THE recent furore over FSG’s proposed ticket price increases has died down a little in the wake of their almost immediate climbdown and apology, but when we take a step back it is easy to remain cynical about their view of supporters.
Let’s face it we were given a pretty big clue in the “turning fans into customers” slogan which appeared with remarkably bad timing on the FSG website, before being hastily taken down, at the height of the row.
The gullible among us might think; they got it wrong, listened and then apologised. Now they understand and everything will be alright.
But let’s not forget that Ian Ayre, threatened by the promised fan walk-out, warned that supporters should “be careful what they wish for”.
Ayre is sufficiently crass for us to see that as a vain, ill-advised attempt to portray himself as a protector of supporters, but there’s enough evidence reading between the lines to suggest that FSG, like many owners in the modern game, view fans as a cash cow and nothing else.
If you want further evidence, look again at those prices.
On the other hand, FSG are doing their absolute best to portray themselves differently. Let’s paraphrase their recent statement. “We do care. We’re sorry. We’re not greedy. Look at the investment in the playing squad, look at the world-class manager we hired for you, and look at that big shiny new stand.”
What they didn’t boast about; what they didn’t apologise for, was the quality of their spin.
So, how do FSG, if they are as good as their word, convince us of their stated good intentions?
What else can they do aside from reducing prices to levels demanded by cash-strapped supporters? How do they remove cynicism and bad blood and run Liverpool FC in a way that rebuilds the bond between club and fan?
Is it realistic for supporters to turn up and feel part of a collective that runs from the boardroom, via the dressing room to The Kop?
They have made a start with their apology and price freeze. While the entente is cordiale, now is the time to build a real relationship — one that can address key issues like ticket prices but also leans on and benefits from supporters’ unique understanding of the club.
At present there is no-one at the football club who understands what makes us tick; no-one who acts as a conduit for the ideas and emotions of the regulars and those on the inside.
The owners admit they got it wrong recently over ticket prices and now they need to ask themselves why. The owners choose to manage by proxy and yet they fail to appoint people who really listen or, in a sea of self-preserving, suited and booted middle-management, anyone brave enough to deliver a few home truths on the inside.
In Germany, the “50 plus one” rule gives fans strong representation; in the Premier League, Swansea City supporters have a 20 per cent stake in the club, while lower down the pyramid AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester are fledgling supporter-run clubs.
The rationale is that supporters care, supporters are capable. By contrast, Liverpool FC, owned lock, stock and barrel by FSG, pays mere lip service to fan engagement through a Supporters’ Committee with such diverse roles and interests as to render it impotent.
When more meaningful dialogue has been allowed recently (with the Ticket Working Party group) those discussions ended abruptly after a lengthy series of meetings and most of the intelligent recommendations, those gauged from speaking to supporters, were cast aside.
Well, that one in particular bit them on the arse as 15,000 customers disappeared and headed for the exits, but once the apologies are out of the way, who on the inside has the courage to admit, “they know more than we do; shouldn’t we be working with them not against them? When’s our next meeting with them?”.
Instead, we sense they think all the acrimony will now go away and we can all get on with our jobs. We’ll run the club, you support the team. It’s so far removed from reality — it’s embarrassing the club might be thinking that way.
Only a dreamer would expect FSG to offer Liverpool fans even a minimal share deal in the immediate future, but there are different ways supporters feel they can have a stake in the club.
If they really do care, FSG should embrace a vision that ties their blatant marketing of the “Twelfth Man” in with the way they actually operate and co-exist with supporters.
There needs to be a sea change; mistrust needs to be replaced with faith, and relationships with the likes of Spion Kop 1906 and Sprit of Shankly rebuilt and turned on their head.
Too much of what goes on at Anfield is connected to legacy. We talk of history and heritage, but too often we’re weighed down by the past.
The perception of Sprit of Shankly within the club is rooted in the Hicks and Gillett era, when it shouldn’t be forgotten SOS — and others — were exposing owners who clearly didn’t care, with the future of the club at stake.
FSG readily admitted that without the actions of fans, they wouldn’t have been in a position to secure the club from the clutches of the previous owners.
And yet, since that honeymoon period in the wake of the FSG takeover when they initially engaged with those same supporters, the relationship was allowed to break down and suspicion has re-emerged.
Whether there is anyone at the football club with the foresight and guts to recommend, and lead, the rebuilding those bridges is open to serious doubt.
Similarly, the liaison has suffered with the supporters from Spion Kop 1906 group who pay for, make and wave the flags that gives the Kop its unique visual backdrop.
They have been at loggerheads with the club all season, over a variety of issues. Again, there is an insane, unnecessary perception that the most fervent of fans can’t be trusted.
What is needed is a simple twist of insight; that these are the supporters who can lead on improving the atmosphere and make Anfield unique instead of viewing their flags and motives with suspicion.
The very public recent falling out between FSG and Liverpool supporters actually represents an opportunity.
There is still a chance for FSG to build on their apology and tell us they and Liverpool FC are going to be different.
They should appoint someone full time — at board level — with responsibility for delivering the fans’ voice to the top. They should be looking and encouraging someone not afraid to rattle a few cages.
This needs to be about more than just PR.
What goes with this is an admission from the owners that getting things right with supporters is as important as getting it right on the pitch, and a dawning realisation that the two things actually go hand in hand.
First reaction — Due respect, but please be careful about insulting people with labels like ‘gullible’ simply because they have a different attitude. If you’re going with the number 15,000 who walked out — and pretty much all earlier reports stated it was actually closer to 10,000 — you’ve still got a vast majority of about 30,000 who didn’t. Everybody wants lower ticket prices, and no doubt a variety of reasons influenced individual decisions whether to stay or go that day, but it’s the arrogance of negatively labelling the majority in a pejorative way that tends to turn people off and diminish their sympathy for an aggressive approach.
Dan Kennett did a good analysis of the actual numbers after the price rises were revised back. While some ticket prices in the Annie Road are increasing, his conclusions are very revealing and put the overall situation in compelling context.
He concluded, “74% of all existing match tickets and season tickets are being frozen or decreasing, compared to 53% under the original 2016/17 prices….Under the original prices, the average ticket was increasing by £1.76. By my sums, the average price of all Anfield tickets next season is now back to the same as this season. It’s also worth noting that all season tickets now cost less in real terms than when FSG took over. Next season, the most expensive Kop season ticket is £735, in 2010/11 it was £732 (UK inflation in the same period would be £797). Next season, the most expensive Centenary/Main season ticket is £859, in 2010/11 it was £785 (UK inflation in same period would be £857*). In the asterisked footnote Dan explains “Obviously we only currently have bank of England inflation numbers to the end of 2015, these ticket prices cover August 2016 to May 2017. My assumption is that by the time August comes, the inflation figure of £857 will actually be £870-£880 so by that point, the season tickets will be cheaper than 2010/11 in real terms.”
Numbers don’t lie. There are a lot of people who will look at those numbers and say, “That seems quite reasonable. No other club’s Owner has actually done anything as far reaching to respond to the concern about ticket prices.”
Since the day after the protest I’ve said on Twitter that trust with Ian Ayre is broken (with regard to more than merely this latest ticket pricing debacle), and that FSG should move him to handling only commercial deals (which he’s good at) and bring in someone — possibly a former player — to serve as liaison between the Club/Owners and the fans. If John Barnes would be interested in such a job I think he would be excellent. He’s intelligent, well spoken, forthright, and seems willing to say the hard things, but in a non-offensive way. We would probably accomplish more by sweetening our dialogue with the Owners — who are respectable and decent people before they’re anything else — with a bit of respectful honey rather than a splash of burning antagonistic vinegar. The facts surrounding what they’re giving to the Club — without taking anything — simply don’t support the need for a militant approach. I reserve my militance for wanting mightily to smack a squad of mostly 20-somethings who can’t muster the concentration and focus to learn and play consistently a game they are paid millions to perform in merely twice a week.
All due respect, the fact that a good portion of fans would be better or no worse off under the now discarded new prices completely ignores the fact that they’re far too expensive in the first place.
As for them giving the club ‘stuff’ – what nonsense. They ARE the club. What they’re doing is appreciating their asset. Nothing wrong with that but you’d appear to have them portrayed as some philanthropic entity giving their hard earned away for the love of the club.
The club will thrive or die according to how they decide to invest in it and run it. And so will their investment. It’s got more chance of thriving if the fans are on board than if they’re not. Simple as.
Les, please re-read my comment more carefully. It seems you missed my meaning.
The new tv deal will deliver such an eye-watering increase in revenue for Liverpool and every other top flight English team, that it’s absurd and patronising to suggest that they need more and more money from fans to make the business stack up. They don’t. They will not go bust for the want of increasing their coffers by a fraction of that new tv deal.
So yes, the numbers don’t lie, but they do make fools out of all of us who believe that any top flight football club will be teetering on the brink if they don’t get us to cough up more for our tickets over the next few years…
LFC PLC had a £50m loss two years ago. It’s carrying £140m in losses since 2010. If they didn’t spend a dime in the transfer market, they’d still need to increase revenue over and above the increased TV revenue.
But of course the club will need to spend in the transfer market this summer. And since the increased TV revenue is likely to drive up transfer fees paid by English clubs – as happens in the first year of every new broadcast rights deal – much of that money will be going right back out the door.
Nine of the twenty PL clubs in the last accounts reporting lost money. It’s all manageable losses, but it’s not sustainable for most clubs (or allowed to be too large over multiple years per FFP). The TV deal will help but it’s not a panacea. If supporters really don’t want to be charged market price for tickets – they’re far below what they’d fetch on an open market now – then they have to force clubs to control costs. How likely is it that fans will agitate for their clubs to buy cheaper players?
Even if there were a fan representative on the board, how is he/she going to reduce costs? In all the ticket price dust-up, I haven’t noticed anyone addressing costs, at all.
brilliant idea on appointing Barnes (or similar influential ex player) to be the ‘Fans Relations’ position. This will really work magic and build the ties much stronger.
If FSG had a clue/really cared they wouldn’t have put themselves in the position where they had to ‘climb down’ or apologise in the first place. They’ve been here 5 and a half years so are they still naïve or are they seeing how much they can get away with? It’s a disgrace whichever way you slice it.
And as for Ian Ayre, he’s been saying stupid shit every time he’s opened his mouth in front of a camera or microphone since… Kenny’s season? And they’re just letting him get on with it as the top man of this entire institution and all Liverpool fc should represent? The man’s cringe-inducing beyond belief.
It can’t be good for anyone’s morale that such a proven, unmitigated tit is captaining the ship. I don’t care whether he’s a lifelong supporter: he’s talked down to fans, he talked down Dalglish in the cups (doing shite all in the league and going to Wembley… Hmmm. It’s almost like we’ve come full circle with no progression under the questionable strategy of this ownership) and he’s just a really creepy slime ball. If we ever see the back of him it’ll feel like signing a boss goalie for me.
So yeah… You could say I’m not a fan.
This is like borderline paranoia. What do you think FSG is going to sell Anfield to develop as apartment buildings? Get a grip man, I’m enjoying the idea of how talented some of our players are and how many young players are being allowed to show their talents under the tutelage of a world class manager renowned for developing talent. If you see nothing but what could be if FSG turns out to somehow be worse than H&G then I’m sorry for you mate. That’s a sh*tty place to live.
Eons of Error: The Ian Ayre Story
Slightly disappointed FC United got a mention and not Chester as a fan owned club, haha. Ours (theirs) (I had no involvement in any aspect of it tbh) is an interesting story for anyone intrigued what can happen when owners run amok with the club and the fans fight back and eventually take control (of a new club).
I was fully aboard with the jovial, light hearted attitude we all had when Klopp took over. We needed to laugh a bit but we also needed someone we could look up to, in a sense, because we could all see the spine of the club hierarchy was completely characterless from top to bottom. No personality and just dull. Klopp has addressed that to some degree just by his presence.
The recent ticketing thing clearly exposed how the club itself still has that grey, out of touch feel. On the ticketing issue my view is FSG obviously set the prices and sat down and looked at how much extra can they get out of this asset (the fans) and get away with it. That’s just how business goes with these kind of people. It’s completely to be expected. The issue for me is when it gets imposed not only is it not challenged by the people on the ground who run LFC but they go out of their way to defend it. I half expect the owners to have absolutely no understanding of the feeling of the club or its fans but the for the CEO not to is criminal. I’d guess FSG don’t want a strong man at the helm but there are good ones about who can look after the club and the finance. My point is, all issues seem to fall at Ian Ayre’s door. This is the gaping hole where the club are falling short.
When I was growing up I had no preference for Barca or Real. As I got older and read about Franco or say, the Spanish civil war. I became fiercely in favour of Barca. Let’s say the club knocked £9m of this seasons prices. I’m a fan in Asia wondering who to support in this footy craze that’s happening. I look at the Prem and think Chelsea or Liverpool. So, I look up Chelsea. Buy all the best players, loads of money flying around, rich supporters happy to be fleeced for watching football and plastic flags left on the seat to create an atmosphere. Then I consider Liverpool. The club reduced the ticket prices quite substantially to make it more affordable for the fans and they feel part of their club and sing at all the matches and have loads of flags and banners. I know which I’d choose like I did with Barca. All it needs is someone to represent the club to our owners. They at least need to be made aware. That way they can avoid embarrassing climb downs as we saw last week.