Friday 15 October 2010

Twitter shines in Liverpool coverage

Extraordinary scenes in the last couple of days at Liverpool FC, with the club rapidly imploding as the disastrous owners use increasingly destructive tactics in an attempt to get a better return for their shoddy and unwanted investment. As chairman Martin Broughton and his sidekicks attempted to sell the club to John Henry and his New England Sports ventures, George Gillett and Tom Hicks slapped down an injunction in a Texas court preventing further activity, despite teh move having been approved at the High Court earlier the same day. Yesterday the (London) High Court threw that Texas judgement out, effectively forcing H&G to lift he injunction.

The injunction was lifted at about 4am Texas time, prompting a race between the board and Hicks to see who could sell first, as Hicks now wants to sell his stake to shady hedge fund Mill Financial, who already own Gillett's stake. Clearly there's an absolute deadline of 4pm to sort this whole mess out before RBS take the club into administration; aside from that, there are legal questions as to the validity of the transfer of funds and debt, from the point of view of the board, Premier League, English law, Texas law, and so on.

Hicks has become a wrecking ball, determined to destroy any sort of deal which would be in the positive interests of the club. To anyone who hadn't realised before, it has become abundantly clear that Hicks's interests are only his own, and have been since the start. He has behaved disgracefully throughout this whole process, and deserves nothing more than to take a heavy loss. If there was any question that he had any love or interest for the club whatsoever, those questions can be put to rest now.

Along with the Chilean miners' rescue - surely one of the most extraordinary human triumphs of all time - the Liverpool story has been the most incredible news story of the year. I have been gripped, mainly because the pace of change has been electric. From minute to minute the situation has changed; you might think that changing the ownership of a £100s-of-millions organisation would be a cumbersome business, but the lurches of power have been abrupt.

Perhaps it's a cliché to say this nowadays, but the LFC story has been a classic example of how social media is the best way to stay up to date with fast-paced news stories. The Guardian website has had excelletn coverage, much of it aggregating other journalists' views, but for the most timely updates, Twitter is the place to be. The #LFC hashtag has a lot of noise and commotion, but I found that the best way was to make a list of the top journalists involved with the case (Ben Smith of the Times; Rob Harris of AP; the Liverpool Echo; Oliver Kay of the Times; Dan Walker and Dan Roan of the BBC; Owen Gibson and Steve Busfield of the Guardian; and Paul Kelso of the Telegraph) along with a small handful of the most knowledgeable commentators with their ears to the ground. Basically they are mostly tweeting real-time updates of what is going on - and so you can see, at a glance, what is being said and done, and all the murmurs and rumours coming through. The TV and websites can't keep up; to see updates from a variety of sources, in real time, Twitter is the only place to be. It shows the network at its very best.

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