LONDON – The Premier League approved the proposed sale of Liverpool to the American owners of the Boston Red Sox on Friday, and could end up docking the club nine points if the takeover falls through.
The league said in a statement that New England Sports Ventures, which runs the Red Sox, meets the requirements for owning the storied English club.
"The Premier League is satisfied, with the information provided, that the individuals NESV intend to put in place in the event they complete their takeover of Liverpool FC meet the criteria set out in our Owners' and Directors' Test," it said.
However, the $476 million takeover is not yet final and is set to be settled in court.
"We are aware that the formal completion of this takeover is yet to be resolved," the league said.
American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. are opposed to the Red Sox bid, which they say "dramatically undervalues" the club. Liverpool's three other board members, who have no shares in the club, are going to court next week to try to force the sale through.
The owners face a deadline next Friday to repay bank loans and penalty charges of around $455 million.
If the court rules against the takeover and Hicks and Gillett can't refinance their liabilities, the club's holding company — Kop Football — may be forced into financial administration, a form of bankruptcy protection.
Under Premier League rules, a team that goes into financial administration faces a 9-point penalty deduction — a sanction imposed last season on Portsmouth before it was relegated. Liverpool is already mired in the relegation zone after its worst start to a league season since 1953.
For now, though, the league has approved the suitability of the Red Sox ownership group led by financier John Henry to run Liverpool.
"The Premier League has met with the owners and directors of New England Sports Ventures (NESV) regarding their proposed takeover of Liverpool FC and has received details, in accordance with Premier League Rules, of the proposed company and ownership structure as well as the makeup of the new board," the league said.
The sale to the Red Sox owners would leave Hicks and Gillett with a loss of around $223 million on their investment in the club.
The Boston investors are pledging to invest money to wipe out Liverpool's debts and revitalize the team.