that Ebay was perhaps not the best way to advertise that the club is effectively for sale and that, in this case, the bad publicity is outweighing the good in terms of advertising the sale of the club. In this respect, he is right. Supporters of other clubs are wasting no time in having a good old laugh at Tranmere’s expense and, more importantly, the very fact that the club was put up for sale in this manner may deter serious investors. If you had, say £10m to throw at a lower division football club, would you throw it at the one that was put up for sale on Ebay?
Roughly this time last year, we said on this site that the coming financial upheaval would see a rise in the number of weird and wacky schemes being put forward by football clubs to “increase revenue streams”, and we’ve already had to bat away a ten team Premier League and Premier League 2. The spectre of renewed talk of a European Super League remains on the horizon, as well. This story sits at the harmless end of the spectrum, and it seems to be a simple case of a company fundamentally misunderstanding what their clients’ instructions were. It may even provide John Barnes with a new way of imposing his authority upon his squad – “Buck your ideas up or you’ll be going on there with no reserve”.