Liverpool: A message to those who opposed the ticket protest

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Sunderland AFCIF you’ve ever read an article I’ve written for the Anfield Wrap, you’ll know they are rare and tend only to appear when I have something to say that I have to get out of my head in order to get some sleep, writes PAUL COPE.

Well, it’s 2.30am the morning after the ticket protest and I have something to say which anyone who opposed the protest should read for one main reason: on Saturday at midday I was one of you. I have close mates and family who disagreed with the protest as well.

This may take some time, but stick with me for a minute. I think it’s necessary to give you some background before going on.

I’m 35 and have been going to Anfield since before I can remember. My dad used to carry me with him to his seat in the Paddock and I’d sit on his knee for free.

The man on the turnstile said hello to me every week and my dad used to tell everyone I was his lucky mascot. In fairness, I must have been pretty lucky because I’m talking about 1982 to 1989 and I believe we did OK for trophies in that period even though I don’t remember much of it.  (Those of you who are good at maths will realise my dad was still bunking me into games when I was nine, which admittedly was pushing it even for the 80s.)

I do remember, though, the feeling of walking out into a massive stadium full of colour and noise, and I remember being in love with it.

I remember my heart beating with the excitement of going to the match with my dad and, on the days when I couldn’t go, I remember standing at the end of my nan’s path on Pinehurst Avenue, just down the road from the stadium, asking fellas as they walked past after the game who scored and what the goals were like after hearing the roars from the ground carrying on the wind in the 90 minutes that had gone before.

Feature - Breakfield Road North in LiverpoolI remember graduating from the Paddock to the standing Kop with my mates for a couple of seasons, then doing everything I could once the Kop had gone to get into as many matches as possible.

I remember bunking off sixth form in 1997 to get tickets for a match, getting bollocked when the head of the year (a bluenose) caught me and my mate, but getting away with it when he asked with a wink “Did you get the tickets though, lads?”.

I was in Istanbul when I was 25. Still the pinnacle of my love affair with The Reds. I made a banner, it was boss.

But, like I say, I’m 35 now. I’m jaded. I’ve worked my bollocks off for years in the adult world.

Going to the match has lost a lot of its appeal and I’d stop going if I wasn’t sitting with two of my mates and laughing our way through years of shit games.

I’m a lawyer by trade, although I’ve recently packed that in during the first of what I hope will be many mid-life crises. Being a lawyer has its advantages, like being able to talk me and my mates out of situations that most people would consider impossible.

I’ve pulled off some good tricks in the last 10 years that I’ll tell you about over a pint at some point if I see you. The best one involves a cup final, a load of ale, five lads bunking into one room, a mate sleeping in the corridor thinking it was another bedroom in the middle of the night, a report of a potential criminal offence and, ultimately, the hotel manager apologising to me the next morning for any offence he caused to us by daring to question our sleeping arrangements the next morning

Anyway, the point is that being a lawyer has its upsides, but the massive downside is that it makes you analyse everything to the nth degree from the most cynical view point imaginable.

I basically don’t believe a word anyone says.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Sunderland AFCThe problem with that is that it makes it extremely difficult to get behind any cause, because you can always pick it apart and show why it’s completely futile and/or why it has no basis whatsoever (I used the “and/or” just to prove that I was a lawyer…).

So when I heard about the planned ticket protest I thought “here we go again, another protest that will do nothing other than cause divisions in the fan base and get us nowhere”.

I think in modern times many people have become apathetic to everything because of so many public unveilings of people in places of responsibility abusing their positions through self interest or because they’ve been corrupted.

That, in turn, leads to people not believing anyone or getting behind anything because “you know, what’s the point, they’re all as bad as each other”.

I think an element of that now follows Spirit of Shankly and other supporter groups.

There are only so many times you can argue publicly against the status quo without at least a portion of the public labelling you as militants or trouble causers, and I have to admit that when I hear of unrest from these groups I don’t immediately get out my suit of armour and jump on my horse ready to go into battle.

Often, the problem is that most of us don’t get to hear the intricate details of what has gone on behind the scenes that has led to any particular issue, and that usually means that whoever has the best PR machine tends to win the public perception of what happened.

That perception can also be divided depending on what sources people derive their information from.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Sunderland AFCMost disputes I’ve ever advised clients on originate, ultimately, from miscommunication or misinformation somewhere down the line, and perception beats truth hands down most of the time in the real world.

So, back to the protest. I go to the match with two good mates. One had already decided he wasn’t going for other reasons before the protest was announced, but I don’t think he would have participated if he was going. I sent a message to my other mate on Saturday morning asking what his plan was.

He said he was probably going to the game and probably walking out on 77.

At midday on Saturday I’d decided that I didn’t know enough about the facts behind the dispute between the club and fan groups and as a matter of principle I wasn’t going to either join in with a protest I couldn’t be sure was right or refuse to join in for fear that it was.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my ignorance or in my desire not to blindly follow a crowd, so the decision I’d made was that I wouldn’t go to the match at all, leaving the seats empty and not having to decide either way.

Then I stopped for a few minutes and thought about Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

I’m embarrassed now to say that in the middle of the Hicks and Gillett era I was completely apathetic to the whole thing. I was busy running a business and didn’t get involved enough to realise how much damage these two loud Americans were doing to our club, so I did nothing.

I stood back and watched others protest and shout from the rooftops, without supporting their actions until the very end.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Arsenal FCAt the end of those dark days, I remember questioning how much spending my days as a busy, cynical lawyer was impacting on how I deal with these things in life, and telling myself that I would never allow that to happen again.

I think what Spirit of Shankly and other supporter groups did for this club during those days is too easily forgotten.

I visited Vietnam at the end of last year and it reminded me how little we actually learn from history, given that western nations still take to bombing the hell out of smaller countries in an attempt to bring them round to our way of thinking without so much as a thought to past lessons.

Unfortunately it seems our last run in with owners has done little to keep people on their toes.

So, I decided to start reading. I visited this website and read Adam Smith’s article.

I was surprised to hear that he’d done something similar to me during the Hicks and Gillett years.

I wonder how many people reading this now would be brave enough to admit the same thing? Not many I’d guess.

It always surprises me how I can never find anyone who will admit to booing Lucas Leiva all those years ago, or booing Rafa’s Mighty Reds when a home draw took them top of the league.

I then read Jay McKenna’s article and listened to him, Robbo and Rob on a podcast discussing it.

And here’s the kicker. Having read and listened to it all, I understood the protest but I disagreed with the headline point that was being used to try to bring us together in support of it.

For what it’s worth this is my take on it.

Liverpool Football Club is in a unique position in football. It has a supply far too small to meet the demand of its “customers” and is a £300m business run by people who continue to make massive PR blunders.

How anyone within the walls of Chapel Street could think that they could price any seat inside Anfield at £77 and not create huge negative headlines and unrest is naive at best and idiotic at worst but (and this is where I think the headline argument against the price change has gone wrong) the biggest issue is that the £77 ticket price is a complete red herring.

It seems like an easy target but the problem it brings is that having that as your headline point means it’s easy for the club to come out with the riposte that there are only a limited number of those tickets and they’re needed to offset all of the reduced tickets they’re so ‘generously’ giving away.

Ultimately, most tickets are already too expensive anyway, so having a few prices at £77 instead of £56 is neither here nor there for most supporters who would never buy them and don’t care if someone is daft enough to do so.

The other red fish filling the box are the £9 tickets, the free tickets to local school kids and the “majority of tickets have been frozen or reduced” line.

They’re just the headlines that the club wanted its PR machine to create to distract everyone from the main event.

From what I’ve read from the ticket groups and the statements from Ian Ayre, the key point we should all be focussing on is this: according to the figures from the supporter group that spent 13 months in meetings with the club, if the pricing structure had stayed the same as it is now, the new stand would mean total revenue from Anfield would be £37million.

The new pricing structure actually means that the revenue will be £39m. A figure that was arbitrarily set by our owners as the amount they wanted to make from ticket sales.

So, when the headline-grabbing low and high numbers for individual tickets are all put into the wash, what comes out the other end is a net increase in ticket prices to watch Liverpool at Anfield. A net increase to a pricing structure that is already pricing out a large portion of supporters.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t see any rational argument as to why squeezing an extra £2m out of fans going to the game makes a blind bit of difference to how well we operate as a business or as a football club.

Signing new players some will say? So that £2m from us would have brought Alexis Sanchez in, or Alex Teixeira? Really?

The club might say that it’s ok though, because the extra money will come from people who can afford to pay it. That simply misses the point of what I understand the ticketing group was trying to achieve, and what we should all be supporting.

The biggest issue I have with the £2m overall increase though, is that if I was to develop a product that I could pitch to the commercial heads of our club that gave them a vastly increased chance of Anfield’s atmosphere going back to the way it used to be, which would result in an extra 10 points a season through the direct impact it has on the team as well as a direct impact on revenue through more commercial deals and more TV appearances because of everyone wanting to be associated with the famous Anfield atmosphere, what do you think they would say?

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Group K MD6 - Liverpool FC v FC UtrechtWhat if I said to them that this product would cost £2m a year? Or even £4m?

Would it be worth that investment considering the returns it could bring?

I’d say they’d bite my hands off for a product like that, and yet they won’t buy it when it’s presented as substantial reduced ticket prices for supporters. Twenty thousand reduced price tickets and 1,000 free tickets for local kids over the entire season represents a tiny percentage of the total available tickets. Hardly atmosphere saving or ground-breaking is it?

I know what many of you will say, and the sad fact is I partly agree with you. This protest and others like it are likely to have no impact in reality. We hear there have been meetings and there may be a change. But they already have our money this season and if we stop going someone else will take our places.

It’s true. The economic reality of football these days is that we’re all fucked and this battle is stacked against us from the start.

That’s what I thought at midday on Saturday as well, but then I remembered that I’m not one for believing in “reality” and this club wasn’t built on people accepting reality as an unchangeable fact, neither was this city.

How many great changes throughout history have come about by one person making a stand against the reality of the day and others following?

The truth is we’re all late to the party on this. I heard Robbo say that his kids are about seven now and they’re already interested in other things.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Third Qualifying Round 2nd Leg - Liverpool FC v FC GomelWe’ve already lost a generation of die-hard supporters. We’ve already lost thousands of boys and girls who didn’t fall in love with Anfield before they can remember and who won’t now carry on buying tickets 35, 40, 50 years later because they can’t bear to stop going.

We’ve already priced out a load of young lads and girls who should be leading the atmosphere on match day.

This is an addiction, not a product. If it was a product we’d have all stopped buying it last season when we were all depressed and had burned out after nearly winning the league.

If it was a product we’d all start supporting another team, but those saying the people “moaning” about ticket prices should just shut up and start supporting someone else with cheaper tickets unfortunately don’t understand the complexities of real football supporting.

If it is a product it’s dying anyway. The atmosphere has been dying for the past 10 years and we’ve all been too busy growing old to notice until it’s nearly too late. If it’s allowed to go unchecked any further we’ll become Chelsea within 10 years and there’ll be no special ‘product’ left to sell.

We should have done something sooner but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start now.

The main thing I said to everyone to explain why I decided to walk out on 77 minutes, though, was that this isn’t about me or you.

This isn’t about FSG or Ian Ayre.

This is about us fighting to preserve the thing that we all fell in love with all those years ago, and making sure that the same thing is still available for little boys and girls to fall in love with in 100 years’ time. This is our opportunity to be part of something special, to preserve the house that Bill built.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Southampton FCWhen I hear Robbo saying his kids aren’t that arsed about the match it makes me sad. I haven’t got kids yet but the thought of them not being able to go to the game or, worse, the thought of me getting them into a game only for there to be nothing left for them to fall in love with, breaks my heart.

The fact that 17-year-old lads can’t bunk off school to go and get a ticket for a match and enjoy that thrill of doing everything they can to support their team is what’s slowly but surely killing the atmosphere.

We need more young people in the ground, and by “more” I don’t mean 1,000 each match, I mean thousands of them like it used to be, all sitting together and singing songs that get all of the old farts’ hearts beating again.

I was taken to a Melbourne Victory game in December by a friend of TAW, Andy Gargett.

Their Kop equivalent was no reserved seating, $20 ticket prices and an average age of mid-twenties.

Mates all sitting and standing together, having a great time at the match. From the second we walked in to the second we left, the atmosphere was bouncing, to the extent that by the end I was singing along to songs I’d just learned.  The match was absolutely rubbish and it had no bearing whatsoever on the atmosphere.

I’d forgotten what that was like.

How about making all of the new tickets available to a younger generation at reduced prices and sitting them in The Kop together?

I know what some of you will say, and what Ayre and FSG would say. “Yeah, but that’s different, we’ve got all these issues with supply and demand and blah, blah, blah”.

Ultimately, we’ve got a problem that needs to be fixed and as Spirit of Shankly and the ticketing group have said, this is the perfect opportunity to start fixing it with the new capacity and the ridiculous amount of TV money coming into the club. So why not lead the way and be the catalyst for the whole league to sort itself out?

I should make it clear that I think in the grand scheme of things that Fenway Sports Group has been generally good for the club.

It has managed to finally build a new stand (we’ll leave the argument about whether it’s big enough for another day), get the club generating vast commercial revenue streams to help us to compete with our rivals, and it’s brought in a top-level manager.

I don’t actually expect them to understand entirely what is going on here, but that’s why I was disappointed to hear that John Henry didn’t attend any of the meetings with the ticketing group.

I’m a business owner as well, and I understand the short-term economic arguments around ticket prices, structure and finding a balance, I really do.

Football - FA Premier League - Everton FC v Liverpool FCI just think that if Mr Henry or any of his partners could understand fully what it is we’re talking about they might just come around to our way of thinking.

They’ve talked about wanting to win since taking over the club, but this arguably could be the biggest win they could get.

Break from the pack, lead all of the other club owners to a place that in the long term safeguards the whole football league, and go down in the history of the club as the owners who saved The Kop.

The problem is that FSG won’t make a decision like that without our help.

They are businessmen in this to make a profit. I agreed with Adam when he said it should be a decision for each of us as to whether we join in with protests but what I would say is don’t let the headlines make your decision for you.

Read Jay’s article in full. Read what Adam had to say. Read what the ticketing group said. Read the club’s statement and think about what it is we’re talking about here.

Football is already pricing out the supporters who made it what it is today, and it’s doing so by design. Even without an overall price increase we’re already pricing out the new lifeblood of the club that we desperately need.

Make up your mind based on all of the information available and stop to think about it before dismissing it.

If you agree with the overall principle of the protest but don’t agree with walking out of matches early, I can empathise.

It wasn’t an easy decision for anyone, especially when it potentially led to our team dropping points.

The thing to bear in mind is that with something like this we’re unlikely to find a solution on which we all agree, and my view is that we need to do whatever we can, together, to make this point as forcibly as possible until people listen.

Ultimately, all of us missing a few minutes of a few games is worth the sacrifice in the long term. If you don’t want to join protests like the one held on Saturday but you agree with the general principle of it, just make sure you do something.

Write to John Henry at FSG’s offices. Make a banner. Do whatever you can do to help.

This is a fight for the heart and soul of our great club. If we don’t fight it on behalf of future generations we’ll have to live with the knowledge that we stood idly by while Rome burned.

I just hope one day our kids and grandkids aren’t watching videos of the great old empire and asking whether we could have done anything to save it.

What will you tell yours?

59 Comments

  1. Great article mate. I finished reading Brian Reade’s “An epic Swindle, 44 months with a pair of cowboys” recently and this all feels like another important moment. While FSG are clearly no Gillet and Hicks, Liverpool fans can become a force to be reckoned with and unlike our football team at the minute, are truly bigger than the sum of their parts when they aspire to effectively change and refuse to accept whats been taken as fact. This isn’t even just about lfc. Fans voting with their feet is powerful and should continue until change is made. Keep walking out on 77. Be pioneers and rescue our game and our club

  2. Nice piece Paul, and good luck with the life change: lawyering can leave you dead inside; too much scepticism, too much relativism.

    I’m just over 10 years older than Paul and I remember how we used to laugh at all things American: the obesity, the over-consumption, the hyper markets, the coarse adverts, the violent crime, the crap TV. It’d never happen over here we’d say. But it did and, as the late, great Bob Monkhouse quipped, nobody’s laughing now. What relevance do my childhood memories have to the current debate, you may ask? Well, let’s just consider how American sports work. Teams are essentially franchises, an owner can use the brand in any way he or she sees fit; consider the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers whose owner moved them to Los Angeles in 1957. My point is, that as a consequence of the American ownership model, they just don’t get the culture here and won’t unless they’re made to (this should be Ian Ayre’s job, surely?). So if we want to protect ourselves from carpetbaggers taking ownership of our clubs and turning them into franchises, we must establish our own terms and our own culture before such attitudes take hold. Unless we want to become MK Dons, that is.

  3. ” to preserve the house that Bill built”
    ” what will you tell yours?”

    ** stood up and applauded **

    • Yeah, those were the words that caught me out as well. Great read. Paul’s a really good writer and should write more imo.

  4. Awesome article!!! Liverpool fc is such an established team, i wish the people of Liverpool could buy the team and run it. Seriously i think for a lot of is none Liverpudlian supporters the people of Liverpool are at least half the reason we love the team .. And theres millions of us worldwide. If you could just pool together and buy lfc from fsg an run it straight from there, no doubt the team could be turned around and do justice to its history and the people who put it into history. I say this humbly and with full knowledge its probable never gonna happen. But if it did…

    • Fan/supporter ownership model would be worth exploring as you and Pauloffinland have suggested.

      it will be a long and challenging road but if it works for Real and Barca I believe it would work for us too. (I am writing this without looking into deeper details, on various management/employee buyout models). No matter what, we need to work together with FSG as a mutually respectful partnership. Because Us against Them mentality will just kill the club from within.

  5. ANDREW BOOTH

    Always enjoy your articles Paul, I posted this on Friday after listening to the pod on ticketing. It seems that we both picked up on the point that all this is for an extra £2 Million in gate revenue.

    How advantageous would it be for FSG if groups like the SOS and Spion Kop did not exist? If fans like Jay and his mates were priced out? When FSG bought LFC it was following the brilliant efforts of the above that brought wall street to its knees. This made Liverpool a hot potatoe and a risk for any investor. 2 million quid is nothing to FSG but everything to the ST fans, if the SOS and Spion Kop were priced out then it would be so much easier for FSG to sell the club having ‘broken the union’. This is why this is so important. Most things in football are now about money and this has been increased since Sky arrived and celebrate a new billionaire owner like a CL victory.
    This debate should not be focused on the price of tickets £30 /£50/£77/£100, but on the long term objective of removing long term loyal existing fans and wanting to replace them with anyone that can afford it. The price of the ST ticket is just the mechanism used to do this. When season tickets and gate revenue were the main source of income then you could argue that the club needs to charge more to attract top players, but the new TV and sponsorship deals obliterate that argument. There are ways of making tickets available if the club want to do this, but it is more beneficial to remove season ticket holders like Jay. As an out of towner / wool myself, i would like to go to more games but not at the expense of removing fans that have been going for years and have organised their lives around going to the match. The club was built on its support and people like Jay that fight the establishment, as a city its what Liverpool is all about, its why Shanks loved it because it has always stuck two fingers up to the rest of the world. Its how the club and its fans conquered Europe its why so many fans from around the world want to support Liverpool and why beating Chelsea in 2005 was so great because it was a victory of spirit, fight and history over money, and this is being fundamentaly and incrementally broken by FSG because they prefer more affluent members of society that cannot mobilise themselves to protest because they do not need to, because they can afford it, and because logistically it is impossible. They are using classic divide and splinter tactics to marginalise the support and you can bet that sky will be in their element pointing out how much it costs to go to all the London clubs as if this was a good thing.
    We would mock the Mancs with all their fans from London / South East / moneyville but these are the type of ‘customers’ that FSG want to replace supporters like Jay with, and it is wrong and action needs to be taken, and the wider fan base needs to ask itself what sort of club it wants to support, one that embraces people like Jay or one that wants to replace him, because there is no point in supporting Liverpool if non of the local lads can afford to go to the match because you have just culturally changed the reason for supporting the club in the first place, first and foremost the club should represent the city and the cities people, which is why Liverpool embodies scousers and Chelsea embodies rich obnoxious wankers. What is the point of supporting Liverpool if all the scousers are priced out? You don’t have to be a scouser to support Liverpool but you should respect that it is the historic scouse support that was channelled by Shanks and the boot room boys together with a strong scot and celtic influence that created the club and that it is wrong that families that have been going to the match are being priced out, and it does not matter what that price is, it is the principal of them being priced out. Yes these families are privileged to be ST holders in the same way that if you are born into a family that has a house overlooking the sea you are privileged, but they should not apologise for it, be grateful yes, but not apologise.
    Money and privilege do not always go hand in hand. I was born into a family in Troutbeck in the Lake District, we rented our house and it cost £15 a week when my mum was paid £2 per hour, so even though our rent was cheap it was still a lot of money to us. I was privileged to grow up in a wonderful village that will now cost you £600k + for a 1 bed cottage and when the next rich nobhead pays £800k for the next house everything else will look a bargain. Even if i could live in Troutbeck now i would not. The reason is because it is full of rich nobheads, all the people i knew have either died or moved away for work, give or take the odd farmer. Troutbeck as a working class village has gone and all the spirt and sence of community has gone. Of course the people in the village have been replaced and from the outside it looks the same except porsches have replaced the old grey fergies (one for the real wools that).
    Getting back to Liverpool, all because you have a ST it does not mean you should have to be priced out for the privilege. FSG does not need the money but it can see it as a way of getting rid of troublesome ST holders to the detriment of the club itself. All because FSG own the assetts and business does not mean it owns the club and its support. This is what the fight is about because if not the ground will be full of rich nobheads like Troutbeck, with the locals priced out and the spirit, community and family values lost forever. Its happened across the Lake District for 30 years, don’t let it happen at Anfield if you value the club. Owners, are only knobheads with money and should be replaceable, unlike season ticket holders, that should be cherished for generations.

    As a postscript I have an 11 son Flavien that is mad about Liverpool and we went with his sister to the Bordeaux game because we could get tickets and they were cheap, (£50 for the tickets and £68 to become members to buy tickets) still cost £200 when you add petrol food and drinks. Next year this would cost us 3 x tickets at £50+ each + membership (£68) + travel etc. So this would cost over £300 for us to watch the match. Following the match on Saturday I explained what the protest was about, Flavien was fuming, partly because of the result, but mainly because he knows that with these ticket prices we as a family even if we could get tickets have been priced out. Priced out at 11 years old for 2 Million quid. FSG waste £300 Million on transfers and then price out 11 year olds for the sake of 2 Million quid.

    • Excellent point, Andy. Especially on the potentially being priced out for the family (and next generation of supporters) by the current trend.

      There must be a solution that works for both fans and FSG (if both parties work together as a team, instead of confrontational labour union model)

  6. The best article I have read on TAW, the best article I have read on the current situation regarding tickets.

    I live abroad these days so only get back to the odd match when I am visiting, so feel it difficult and not my place to comment on the actual cost of the rises as they don’t directly affect me.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on atmosphere, something needs to be done before we are just another football club. I can see how this is tied up in the argument about price increases but to be honest thats not an argument I heard much in the run up to Saturday, it just centered around the actual headline price (as you point out)

    I was dismayed when I saw footage of our fans singing “FSG, get out of our club” – Has it come to that already? You point out that broadly speaking, PR gaffs aside, FSG have been good for Liverpool and I agree. There is no club on the planet that pleases its fans 100% of the time and i worry that our current nature as a fan base is so Black or White, Good or Bad. For me, at least with what i know, FSG are not Hicks and Gillet, not even close.

    I also have thought, for a long long time, that as a fan base we have a natural and often unwarranted hatred of those in suits at the club. Remember the last CEO or MD etc that was popular or even not ridiculed? No me neither. Maybe they don’t deserve to be popular with their decision making, but it feels to me like they are distrusted and hated before they have done anything to warrant a decision either way.

    I will always be in-debited to those who helped oust H+G. I just worry that the action and protest has and will turn very quickly from “enough is enough” to “get out of our club”.

    Well done on the article Paul. If your writing is this high quality, perhaps you should be writing more ;)

    • This. Why the poison from so much of our fanbase? Be careful what you wish for. Enough is enough re ticketing (EPL-wide), sure – but FSG are not monsters. Am confident the latest noises coming out of their offices will prove so again.

      Oh – and AWESOME article, Paul. Wonderful.

    • The Red Priest

      Chants, banners and headlines inevitably simplify the message. Listening to Jay McKenna and others it’s quite obvious that they have a more sophisticated understanding of the issues that lie behind this debate and are not pursuing some sort of obsessive vendetta against FSG. Their approach and “demands” are presented reasonably and often with a clear acknowledgement that this is about finding a common solution not “winning”. But let’s be clear here, FSG hold all the commercial cards, as well as having a PR machine to present their case, and SoS and others are having to make their case with not a lot more than a few home-made banners, some hastily put together leaflets and a huge amount of personal and collective commitment.
      If FSG can avoid getting into a “win”/”lose” mentality in this and see this as an opportunity to re-establish a positive relationship with the supporters then I think they are clever enough and astute enough to find a way forward.
      Anyone who was saying the protest would either fizzle out or be futile should spend some time reading the local and national media. This has touched a nerve with a lot of people – not just locally.
      Football is, and should remain, an act of community not a source of individual entertainment. A team should be a city wearing a football top. Those behind the protest, and those that took part, have brought a bit of “Liverpool” back into Anfield. I’d say that’s just as important to the so-called DNA of this club as the silverware in the trophy cabinet.

    • Jimmy Corkhill

      Yeah I got onto that on the Echo website videos, the change from “enough is enough” to “get out of our club”. I hope it was a simple misinterpretation of the chant that just caught on without much thought given to it, not surprising given the emotion of the occasion.

      The article wrote here is spot on, the FSG positives are genuine and true, but this is a massive own goal. The right thing needs to be done.

      I was thinking last night about Ayre saying the rises are necessary to compete. Not once, I believe, since they’ve arrived have we looked like competing. Sure we had that great league season but no one in their right mind at the start of that season could have foreseen that. The season after was always going to be a struggle after not replacing Suarez with a class player.

      All in that time we’ve lost our best players and replacing them with mostly OPTA recommended shite. With a class manager in, which I applaud FSG for getting in, a shift in transfer policy, and not ticket increases is what we need to compete with our rivals.

      • all above comments: well said. this possibly is a PR blunder from FSG side, and I trust that they will come out stronger from this (and learn as well).

        Not a FSG hater here. Having seen H&G era and also some strange owners like Cardiff owner.

  7. Great article. We can’t afford to lose this battle. If we do it’s all over, another blow to out culture, history and traditions. As the authors says, what will we tell out children about that? This club was built and made famous by our ancestors – no one has the right to destroy that for the sake of short term profit. FSG won;t be around for ever – they’ll just pass it on to another set of businesspeople and on it goes. If they are wise , they could make history here, rather than destroy it.

  8. mushroomscouser275gts

    We aren’t competing with our rivals though. We might be competing with Everton, but given the history of the club, that represents regression.

    Regression whilst turning in a profit.

    It’s easy to slate Gillet and Hicks, but unless someone from FSG released the specifics if what happened in the closed court hearing, or what role RBS actually had in thier demise, I reserve judgement. One thing is certain. The football was better and the proposed new stadium looked pretty. They must have been serious about the new stadium, as FSG “found” £80m put into after buying us. Due Diligence indeed. Exceptional due diligence .

    That Leicester are going to win the league without spending millions disproves the correlation between sqaud value and league position, but its an anomaly. We prove the correlation, as does the league over the years.

    You can’t compete in Europe and the league and turn in a profit.

    But competing in the league and Europe is of no more interest to John Henry than the average household income or welfare of the immediate community of Anfield, who along with the people of this city built the “brand” he bought cheap.

    FSG need to go. The cat is out of the bag, the footy is woeful. We are falling further behind every season.

  9. unreserved Kop safe-standing seats at an affordable price = atmosphere, youth (who else would hang around > an hour b4 k’off) & sustained inventive spontaneous vocal support + a full Kop well over an hour before kickoff as was …

  10. It doesn’t help that we’re a bit rubbish lately – and by lately I mean for years. Harder pill to swallow being asked to pay loads for a poor product.

  11. I agree with the sentiment, but the reality is, these mostly middle aged men who marched out of the ground on 77 minutes, seemed quite content to see young lads and girls priced out of the game many years ago, as long as they had their tickets.
    The pricing scale for tickets at Anfield and other grounds within the premier league reached tipping point over a decade ago, so protesting now, due to a top line ticket price of 77 quid, is the antipathies of trying to shut the gate after the horse has bolted, grazed, mated, been put out to pasture, and turned into dog food.
    Football has gone beyond the point of economic reasoning that we might approach within any other sector of our lives, and we simply stood by, and let it happen.
    It would take a lot more than simply leaving your seat at any given minute at any given game, to make any long term change within the game as a whole, indeed, the owners may well try to throw a scrap the supporters way to appease them, but the tide will inevitable keep rolling in one direction.
    Whilst Mr Cope was in Vietnam, it might have found it useful to broaden his view on the state of football as a whole, and the finances within the game, by maybe visiting a Nike, Adidas, or Warrior/ New Balance factory, to see the conditions, and the structure of the wages of the people who work there, producing replica football shirts, that are them sold at a premium, without little fuss or protest in the clubs shop and beyond, to raise revenue for our club.
    I’m afraid in the long term, half baked half hearted protests arent going to cut it, and only a fundamental approach toward protest would truly make owners of clubs stand up and take note, but thats not going to happen, because these same fans who walked out on Saturday, know full well that for ever disillusioned fan prepared to make the ultimate protest by staying away, and not taking up their option of a ticket to a game, a dozen will be standing behind them to take their place.
    I know quite a few lads who walked on Saturday, and fair play to them, but I also know many of these same lads have in the past been more than happy to pay many hundreds of pounds for tickets to big games, to ticket touts, because they could afford to, which maybe ultimately took those tickets out of somebody’s hands, maybe one of those young lad or girls who’s right to be able to get tickets at a reasonable price was mentioned within this article.
    I’m sorry, but Rome burned down years ago, and a shiny new thing was built in its place, which we were all guilty of gawking at for far too long before we did anything about it.
    The truth is, Liverpool’s traditional fan base within the city was decimated years ago, and many regulars from the 80s and early 90s were simply replaced by people who could more readily afford to go to the game, and who were quite happy at the time to do that, no protest, no shouting, just, ‘Cheers mate, I have the money, Ill take your seat’.

    • …and turned into dog food’…or Lasagna, depending on where you shop!

    • mushroomscouser275gts

      I personally only buy the NB tranees made in Cumbria…. and the “middle-aged” men of the Kop have been moaning for years about all sorts of things. The price of ticket and lack of boys pen and absence if youth being but two recurring subjects.

      I know the youth of the city constantly worry and put themselves out for the auld arses.

  12. Great article we need to go back to an all standing Kop with cheap tickets . Get some atmosphere back in the ground.

    • Safe standing won’t do much for the atmosphere unless it’s implemented properly. Right now it’s just assigned standing, i.e. the same as seating, you have a position and that’s it. For standing to bring back an atmosphere, you have to let people drift into their own groups. The tickets needs to be simple block assignment, not a granular position X in row Y; otherwise it’s just a cheap way to increase capacity (which I’d rather see than spunking money on the Annie Rd project).

      With the Kop, they don’t even need to do the whole thing with rails, just add 5-6k (whatever the < 60k calcs are) starting from the back. This way you still have the oldies in seats down below, and the rest of us can stand with our mates in the bulk of the Kop, trying to get a glimpse of the action under a sea of flags and scarves – and without worrying about someone pissing down our leg.

      It's such a simple fix to increase capacity, and they could (but won't) use it to reduce the price of entry for the standing Kop.

      • paulofinland

        Aye. It’s all about the numbers isn’t it? We don’t want to return to the old days for all too obvious and traumatic reasons, but if one were to limit access to standing areas it could be made safe again.

  13. The debate for safe standing needs to be had,could help solve the problem with atmosphere and ticket prices.

  14. Thanks for your post. Is your view that it is too late and so just accept it for what it is – i.e. prices will keep going up until the amount of people willing to pay the price falls below the supply of seats?

  15. Agree in part, but kids now aren’t like kids were 25 years ago. they have got a million other things to spend their time doing. I’m not convinced the arguement about cheaper tickets is going to make the atmosphere any better by getting younger fans in. It’s a cultural thing, football has become much more genteel these days, terraces are gone, people way more cynical and want to be entertained rather than provide part of the entertainment. Agree with TE, Safe standing needs to be looked at again.

  16. Great article…… but did those 3 seats really sit empty? Did you use the ticket exchange? We as supporters need to look at what we can do to help the supply and demand issue. How many other seats week on week sit empty as season tickets holders decide they don’t want to go. There is an opportunity to sell tickets on the door at a reduced price to young supporters.

  17. That’s by far the best article I’ve read on the subject and probably the best piece ever written for this site. (Sorry to anyone who’s submitted articles before) Summed up every detail of why I ultimately chose to walk out of a match early for the first time in nearly forty years. Some of my mates stayed and some walked, but we all agree that prices have affected the atmosphere and the ability to attend or bring our kids. Most of our other mates who used to go the game had to watched it in the pub for that exact reason. I truly hope FSG read this to give them an idea of the depth of feeling. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what more could be said.

    • Justin Thompson

      Totally agree – fabulous article

      I have gone to the match since I was 3 years old and have had a season ticket for all that time

      Also gone to aways for many years

      Have a good Job but when match tickets went above £50 an my season ticket was £869 me and my brother decided enough was enough

      This breaks my heart and I now steam every league game while I continue to go to the cup games as the prices are fair

      This protest is about every single one of us being able to exercise our birthright as Liverpool supporters to go to the match sometimes

      + £30 for a league game is prohibitive for most of the population which just isn’t fair

      ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

      You’ll never walk alone (unless it costs too much)

  18. Thanks, Paul, for this excellent analysis.

    please allow me to re-post my previous comment (4 days old):
    ~~~
    Regarding the ticket price increase, I believe FSG were given the wrong advice (or have chosen to take the wrong advice).

    BUT it is not too late to recover from this screw up. And come out even stronger. My advice would be to admit that the wrong decision was made, adjust the ticket price back to an acceptable level, and show that they care to be a responsible owner/partner with a long term view to be a part of LIVERPOOL city/community while continue to grow the brand globally.

    Is this £2mil increase really worth the negative publicity and definite ill will?..

    YES, it is (IF FSG WERE PLANNING TO EXIT SOON): because based on P/E ratio of 123x based on current MU stats in NY, this extra £2m means over £200mil in valuation.

    NO, it is not (IF FSG WERE IN THIS FOR LONG TERM): Besides it pays only “right leg of Moreno”, this negative publicity will destroy value of the Liverpool brand much much more than the £2mil worth.

    What’s the cost of PR campaigns in future to get various regulatory approvals? What’s the costs of countering potential endless ‘anti-owner’ drives? What’s the potential new high value sponsorship opportunities that may stay away from associating with this brand due to some constant negative publicity such as 77th minute walk out?…definitely much higher than the £2mil annual amount.

    FSG, it is not too late yet to ‘reverse’ this screw up and come out stronger than before!!!…
    (I am not anti FSG. They have been doing their best to be the long term responsible owners; compare Cardiff City!!)

  19. An another one…

    Although it seems one ‘side’ (owner or fans) has to lose in order for the other to win financially, there are definitely a number of solutions worth exploring for all to come out winners in this.

    ~ in usual scenario, fans may expect the ticket prices to be reduced even, with the TV revenue rolling in this year onwards.

    ~ but, FSG would get stadium full of credit in current scenario by just reversing the decision and by keeping the prices same (basically take the 2mil a year hit initually)

    ~ get an agreement with two or three major fan groups to increase in ‘smaller steps’ over 3 years, for example. Make them feel a part of this, and they are not some unreasonable groups. they know the market. they understand inflation etc (I don’t know if this was done already?)

    ~ Happy fans and loud support will transcend into positive energy of Klopp and the team ~ this is psychological effect.

    ~ commercial side: £2m is a small amount to be spread across various corporate boxes and tour/vip tickets where price sensitivity to demand is not too great…and sometimes Premium Pricing strategy may work even better in Reds favour (as long as demand exceeds supply by one seat one corporate box)

    ~ and milk the brand/corporate sponsors across the globe further in the next 5 years using this ‘happiness index’ and colorful and noisy support during matchdays..
    It may not be a win~win immediately for the owners, but will definitely be one of the view is for 2 to 5 year horizon.

    (I just want to see FSG continue to do well as owners for us; they can’t please everyone, but also it is crucial that the football fans’ tribal loyalty should not be taken for granted. Happy and noisy Reds in the stadium is worth much more than the 2mil in.my.humble opinion). cheers

  20. Anyone who thinks the old standing Kop was a wall of sound and imagine a so called safe standing terrace will see a return to young men in Beatle suits singing She Loves You, simply have no idea. In Liverpool’s pomp the atmosphere was no better than now for most games.. the young kids of today have many more interests and outlets than football

  21. Brilliant post on the ticket pricing, however, what’s equally interesting is how much FSG are actually going to give Klopp this summer excluding player sales. Considering that they have on average stumped up about 40-50M per summer window and the rest was got from star player sales. Oh, and if I’m not mistaken, one of the greatest clubs are actually run by fans, the hint? Suarez plays for them…

  22. David Cater

    I read most of the articles on here but very rarely comment.

    As a 34 year old fella who has had his season ticket since 1997, I couldn’t agree more, a superb article Paul and exactly how I felt on Sat.

  23. vivastpauli

    Almost had tear in my eye for a second because it encapsulates the whole issue so completely and eloquently. This is the piece of writing that should be passed around to every Liverpool fan out there, to make them see how big of a scope this is on. I’m not a native, I’m just a German fan who fell in love with the club because of how similar it once was to my own homeclub and because of my football crazy father who witnessed the golden years of Keegan and co.

    It’s not over though, it’s just beginning now. I know it can succeed. How? Well, I posted this video before but take a look again, at how a fanbase can sucessfully influence the fate of it’s club. It’s not absolutely simliar to LFC, but you will see a lot things that you will recognise and wish for the club. Take a stand, just do it in your own way.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzhEt7VXS_c

  24. overseasfan

    I cannot fully get behind the SOS and other local supporters groups simply because they do not represent the all of the Liverpool fans interest . What is not spoken about is the overseas fans who also want to come to Anfield but find it close to impossible to secure seats without going through some black market channel and paying some insane price half the time . No one is denying that local liverpullidian fanbase are the guardians of the Liverpool way and that they have every right to feel aggrieved , but there is a hint of xenophobia coming from these supporter groups against the out of tower and the overseas fan . Who is going to speak up for the fans who wake up at ungodly hours to watch the Reds ? We also dream of going to Anfield one day and why should we be singled out ?

    • Finland, Ireland, New York, Malasia… Just four of the places around the world that SOS have a supporters branch.

      Really good to get on board and share your ideas..

      Also are you a member of Amy other groups that may be able to sort tickets out.?

      • Overseas Fan

        I know that the SOS has branches from overseas. But i still think that it would be good for the SOS to clarify it’s postions with regards to ” Tourist” fans like myself and many others. Up to now i honestly feel rightly or wrongly that the SOS is willing to throw fans such as myself under the bus to pursue their own agenda. Just going to places like RAWK or looking at some of the langauge/ pictures used indicated a us vs them mentaility and i feel that this is preventing many from fully getting behind the SOS effort.

        I am firmly for locals to have access to cheap tickets to ensure grassroots growth to inspire the next Steven Gerrard. But i also want folks such as myself to have access to tickets without going through some shady criagslist like deal. At the same time i know that the mean income level in Liverpool is significantly lower than the national average. Prehaps what FSG is doing has the right idea but did not go far enough?

        Birds of the same feather flock together. The average overseas Liverpool fan has the many of the same values and share the same beliefs on how to support their club. I honestly hope we will move past this out of towner/ tourist fan mentailty because I love the Reds as much as the locals do. Fans should not be classfied.

        You’ll Never Walk Alone

    • mushroomscouser275gts

      It’s not a question of out if town support being “singled” out, its a question of out of town support far wealthier than the local support displacing it in the name if profit and thus destroying the character of a club that represents the City it is based in and is named after.

      The local support who built the club.

      Out of town support is totally different to Scouse support, for obvious reasons.

      The away support can speak up either for themselves, or through other channels. If they have something to speak up about.

  25. Excellent piece!
    To be honest the character has been draining out of English football ever since the premier league and sky came along, now fans pay through the nose to go to their nearest premier league viewing station to watch the greatest league in the world played by multi-millionaires from all corners of the globe.
    The game is so far removed from its working class local roots it’s no wonder owners don’t understand.
    It’s a shame that fans in this country are so passive compared to fans in other countries lead by their ultras who will boycott games for less. That is why I am proud of Liverpool fans for taking the lead on this and I will support any future actions the take!
    YNWA

  26. I agree with every point Paul makes. We need to keep in mind that FSG is a sports *management* company. They *manage* several sports — baseball, football, NASCAR racing, and lately their subsidiary NESN (of which they own 80%) has thrown in funding for the first U.S. national women’s ice hockey team. I believe they see themselves as just that — a *management* company that delegates back to supposedly knowledgable local authority the operational aspects of each property they’ve invested in. Therefore, the more I think about it the clearer it becomes that Ian Ayre has been the point person in ever gaffe that has enraged fans over recent years — both transfer business and public relations.

    I believe the ticket pricing task was delegated fully to Ayre. FSG probably gave their nod to the bottom line, but Ayre was given full responsibility to work out all the details. I think he really does believe that what he came up with was reasonable, and he probably persuaded Mike Gordon. They trusted him because of his local experience to understand the local culture. That’s why it’s such an abomination that he’s failed so many times to do so, with the biggest failure being the near total lack of open and honest communication with the LFC fanbase. This has led to more and more fans feeling disenfranchised and marginalised — and not only with regard to ticket pricing. I can just see John W Henry rolling his eyes and thinking “Jesus, Ian, please try to get one thing done right without causing a shit storm. Linda and I are taking all the abuse on Twitter for your cock-ups! Sort it mate!”

    Putting aside the TV revenue and all the commercial revenue, in the big picture £2m is a small amount of annual revenue for an operating business the size and scope of Anfield to bring in. Moderately sized Mom & Pop shops and restaurants can make £2m annually. Certainly Ayre and FSG saw it as tiny in the bigger picture. I mean they’re paying two players — Daniel Sturridge and James Milner — a total of £2m approximately every 2 months! And in Sturridge’s case FOR WHAT?!? On top of his salary they’ve invested hugely in his medical care.

    Putting the £2m in perspective and looking at it from their *management* and caretaker point of view it’s not surprising that they reacted with surprise and dismay by the intense anger directed at them. I think (50% hope) that they will make adjustments. And I hope fans will be reasonable in accepting compromise, if required.

    On another side, many people don’t agree with a militantly confrontational approach, especially when they haven’t had time to fully absorb the facts. SOS complained that they weren’t given fair notice regarding the final pricing structure, but neither did SOS communicate anything about what transpired during the 13 months they sat in the Ticket Working Group. Did anyone hear what was actually proposed and negotiated over those months? Where are the detailed Minutes from those meetings?

    Many people also don’t like black flags and ugly chants. They don’t like that there are videos on YouTube showing SOS members chanting disrespect and laughing about the tragic deaths of many people from another club — bitter rival or not. But I’m willing to bet that if the direct action was framed in a less militant way the 20/80 would flip to 80% taking action and only 20% left sitting on their hands.

    One other point — the Scouse vs wools, OOTs and foreigners thing is extremely offensive to many and a perpetual source of division. We cannot say “Yeah, mates, support by giving your money to buy kits and whatever and feel your heart swell singing YNWA with us all you want. Create a huge spectacle of 95,000 in Melbourne so we can crow about it, but don’t think for a minute that we want you climbing up into our L4 ‘club’ treehouse and sitting with us, taking tickets away from our local lads.

    Last thought for this comment — Google started out as a cheeky start-up saying “Do no harm” and just help the people search better. Now they’re exactly like every other gigantic corporation that dodges taxes, exploits their workers for profit, sneakily shares user data with marketers for huge profit, violated their own values by agreeing to engage in censorship in China, and most egregiously ignores and actively lobbies against consumer privacy concerns. It’s all well and good to dream about supporter ownership, but a club owned and run with supporter investments will still become a corporation, and will still have to deal with the corporate-type financial concerns and massive international partnerships and relationships that FSG is managing quite extraordinarily well at present without taking a penny out. “Be careful what you wish for” has a lot of truth behind it.

    • Well written, and all excellent facts.

      ~ Scouse vs Wool
      As a ‘wool’ who was born half way round the world, school, live, work outside of UK/Europe, I now feel that unwritten gap maybe wider than ever. (this in my opinion does not represent the view on the beautiful city and wonderful people there, but just minority fans in the stadium?).

      Fan ownership:
      Comparison. This will be like a REIT (real estate investment trust) model in real estate world. The profits/free cash flow are fully distributed or reinvested. Yes, it will still be run like a corporate, no doubt. But the ultimate motive is “success on pitch” and everything else is to lead to this end. It will be quite a different chain of thought compared to “highest possible value creation” as ultimate goal. No right or wrong here, just so happen to be two different biz models.

      FSG:
      Rightly pointed out that FSG is doing a professional no no.sense job. Under appreciated task, I suppose. the fact that they have not taken out a cent and provided interest free funding for the expansion project says a lot more than any PR campaign, really.

      of course they can do better in some areas, who is perfect, but FSG definitely is not a monster some of us start to make out to be.

      they are Sport Investment company, therefore no doubt they are creating enterprise value long-term, but at least they are not going about doing it in an unethical low level self righteous way, in.my opinion.

      Ian Ayer:
      Is he a terrible terrible under cover agent placed inside to destroy the club? Definitely not. A life long fan . a Scouse. I am certain he wants Reds to fly under his leadership, and leave a positive legacy. But, he also has to balance his role as CEO to show financial side of the success equation to the board, I am sure.

      • mushroomscouser275gts

        You are out of town, an away fan.

        “Wools” are people from St Helens and Warrington.

        You are doing yourself a massive injustice.

        • thanks for pointing this out. I am learning. :) cheers. (well, I started speaking the language for the first time when I was 20)…

  27. I have never had the skills of a lawyer,which explains why i end up cursing while trying to explain these points….It was heartbreaking to watch that walk-out,but i was proud as punch of every fellow fan who did it….Fantastic article,cheers.

  28. This is superb. Absolutely superb.

    I’m reading this again.

  29. Thanks to everyone for your comments on this today – great to see that the overall principle of the protest has a lot of support.
    Just one follow up point to clarify – I don’t see this as a local -v- out of town issue. Whilst I think everyone agrees that a scouse heartbeat is imperative, if there was a big unreserved section in the Kop for people to buy tickets on the day of the game it would give everyone an equal opportunity to get them without touts being involved. Obviously it’s a massively complex issue that will not be fixed overnight, but this is all about the club listening to the fans and taking real action rather than trying to pacify us with token gestures whilst increasing overall prices.

  30. cheeky boiler

    1) LFC should scale back the amount of season tickets

    2) The more times you go the cheaper the ticket.

    3) Sit anywhere in the Kop policy.

    4) ‘Non corporate ticket’ price cap.

    5) Charge away fans what ever they charge us.

  31. A very good read. As a true blue I had to gloss over the nostalgia trip but could still relate to it but with blue tinted glasses on. We have had reduced priced tickets for kids, community groups, OAP’s, servicemen, etc for years. The main thrust of the argument for me is whether you want your club to be a world wide bland brand or one which tugs your community heartstrings. Unfortunately you can’t have both. We are on the cusp of an American takeover and I REALLY REALLY REALLY do not want to Everton to lose its identity in the way the writer implies Liverpool has lost its own.

  32. What a fantastic article…..

  33. Why does Ian Ayre look so unhealthy?

  34. Addict2Football

    I swerved all the nostalgia and agreed with the main points, especially about the £77 tickets being the red herring. I’m glad there are some expensive tickets to help supplement the cheap ones. I just think that this club deserves to have passionate local support, but passionate local support is expensive for clubs, for obvious reasons.

    But really the Premier League is not a working family’s game any more. We all the signs but got addicted to elite international talent and slick promotions. We were happy for our club to be more elite and professional but expected to still have a place in this shiny new world. Can it ever work like that? Who pays for it? Fan ownership in my opinion is the only answer long term to having local identity but can this be achieved?

    I hope the clubs of the premier league do manage to strangle the monster that is killing the game, but there will be scars and we might need to reassess our long term goals as a club. I have doubts whether it can be done quickly or cleanly.

  35. My first Liverpool game was the Cup Winners Cup final in 1966. Against Borussia Dortmund ironically. Sir Roger scored but we lost. I skipped the Boys’ Pen stage and went straight to The Kop, sitting on top of the barriers but getting pushed off into the cascading streams of urine down the terraces (Kopites didn’t always bother repairing to the bog in those days). But the atmosphere and the football were magnificent. I was there the night Carrot Head slotted in the winner against St Ettienne in ’77. The brutal but perhaps unspeakable truth is that the atmosphere’s never been the same, never been remotely the same, since the standing Kop went. Now I don’t have to tell you, as Liverpool fans, how politically charged that statement is; how sensitive, but it’s the truth. I didn’t go again for ten years after it went, I was so upset. And after finally accepting what had happened and sitting in a seat, it’s never got anywhere near what it was. The characters have gone; the craic a distant memory. The old ground is a shadow of its former self. When away fans sing, as they regularly do, “where’s your famous atmosphere?” I can only agree. We’ve been living on our reputation for decades, on and off the pitch. The fact is, standing didn’t cause the problems at Hillsborough, the Police did. The powers that be wanted to gentrify football, to make it more middle class and they’ve suceeded but football won’t be anything like the same until we get standing back and mates can stand next to each other. There; I’ve said it. Not what many want to hear and I’ve no wish to upset the bereaved but the technology is there now to make standing safe. People stand now but it’s unofficial. When I watched the 5-1 drubbing of Arsenal on The Kop, I saw no one sitting the whole game. Everyone pretends it doesn’t happen. It’s unspeakable. But the nettle needs to be grabbed. We need a Safe Standing Kop with cheap tickets, the majority of which are sold from the ticket office, to make sure locals get first dibs. Then charge more for the seats, to make up for the shortfall; that way you’d be guaranteed a noisy, tuneful, responsive Kop, full of witty working class scousers, which would be the heartbeat of the ground, as it always was and it would set the tone for the whole place and get it rocking again. Even YNWA is sung with a hint of a southern accent now, ‘cos out of towners are out-numbering the locals. The truth isn’t always popular but it’s always the truth. Football is not like theatre. You don’t go just in twoes. You don’t get the best atmosphere from seats. It shouldn’t just be a middle class persuit. People are more expressive standing up and when they’re in a group with their mates. We need the Kop back and it’s got be affordable for, and a proportion given first dibs to, the young, the working class and the locals. Give us back the Kop!

  36. After a long long time I feel like I need to leave a comment.

    An extraordinary article which really identifies the main issue and articulated so superbly.. Suddenly I felt an awakening of long lost feelings for this much cherished club… memories of Istanbul came flooding back…

    This challenge we are facing here epitomises what has become a general pattern in our world… the haves and the haves not… with the gap between the rich and not rich getting wider and wider… Most people are being out priced out of so many things that we would like to do and achieve in our life..

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