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The key questions . . .

So Liverpool have been sold to the owners of the Boston Red Sox. Is it a done deal?

Not yet. The deal has been agreed in principle and in detail between Liverpool's chairman Martin Broughton and by the New England Sports Ventures (NESV) firm headed by John W Henry, but it is subject to a legal challenge by Liverpool's incumbent American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

NESV have tabled a bid worth £300m that will, essentially, wipe out most of Liverpool's debt -- with cash, not borrowed money -- and have promised they will develop a big new stadium, either at Anfield or elsewhere, location to be decided later.

NESV have a good track record at the Red Sox, having transformed the franchise into a successful, profitable, valuable asset.

But they can't get their hands on Liverpool until Hicks and Gillett's legal challenge is dealt with.

What are Hicks and Gillett arguing about?

They say Broughton had no right to agree a sale which will oust them with combined losses of £140m from their time in charge.

They argue that they sacked two of Broughton's fellow board members, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, before that pair and Broughton could vote 3-2 against them to sell the club.

They will challenge in the British High Court Broughton's right to have sold the club on that 3-2 vote. The case should be heard and finished before the end of next week.

Who will win?

Broughton says his lawyers insist that legally only he had the power to sack board members -- thus Hicks and Gillett cannot have legally sacked Purslow and Ayre, meaning the 3-2 vote of sale to NESV was valid.

Hicks and Gillett will argue that Liverpool was their club and it cannot be sold beneath them. But Hicks and Gillett's case is likely to be undermined because according to Broughton, they effectively signed away control when he was appointed earlier this year.

That appointment was made specifically so Broughton could find a buyer for the club and to appease RBS, to whom Hicks and Gillett owe £237m.

What if Broughton/Liverpool win the case?

Then NESV will take control of Liverpool sharpish, within a couple of weeks at most, and begin the process of trying to turn around the fortunes of the slumbering 18-times champions of England.

And what if the Broughton camp loses?

If the judgment goes in the Americans' favour, the decision to sell to NESV will be nullified and two Hicks allies (including son Mack) will replace Purslow and Ayre on the board.

Then, with a 15 October deadline to repay RBS looming, Hicks and Gillett will continue to make a last desperate attempt to find anyone in the world who will lend them about £300m to pay off RBS. They will almost certainly fail in that search.

If they do fail, what happens next?

RBS will call in their loans, Hicks and Gillett will be unable to pay, and the club ownership will transfer briefly to RBS, and Liverpool could enter technical administration, and RBS will seek a buyer (knowing there is one in place in the form of NESV).

Will Liverpool be docked nine points by the Premier League for entering administration?

No, because they'll only be in administration for technical reasons and in all likelihood, NESV will buy the club within a day or two from RBS. The Premier League has already said there would be no nine-point penalty in those circumstances. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent