I’M glad the ticket protest is over, for now at least, because it was stressful. It’s not what you’re into footie for — I’m goals over walk-outs any day of the week.
It was also a time, all those days ago, that we all fell out a little bit. The Anfield Wrap lost subscribers, which is fine — you take those chances when you come out strongly on divisive issues. And all of us who took part in the protest found ourselves having to justify ourselves, especially on Twitter.
Again, you’d rather be arguing about whether Emre Can is any good or whether Tiago Ilori is made out of crisps.
People on Twitter generally fell into three camps. Those who supported the walk-out, those who supported the reason for the walk-out, but not the method of protest, and those who thought we were all Communist bellends who needed to put down our copies of Das Kapital and pay the market price for match tickets.
I’m exaggerating slightly, obviously. But the message from the third group was clear. Watching live sport is expensive. It’s expensive everywhere. Get over it or watch it on the TV.
A lot of tweets carrying this kind of message came from American Liverpool fans. It would be completely wrong to say it was the view of all US Reds. Supporters groups like the one in San Diego were very clear in their support for the walk-out.
It would also be wrong to say all those who disagreed with the principle of fans paying less were American. It was just a notably disproportionate number among the tweets directed our way.
— LFC San Diego (@TheLFCSD) February 6, 2016
I’m making no further judgements other than to say it was interesting. I have no idea why it was the case, or if it means anything at all.
I found it interesting because sports in America always seemed such a communal, patriotic activity. I was surprised with the notion that someone should have to miss out because of their income.
I know NFL tickets are very expensive, but baseball and basketball always seemed to have cheap seats available when I looked into going (and didn’t for a variety of boring reasons).
But it also made me think of the almost socialist way in which American sports are run — a method I have always envied and admired.
Salary caps are in place to make it impossible for a team just to blow everyone out of the water on salaries and transfers.
Each year the weakest teams are given the best players in the draft to try to even it up further. Of course, it is socialism as a means to capitalism. They believe a level playing field results in a stronger sport and therefore more interest. But it is still a much fairer way of doing things.
And it works. We’re getting all excited because Leicester City or Tottenham Hotspur — that battling underdog club that is the 12th wealthiest team in world football — might become the sixth team to win the title since the Premier League began in 1992.
The NFL has seen eight different teams win the Superbowl in the last eight years. When the New England Patriots won three Superbowls in four years in the mid noughties they debated whether it was the greatest dynasty of all time.
Around the same period Manchester United won three titles in a row and it’s barely mentioned.
While US soccer fans might have something to learn from us in terms of not accepting ticket price hikes, could we learn from the Americans in how we run our sports?
Salary caps have always been rejected in this country because of the notion that it is a worldwide sport and English teams need to compete with the European elite.
Well, firstly, that isn’t working very well at the moment, is it? But also, with the added TV money flooding into the Premier League, wouldn’t the salaries clubs could pay be perfectly competitive anyway?
And isn’t it possible that by making the Premier League more competitive, by not allowing new owners to come into a club and spend huge amounts, that the competition — which prides itself on the fact that “anyone can beat anyone” — becomes even more popular and therefore the place to play?
If not salary caps then how about caps on the number of senior players registered with a club (including bloody loans)?
Could this be a way of ensuring the talent is more spread out? Clubs having to pick which players they want based on need seems no bad thing to me and would make hoarding talent and working out what to do with them next a thing of the past.
A draft system in the current format seems much more difficult to introduce. But is the current system of developing players in this country working as well as it could be anyway?
I don’t know if you noticed, but England didn’t do very well at the last World Cup. Getting Liverpool John Moores University to run an elite sports programme probably isn’t the best idea, but maybe elite regional academies could be introduced instead.
Currently each football club has their own academy, where hundreds of young footballers turn up day after day in the hope that one of them might break though.
Would a smaller number, training with the best and playing against the best in regional centres be a better development tool? Especially if all the best coaches were there, too, away from the madness and often wildly varying nature of how a football club is run. No politics, just development.
Once “graduated” from the best footballing environment possible they could be assigned to football teams in a similar way to that in America. They wouldn’t have to stay there forever, of course. I’d still like to end up with Steven Gerrard thank you very much. But it seems a much fairer system, not to mention potentially more beneficial to the footballers, than the one where the richest clubs steal the best 14 year olds.
I’m not sure how much of the above we can implement. Hot-shot football lawyers might pick apart the lot. Sounds fun, though. And Liverpool might win a bloody league title.