Liverpool saga heads to High Court
Not since Terry Venables and Lord Sugar took their battle for control of Spurs to the High Court has the Strand witnessed such a key moment in the history of one of England's most illustrious clubs.
Back in 1993, Lord Sugar, or Baron Sugar of Clapton to use his full title, was just plain old Alan and Venables was a footballing folk hero with the prospect of managing England at Euro 96 all to come. How innocent football seemed then.
It wasn't, of course. And it was Sugar, remember, whose satellite dishes made Sky's revolution of the Premier League possible.
But the courtroom tussle for control of Liverpool that begins on Tuesday demonstrates, perhaps even better than Portsmouth's financial collapse, the end of an era of rampant commercialism first ushered in 18 years ago by men like Lord Sugar.
When Sugar bought just under half of Tottenham in 1991, the club was valued at a little over £16m. What is at stake in the High Court on Tuesday is the sale of Liverpool to the American baseball team owner John W Henry for £300m.
That sum would be much, much more if Liverpool were not, to use the City parlance that has entered our footballing lexicon, such a distressed asset.
What Sugar and his fellow pioneers might not have foreseen all those years ago was just how damaging a problem debt would become. Nor would they have guessed just how high a price the national game would pay for the Premier League's love affair with money and the Football Association's inability to regulate the changing landscape properly.
For it is debt that has brought Liverpool to the High Court, where the Royal Bank of Scotland will argue that American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett breached the terms of a £237m loan extension by attempting to block the takeover by Henry.
With Gillett no longer really in the picture - Mill Financial, a US hedge fund, took control of his stake when he reneged on a loan he used to acquire his 50% share in the club in 2007 - Hicks is fighting hard to retain Liverpool.
As we know, it was Hicks who tried to reconstitute the Liverpool board after it decided to sell to Henry last Tuesday. He wants his son Mack Hicks and Hicks Holdings colleague Lori Kay McCutcheon to replace managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre on the board. But RBS says this is against the conditions laid down in a refinancing agreement put together in April.
If the bank succeeds in persuading Mr Justice Floyd to rule in its favour, Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton can push ahead with a second court hearing to rule on his right to approve the club's sale to Henry's New England Sports Ventures (NESV).
If RBS loses, there will effectively be no sale agreement with NESV and Liverpool will be back to square one. Such an outcome will give Hicks control of the club again but his joy may be very short-lived. On Friday, the £237m loan is due to be repaid to RBS. Unless he can come up with the money or persuade the bank to extend his credit again, then the board may be left with little alternative but to go into administration.
Peter Lim and John W Henry - will one of them become Liverpool's new owner?
That would lead to a nine-point penalty from the Premier League and possibly scare off other potential buyers, such as Peter Lim, the Singapore-based businessman revealed as the rival bidder to NESV by BBC business editor Robert Peston on Monday.
Liverpool would also become the biggest financial casualty yet of the supposedly booming English football business.
It is a sad and sorry mess. And although the Premier League must be commended for introducing tougher regulations for future owners in the last 12 months, many fans may reflect that it is too little too late to save great clubs like Portsmouth and Liverpool from the side effects of unchecked capitalism.
Even now, we learn that John W Henry has already passed the Premier League's requirements for new owners. And yet we know very little detail of his plans.
He may well be exactly the sort of owner Liverpool need but, having been burned once, the club's supporters will be right to read all the glowing backgrounders on the Red Sox owner with a high degree of caution.
And even if he does take over, how much more money will he need to find - and where will he find it from? - to finance the investment in the team and the move to a new stadium? That could be another £300m to £400m on top of the cost of buying out Hicks and Gillett (Mill Financial).
With British businessmen like Lord Sugar now out of the game - he remarked after selling his majority stake in Spurs for £22m in 2001 that Tottenham had been a "waste of my life" - it is foreign investors who still show the keenest interest in acquiring England's biggest football clubs.
And whatever happens in the High Court in the coming days, Liverpool's experience shows - again - that the game's administrators should be asking more searching questions as to why that is so and whether it is the right thing for English football.