Have Hicks and Gillett actually lied to Liverpool fans?

In the Simpsons episode Stark Raving Dad, Lisa recites a poem called ‘Meditations On Turning Eight’. It begins like so;
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I had a cat named Snowball,
He died! He died!
Mom said he was sleeping ,
She Lied! She Lied!
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Several Liverpool fan groups echo the sentiment in that last line in reference to Tom Hicks and George Gillett. As a result, thousands of Liverpool fans buy into the idea of Hicks and Gillett as being liars, most of them without really knowing the fascts behind the headlines. It’s not often you even hear their names; they’re usually referred to as the ‘Yank Liars’. When you go to the game there are banners saying as much (there’s one banner where whoever made it didn’t leave a space between ‘tell’ and ‘lies’ so it looks like they’ve branched out into TV’s Tom and George Tellies!). In Liverpool city centre, Spirit of Shankly even took out a billboard with the words ‘Debt, Lies, Cowboys’ emblazed on it.
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On Sunday 4th July, Spirit of Shankly have organised a rally called ‘Independence Day’ (this is the level of wit we’re dealing with people), where once again they’ll protest about the owners, the ‘lies’, the ’Yanks’ and anything else they can think of. This is despite the club being up for sale, so the owners will be going as soon as a satisfactory bid comes in, so protesting seems futile to me.
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I’ve just made the mistake of looking through some of the ‘fans’ forums where it’s a prerequisite to have an IQ lower than an Amoeba’s to post, and they want to burn flags again (because they didn’t look like big enough morons last time they did). Not only that, some are talking about burning Liverbirds or Red Coffins etc. There’s even talk about burning effigies of Hicks, Gillett and David Moores. Why don’t they just put hoods on and burn a cross and be done with it?
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Anyway, militant stains on society aside, many fans buy into the argument that Hicks and Gillett are liars. If you ask them why, they point to the ‘spade in the ground’ comment and the debt as ‘proof’ that they lie. Usually these are also the fans that see Hicks and Gillett as some kind of malevolent puppet-masters and Christian Purslow as a nefarious figure that probably spends his spare time dressed in a cape playing Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue’ on his pipe organ in his underground cave.
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However, is that actually the case? Have the Liverpool fans actually been lied to?
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Let’s look at ‘spade in the ground’. This is meant to be the ultimate proof of the lies spewing out of the owners’ mouths and shows why they should not be trusted. But, does it really?
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The comment itself was made by George Gillett shortly after the takeover, but lets consider the circumstances. When the new owners took over the club, there was a stadium design that had all the necessary approval required to begin, that Rick Parry had put forward. The owners assumed this would be built.
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Just take a look at how Gillett says the ‘60 days’ comment. He turns to Parry and says ”in 60 days or so?”. Hardly a cast-iron commitment is it? Should he not get the benefit of the doubt? That this may have been nothing more than a statement of intent?
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What then happened was that Hicks and Gillett got the plans reviewed by their own architects, who told them that the planned stadium was already obsolete, so the owners then scrapped the plans and had to start the whole process from scratch. That means not only redesigning the stadium, but also having to go through the planning permission process with Liverpool City Council once again. By the time this was completed, the credit crunch had happened so the owners were unable to secure the lines of credit they required to build the stadium.
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That’s why the stadium hasn’t been built. That’s why the spade didn’t go in the ground. It was because the owners looked at the original design, decided they could do better and started again. So looking at this, in my opinion, the only things Gillett is guilty of is over-enthusiasm and not looking at the stadium plans before saying anything, not of telling the fans lies.
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If you look at the Spirit of Shankly website, they claim to have the ‘proof’ of Gillett’s lying by posting a video showing one of their members ‘questioning’/ambushing him and asking about the spade in the ground. He denied making it. Now what I’ll say to that is, how many times have you been convinced you didn’t do or say something when you did? It doesn’t mean you’re lying, it means that you’ve not remembered correctly. Big difference.
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So personally, I haven’t felt lied to about the stadium. Has it been built? No. Was the spade in the ground within 60 days? No. Would I have preferred the owners to blindly press ahead with an obsolete stadium design, spending hundreds of millions on a substandard stadium just so they wouldn’t get labelled liars? No.
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As for the debt, people seem to believe that Hicks and Gillett stated the club will always be debt free. I can’t find anything to that effect. The nearest I’ve found is Gillett saying that the takeover was different to that of the Glazers at Manchester United as they had purchased the club with no debt on it and someone reported this as meaning that they would not saddle the club with debt like Glazer did to United. That’s not the same thing at all.
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So, until I see or hear something from the owners’ lips saying that the club would always be kept debt free, I don’t accept that they have lied about the debt. If you have something along those lines, please post it or send it to me. I’d be happy to take a look. My opinions are not set in stone but are a product of the evidence presented to me.
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One thing I would say to those who still believe that the owners lie to them. Rafa Benitez on more than one occasion stated we’d finish in the top 4. We didn’t. Did he lie? No. Should he be persecuted in the manner Hicks and Gillett are? No.
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I’d like to finish this by stating that when I was a kid I was always taught that a lie had to have some form of intent. The person telling you the lie has to be intentionally trying to deceive you. That’s what makes it different from an incorrect statement. So ask yourselves this. Have Hicks and Gillett in making these statements been intentionally trying to deceive you? Or have they merely said things that have not transpired?
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If you honestly feel lied to then I feel sorry for you. You must have been furious when you found out about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Livid when you found out your beloved childhood pet didn’t go to live on a farm after all.
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Hicks and Gillett have undeniably made many mistakes in their ownership of the club, but have done more good than they will ever be given credit for. There is a lot that you can legitimately criticise them for. Lying is not one of them.