BY BEN McCAUSLAND
ME and Liverpool Football Club are going through a bad patch. Every long-term relationship has its ups and downs – I understand that – but I have felt this way for a while now and I don’t see clearer skies on the horizon. The dynamics of our relationship has changed, external parties are affecting us and the cracks are starting to show.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend in which we discussed the current malaise in our affections towards Liverpool Football Club. We talked about the reasons – Hicks and Gillett attempting to play us all for fools and very nearly getting away with it, Torres breaking our hearts and making it impossible to trust another footballer ever again, the Hodgson Hangover, the somewhat-higher-than-inflation rise in costs of match tickets and oil-rich Arab’s and Russian’s playing chicken with Platini and his FFP scheme making it harder and harder to compete all figured pretty high.
We even jokingly (drunkenly) made plans to abandon Liverpool whenever Rafa got his next management job and instead follow his new team and began to daydream of Rafa taking over at AC Milan or St Pauli. Based on recent developments at Stamford Bridge it is a good job we didn’t pinkie swear on that promise to follow Rafa, as I am not sure how welcome The Shed would make me and Kevin feel.
I have been a season ticket holder for over 15 years, and whilst I would be loath to ever give that up, am I really going to keep going when the inevitable happens and it costs me £1000 for 19 games of football?
For the last 12 years, if Liverpool were playing, chances are I would be there. Missed games were few and far between and I have had unbelievable times and made great friends thanks to Liverpool.
But if we are honest, modern football is shit.
Football fans all over the country have different reasons for getting fed up with their club – mercenary foreign owners, bankruptcy, Bill Kenwright, Milton Keynes, wallet-bleeding ticket prices to name but a few. My love affair with Liverpool is potentially on the wane due to two direct reasons – firstly Hicks and Gillett (although I am not going to go there in this piece, too raw!) almost pushing us to the brink of extinction and making me realise football is just another big-business now, and secondly, getting my heart broken by Fernando Torres.
In 2008, an Evertonian friend of mine said that “not since the heyday of Bowie have so many grown men been so ridiculously in love with an androgynous twat”, and he was right (although I disagreed with the “twat” part, at the time), we were head over heels, daydream about, want to be mates with, IN LOVE with him. And didn’t he know it. Looking back now, akin to a scorned lover looking through old texts from an ex, the flowery prose with which he waxed lyrical about the “bond” he has with the supporters, his love for the city and his book – with a Liverbird on the cover – which was basically a love letter to Liverpool, now all just seems so hollow and made our split all the more painful.
I saw Torres as “one of us”, in a way that Fowler was and Owen wasn’t, he was Spanish but he “got it”, he understood what it mean to play for us, and when he left us he took all trust I would ever have for footballers with him.
I’ll be honest, it has given me an almost perverse pleasure in seeing Fernando struggle since he left, and to use the ex-girlfriend analogy again, it’s been like watching the ex get fat and start seeing some lad you know she thinks is a dickhead. And whilst Torres can point to 3 major trophies won since he left us, I can point to minutes on the pitch and decisive contributions made in those competitions *coughPegguyArphexadcough*.
I can’t lie, it has been especially difficult to see Rafa make his return to management with the thoroughly undeserving Chelsea, and even worse that he just might be the man to get Torres close to his 08/09 pomp.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the LFC / Torres break-up has left me with some emotional detachment issues in that I can’t (or won’t) form another bond with a player like that again. I see Suarez doing what he does but I can’t give him the adulation I once would have, because at the back of mind I am thinking “well, he’ll be off soon”.
A third reason is the atmosphere, and the general “match day experience” at English football. The Guardian, and in particular Raphael Honigstein, don’t help either – with their seemingly endless supply of articles detailing the many ways in which the Bundesliga is superior to our own Premier League.
Safe standing areas? You got it.
Have a beer watching the match? Why of course!
€190 for a season ticket? Why would you pay any more?
Clubs owned by its fans? Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Barring a few occasions each season, watching Premier League football is a very sterile experience. By all accounts going to the match in the 70’s and 80’s was at times a terrifying and disturbing experience, and no-one wants a return to those days. But does it have to be so far the other way that these days the person standing up, singing and enjoying themselves is in the minority?
I have only been to one German League game, a 2.Bundesliga game between St Pauli and Bochum. To be honest, the standard of football was solid gold shite, but watching the performance of both sets of fans was seriously impressive. Also standing, with a beer, was a rare treat.
Obviously the issue of standing at football is a hugely emotive one for Liverpool, but I for one would love to see a Safe Standing Area implemented in the Kop. Where my season ticket is there is probably 20 rows of people who stand for every game – at the big games the entire Kop remains on its feet – and when a goal goes in there are people going arse over tit over the seat in front, shins cut to ribbons and general mayhem. The presence of seats in these situations does in fact add to the problem.
For as long as ticket prices keep rising and rising, and the “fun-levels” of going to the match keep decreasing, (a friend of mine recently referred to going to Anfield as “a chore”), more and more what I would term “proper fans” will be turning away from football, resulting in further diluted atmospheres.
I would like to say that this will eventually result in dwindling attendances, thereby forcing the clubs to actually have to work to sell tickets, but the most recent survey of ticket pricing suggests that this is some way from happening unfortunately.
A direct knock-on from this is the disappearing characters from our support. I went to both the Moscow and Udinese away games recently and it struck me that there was a lot of faces missing that in years gone by would have been nailed on to be out there. So many of the old guard who helped make our support so famous and unique are choosing not to bother anymore, and the exorbitant ticket prices are making it massively difficult for the new breed to go regularly enough to establish themselves.
The working class are being squeezed out and the homogenisation of supporters is well under way.
My love for Liverpool hasn’t been shaken as much as yours has, possibly due to the fact I live 250 miles away and can’t get up as much as I would like, so the hits you’ve taken are softened slightly.
I would say though my love affair with football as a whole has taken a huge hit in the past 2/3 years. This season I decided to start watching NFL much more regularly and after only 14 weeks I am already enjoying that much more than watching any game on TV that doesn’t involve Liverpool.
Your point about football feeling sterile is spot on, its hard to say what specifically has brought the change around, its a whole host of things including, but not exclusive to, the things you’ve listed above.
Of course, NFL is a pretty sterile too, but at least its openly sterile. They are happy to refer to their teams as franchises or organisations, its rather harsh, but at least the feeling of being hoodwinked by the fat-cats in charge is absent.
Outstanding piece. 100%, nail on head. What to know the worst part, which is eluded to in the piece? Nothing will change, not until it has all gone to shit already.
Spot on piece totally agree. As a boycotting Cardiff fan I know this feeling all too well, the change of shirt colour was my tipping point and the new stadium killed the atmosphere and match day experience for me anyway. I do plan to return to watch but only if the blue shirts are restored regardless of what league the club is
Sums up exactly how I feel about Liverpool and football in general. Anfield has been a chore for a while now and I can’t see it improving. £50 for a match day is a ridiculous amount of money and it’s finally forced me out of going to the match.
On the standing issue in 305 I never sit down and if I’m being asked to pay through the nose for a ticket then I feel entitled to have the choice between a safe standing rail-seated or standard seated area of the stadium.
Lower divisions and rugby league are allowed standing areas, it is time to bring safe standing the premier league and the atmospheres back with it.
The ironic thing is that all those who think it will be a ‘return to the dark days’ are holding back the natural evolution of ground safety by forcing those people who want to stand to do so in a currently unsafe environment.
Very good piece that captures the way I feel about footy in general at the moment. The atmosphere on match days is abysmal at times and I very rarely feel like I’m getting value for money. It does seem a long way off, but I do feel we are reaching a tipping-point where the money men are starting to wake up to the folly of alienating the average working man. When the likes of City and Newcastle are often struggling to sell out then the main selling points of the ‘passion and drama’ of the Premier League start to look like pretty hollow claims. And, as you say, the rise of the Bundesliga is simply going to exaggerate the weaknesses in our league. Especially as the Champions League suggests that the standard of play in the league is already surpassing ours.
I also understand the fact that Torres was a watershed moment for you but I do wonder if it’s not partly because it coincided with our dramatic decline towards mediocrity. It’s possible that if we somehow find ourselves competing for major honours again in the near future we might look back and wonder why we thought some millionaire from Madrid would care more about us than another club offering him a chance to double his wages. If McManaman and Owen could do it, why not him?
This is a cracking piece on a topic we’ll be hearing a lot more of over the next few years. Well in.
“The working class are being squeezed out and the homogenisation of supporters is well under way.”
I think this will be an increasing development in this century and football belongs to the working classes, the ordinary folk. Its heroes in playing and management have long come from the working classes but more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Fantastic article and maybe, just maybe Liverpool fans can point to our club as a way to do things on and off the pitch. I know the owners are businessmen but it’d be nice to think that the club is being taken care of, handled in the right way. It’s similar to not being able to change the world but being in a position to put your family on the right path.
Maybe football in England will continue to progress as it has but hopefully Liverpool football club won’t be an overwhelming part of an increasingly depressing tale.
Great Read. I for one fell exactly the same. I average 3 games a season since 2001, which effectively makes me a day tripper! ( i Say through gritted teeth)
I grew up in the 90’s watching LFC and not missing a home match between 94/95- 99/00 and as we all know it wasnt the best period to be a match going red.
Saying that, I loved it, ok 1 week we would draw to bloody Coventry 0-0 then the next week we would beat City 6-0, but that was the fun of it.. we were always close enough each season to give us some false hope but never quite made it…..
I loved the fact i went with my dad and his mates, i was a teenager going to the match having a sly pint and having a great laugh and the ticket would cost me (well my dad) £12ish … and although LFC were up and down there were some great moments… Both 4-3s V NUFC… that 2-2 V Them lot up the road and we left signing ‘you lost the league on merseyside’ (how wrong we were!)
I bought 3 tickets last season which cost near enough £150 by the time I had been to the matches id dropped another £200…
I dislkie modern football for the following reasons..
Weekly wages that cold buy my house!
Talk Sports and the dickheads that claim to be LFC ‘fans’
Ticketing systmes that make no sense..
Memebership for £35+ just to have the ‘right’ to buy a ticket!
and that fucking slogan WE COME NOT TO PLAY tops the lot!
I was at that Coventry match. That was when Strachan was player-manager and came out to warm up and also shout instructions to the team if I remember right. :) For me it was when Xabi left, that I think was when we seemed to lose the edge, the interest in success..after that it’s been all about the dollah.
When Newcastle played at Anfield a couple of months back, reds were rightly kicking off about the old “you’ll never get a job” nonsense, but I was surprised that lots were also saying “you’d think they’d know better comin from the north east”. Is it really a surprise? Who the fuck can afford to be a travelling football fan these days? Not many ex coal miners that’s for sure. Doesn’t matter which club, the majority are a fat old middle managers trying to relive their glory days. Soon they’ll be retiring and then football’s properly fucked
Brilliant summary of how most real fans feel. Nail, head, as Phil stated earlier.
I was lucky enough to go to a few games in the mid 80’s on the original Kop, proper fun that was. First time I went I was astounded by the noise, and that was just a mid week League Cup game against Coventry, battered them of course, 4-0 I think it was.
It’s way past time to implement safe standing areas, they’re key to getting some of the ticket prices down for us working class folks not to mention massively improving the atmosphere.
My 15 yr old son’s been quite a few times but he’s so envious of me being lucky enough to watch the greatest teams in our history, but almost as much, the standing and shouting till your hoarse in a sea of people all roaring the team on. Oh for a time machine!
If they ever get their much sought after winter break then that’ll be it for me. This business quickly needs to remember & understand that they are in the entertainment industry & not living in the real world like the rest of us.
Fantastic! Best article I’ve read on any website !!
Regards atmosphere: why do you have to sit in same seat. A first in First Served policy would ensure friends sitting together and therefore more likely to come up with funny songs/chants, etc,etc…. just a thought.
Spot on Ben … agree with all your reasons H&G , Rafa treatment and Torres ..
personally never got over the clubs shite ticket allocation policy for Athens – fucking disgrace that split groups of lads up – every corporate ticket holder guaranteed a ticket meaning they were valued more than ordinary fans – realised that I meant nothing to them after giving them my undevoted attention all of my life.
The change that comes with increasing wealth is inevitable. If you had a business, you would want to make more money if you could.
And a business doesn’t respond to emotion typically. If it can sell at a higher price then it does. It’s happened to all commercial attractions, especially the kiddy market.
What you can’t accuse the business of is taking the money and running. The club spends, every year.
And money going to players is an example of the worker getting the rewards not the corporation. Pretty unusual in a capitalist world, even if it is extreme amounts.
But it’s not really extreme in the entertainment industry.
Your emotional commitment is natural, but at the end of the day, you pay for an experience that’s it. The next person to pay for it may get a totally different experience, that’s just how it is. Your’s is no more valid than their’s.
The industry has found a way through marketing and increasing wealth in society to raise the sport’s profile and the value of the game. That change will continue, it’s human nature, as we move to European leagues – that will subordinate the domestic league.
It remains to be seen if it becomes a hollowed out game, the international popularity would suggest not even if it isn’t the game you once loved.
Now if we would only buy Diame, I might get excited again…..
We would be naive to think the only reason a club buys new star players is as a generous payback to the fans (workers? they are not the workers more like the ever squeezed funding source) and that this is in some way a rare feat in a capatalist world. The reason money is given to buy star players is to help the team perform well and succeed, to keep other star players happy and to appease the manager’s requests, all in order to produce success and higher returns. I’d say this is the case for all clubs apart from the rare case of the rich Oligarch or Sheikh who can do it solely to gain success for their own pleasure or the lower league rich owner who has a true love for a particular team.
Working class fans following football are being squeezed, especially at the highest level but no limited too it, and a new set of fans are filling their space. The situation at the The Emirates typifies this, it’s nearly £2000 for the best season ticket and close to £1000 for the chepeast!? The short sighted nature of this is that the new wealthy bit part fans who are snapping up all the season tickets regularly don’t turn up to matches and leave empty seats and the accompanying lack of atmosphere.
Who saw the piece about the solitary Udinese fan who was the only one to travel to an away watch against Sampdoria? This is a half decent Serie A match and although a 4 hour trip, it’s hardly like driving to Southampton! I can see similar happening in England for a great number of teams and I wonder how the overpaid execs at the clubs will handle it.
I honestly have no idea how it’s going to go but surely financially things can’t continue at the rate they are going in football, it could all get messy in a few years…
Spot on about Torres. One of my many failings is that I am inclined to be mean-spirited, and I LOVE Torres’ unhappiness. Furthermore, he has lost that little edge of speed that Owen also lost. Torres is ponderous these days; oh, he’ll score, but he’s not OUR Torres…that is, the Torres we thought was ours…Rafa will bring him back to being a fair to middling good striker only. He is a shot bolt, for mine.
The United States has a President in his second term who will receive no support for his plans from the House or the Senate Repulicans and will therefore pass little, if any, legislation. This makes him a ‘lame duck’ President.
Similarly; we have lame duck owners. They will manage, guide and steer our club but to what end? There aren’t exactly wild cries of support for the owners from much of the fanbase – large sections of which have already made up their minds that we’re being scrubbed-up to sell in a few years.
I too have never felt so disconnected from LFC, who I first saw play 35 years ago. Yes modern football as a whole is shit but I don’t really care about that. people moan about wages and cars and houses etc but I have no beef with the players or clubs regarding that matter. Your beef is with Sky for it is they who have introduced the funds to the market.
It’s things such as the constant stopping of the game for so-called ‘fouls’ that wind me up. Tackling and strength are slowly being sanitized from the game. If you are strong and clever enough to turn your body and roll an opponent and emerge with the ball as he spins to the ground then you are a very good footballer indeed. Not so according to the FA who will punish that skill, strength and vision with a free kick to your opponent.
Yes football is a bag of wank compared to the game some of us grew up playing and watching. But ultimately who gives a shit? Life moves on and things change. What I’m more pissed off about is Liverpool.
For decades I’ve wondered at what a pointless experience it must be supporting clubs like Spurs or Villa amongst others. Each season you have no expectation of winning anything and usually fulfill those expectations. Paragons of mediocrity both.
I now know what a pointless experience that is having watched the single greatest football club in the world slip into a mediocrity from which under these owners there is a less than zero chance of emerging.
My love for LFC and my fellow Redmen will never diminish. We’re a brotherhood and a family and in my opinion we’re the luckiest fans in the world to be part of a fanbase like that.
But for on the pitch matters – the passion has gone for me. I WANT to support the club with the same passion I’ve always felt, but I just can’t ‘get it up’ so to speak. I have nothing against Tom and John or Brendon. But they aren’t the owners I want and he isn’t the manager I want and frankly half the squad can do one as well.
I don’t subscribe to this view that’s out there that Tom and John saved us from destruction. They may well have done that, but if they hadn’t then some other loser would have and that gratitude to them on my part was genuine but did not live more than a few months into their tenure. Why would it? I’m certainly not going to still be here after all this time thanking them and letting that gratitude prejudice my views of them now.
They simply are not wealthy enough to own both the Sox and us. We started again under Souness, Evans, Houllier, Rafa, Roy, Kenny, Brendon. Anyone else sick to fucking death of starting again? Anyone else rather be in the middle of an epic unfolding journey similar to the one Baconface has been riding up the road?
While FSG own Liverpool I’m sure we will continue to operate as a sensible business, maybe make slight improvements on the pitch etc. But if finishing in the top 6 makes your tip wet then really – you ain’t no Liverpool fan are you? I don’t see any difference between going through the Roy kenny and Brendon sagas and going through the Souness, Evans and Houllier saga.
It’s no wonder we haven’t won the league for more than 20. We’re still stuck in exactly the same place as we were more than 20 years ago:
With owners who lack vision and enough funds.
A manager who under no circumstances will ever attain the neccessary gravitas or aura to manage Liverpool FC.
A squad full of average players.
Will I keep turning up, will I keep buying shirts and merchandise etc? Will I support LFC with every ounce of my fibre each day in the same way I have since I was a boy? Of course I will, most of us will.
But, will it feel the same awesome way when I do it?
And the worst thing is; I don’t know when it will again.
I get this.
I took my kids around the museum just after Kenny was sacked, the league cup was on ‘display’ in a corner on the floor.
Winning a trophy and cup finals are no longer important, at that moment I realised that the values of LFC had changed to the point that I no longer understood them, the club has moved on and left me in its void, yes I still follow (from afar) but I am not quite sure what I follow anymore.
Like you say, I also used to think how shite it must be to support a team that year after year never challenged for the title. Even though I still get excited before every game, there’s a sense of dread hanging over my support thinking that we’re becoming one of those teams.
football has been ruined in one word – MONEY
I only partly agree.
Ticket prices and the way the fans are made to feel they ‘own’ the club – or rather don’t – are killing the football event. It is a marvellous social, public event, one of the few in an increasingly globalised and ‘private’ world – or it really is nothing.
As for our appalling recent history, it has simply made me a more passionate Liverpool fan.
I once fell out with LFC. Actually it wasnt so much LFC it was down to (a perhaps not so) irrational hatred for the Premiership – right from the off. In simple terms, before it disappeared off terrestrial, football felt more of a National Sport.
But the Hicks and Gillet saga – of which Torres is surely a part – seemed such an outrage that it completed a movement back into the fold. Similarly for the orgy of hippocracy and ignorance that was/is the media treatment of Suarez.
So this is the Premiership? This is Sky’s brave new world ? This the FA ? This is football ? This is effing England ? I’m not from the North West, but have found myself increasingly detached and cynical with the mainstream in a way I used to wonder at coming from people from the North West.
Above all there was another event, also over 20 years ago that takes it out of football all together. A stark contrast between the very worst of the modern Establishment and the very best of what we all stand to lose at our peril.
By chance it happened to LFC. But looking around I think I would have felt the same way if it happened to another club.
So really, I understand your cynicism and jaded affection, but its not excusable. Actually – and, as I said, I went through something similar 2 decades ago – it’s pathetic.
What I’ve realised is that a personal passion, a social flame, shouldn’t be something you think of as being provided or thwarted by somebody else. It starts with YOU, and when you get this the miracle is others will join you.
Football isn’t the most important thing in the world, but its magic is that through it we often find what is. If you have a love, a passion, you never walk alone.
Great post that sums up how many of us feel.
I don’t particularly hero-worship players and so don’t get over upset when they move on; which is not to say that I wasn’t hugely disappointed by Torres’ departure.
What I would add though is my disillusionment with those anti-Rafa Reds who aided and abetted the media by contributing to his exit. Look at where we are now compared to when he was in charge. A top man and manager who loves the club – and now we have to look on as he manages scum-bags Chelsea. Dreadful….
I empathise and I have a partial solution: support AFC Liverpool, a proper grass roots club where tickets are affordable and they were founded on the same traditions of their more illustrious namesake.
While it is true that the quality of football and everything else is less entertaining, with enough support, who’s to say they can’t follow the lead of Wimbledon or someone like that?
It’s a proper community club, they win games and lose games, they are Scouse and they play in red. It means you will have to go to games rather than watch them on TV, and there is less star power, but it will cure all that ails you in the Premier League.
No offence intended.
Great post. The Torres thing hit me hard, mainly because I never saw it coming. I just could not understand why he would leave a club like Liverpool to go to a club like Chelesa. I still don’t really get it, but then money is not the most important thing in my life like it seems to be to some footballers.
And when it comes to winning things, I also don’t get why you would want to win a trophy at any club you can. Why? It’s not an individual sport, you’re not a 200m sprinter competing against other individuals for a prize. In football, winning is winning as a team, and if you’re at a team you have no connection with, then doesn’t that make it less special? Doesn’t winning become nothing more than giving you the opportunity to say “I won ‘x’ trophy in my career?”
Instead of the much more meaningful “I won the league with my boyhood club.” Or “I won the Champions League with the team and fans I hold most dear (aka Torres before he left).”
I’m not out of love with football, but I’ve never been so depressed and angered by it. The fact that by some luck of the arbitrary draw, Chelsea received a billionaire owner willing to have the club make a year on year loss and be just fine with that, continuing to pump millions and millions into it, and we got a couple of cowboys just fine with driving the club into oblivion if it meant they could make a buck, how can you possibly feel passionate about the game as you used to?
It’s no longer about the draw of the club, what it stands for, what its fans are about, its history and its vision. Bottom line is, you will not win anymore unless you have a billionaire behind you. And even if Liverpool had a billionaire, it wouldn’t mean as much. Leveling the playing field might make footballers and owners less money, but it would make the game competitive, real, and emotional again. I’d take that over what is going on now any day.