Liverpool: Main Stand Seat Sell Off – Why The Club Have Got This So, So Wrong - The Anfield Wrap

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I RECEIVED an email this morning. Some of you may have received the same email. If not, you may have possibly noticed it mentioned in passing on Twitter. To be honest, I found out about it from Twitter before I saw the email. Don’t check my emails that often at the moment, they only ever seem to be trying to sell me something.

Ironic, that. Really. Fucking. Ironic.

The tweet came from Mathilde Delamotte. You’ll find her on @Delamotte_m. I don’t know Mathilde, I’ve never met her. I follow her on Twitter, although I didn’t realise that I did until I saw the tweet.

I was prepared to knee-jerk. I’m quite happy to knee jerk. Ask anyone. I held back; thought: “Well, there’s no confirmation and stories like this keep doing the rounds.”

I tweeted back: “Are they selling them? Thought they’d all been skipped the day after. I’d have happily bought mine on the day.” Then I decided to do some digging. Surely an idea this ludicrous could only be scaremongering. Like the anti-Brexit arguments. EXACTLY like the anti-Brexit arguments, if you get my drift.

I found an image. An image of a seat in a box. A red seat in a box. A seat with the number 134 on it. Not sure how many people sat in seat 134. Loads of them. How many rows were there in the Main Stand? I’ve no idea whose seat 134 this was. Nor do the club. It’s just a seat, isn’t it?

And you can own this seat. This fairly random seat 134 in its nice black presentation box. This “limited edition product” in its “Iconic Presentation box” with its “Certificate of authenticity” and a “Main Stand history booklet” which will be “Despatched in a protective delivery sleeve via DPD (UK) with the “Product to be despatched from week commencing 15 August”.

The product. The fucking product.

The red seats 94, 95, and 96 of row 27 of the Main Stand at Anfield.

The price should be £225 but the “Season Ticket Holders & Members Price” is £200. Which is nice. Saving £25 there.

The last home game of the season. Remember the last home game of the season? I’ve got to be honest, if you had asked me about it I couldn’t have told you what it was. Had to check the closing chapters of my book (They Say Our Days Are Numbered out August 14). And, yes, I do understand the utter irony/hypocrisy of me getting in a plug for my book while I’m about to rail, and I mean really RAIL against unbridled commercialism, greed and lack of consideration for the human spirit but sod it, I need the money a hell of a lot more than Liverpool FC does).

Chelsea. 1-1. Can’t really remember the game, can’t be bothered checking. It’s not important. What’s important is this: It was the last day of the old Main Stand.

We knew this. It might not have received the worldwide coverage that the last day of the ‘storied’ Boleyn Ground garnered but, God knows, it saw a hell of a lot more glory.

We’d waited for announcements all season. We’d had our chance to pick our new seats and, if desiring, remain as close to our current location as possible. I desired to, I did. Some of us were lucky. We thought there may be a chance that we may be able to buy our seats. Take them home with us. Display them, cherish them, keep our memories.

We thought that the club may have the foresight/sense/wisdom to sell the seats to us. Let us pay in advance and reserve our seats to be collected. OUR seats. Not just seats but OUR seats. The actual seats that we sat in, that our hearts belonged to. OUR part of Anfield. We thought the club may charge, say….£50, donate all proceeds to Alder Hey or some other, club-linked, charity. No. Nothing. No word at all.

As the game ended, you heard the noise start. A cracking. A splintering. The sound of those who had chosen to take their seats. You may have seen the newspaper coverage the next day, the next week. West Ham fans had “sought souvenirs from the Boleyn Ground” in as romantic a manner as possible. Us? Thieving Scouse Bastards as per normal, thanks.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 12, 2015: Panoramic of Anfield Stadium, looking towards the Main Stand, as work continues on the multi-million revamp ahead of Liverpool's fixture against West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The announcement came. “This is a public service announcement for all supporters in the Main Stand. Unauthorised removal of club property is theft and you may be arrested.”

Theft. So the club agree with the Daily Mail on that one. The ones further back were undeterred. Seat backs vanished into jackets and wended their way through Stanley Park to a permanent home. I’ll be honest, if I’d been more prepared I’d have had a tool kit with me to help disassemble my seat. I wasn’t. I didn’t. And the steward standing 10 feet from me and staring at all around made my mind up. Still, I hopped over the seat back and flexed my knee against it. Just to see if there was any give. Any subtle give. There wasn’t.

And I thought: “This was my dad’s. This seat was my dad’s. This season ticket was my dad’s. He wanted me to have this and I have it. I’m not losing my dad’s season ticket for a piece of wood.”

So I took a photo of the seat and I took a photo of the view from the seat, because the view next season will be slightly different, and I headed to a traffic jam leading to a recording of The Pink. I’d half-thought that I would enter the studio with a seat in my hands as a conversation starter. I didn’t. We spoke about Eden Hazard’s goal instead. I didn’t get my dad’s seat.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester United FC

Main Stand. Turnstile U or V 1-4 Block M8 Row 6 Seat 92. My dad’s seat. I’ve told this story before but for those who didn’t read it, I’ll recap. We lost our dad in November 2013. He’d attended his last game some time before. West Brom. Hoped for the Real game, hoped for the Chelsea game. Couldn’t do them.

When he saw his last game he didn’t know it was his last game. He thought he’d seen his last game the season before. He wasn’t well and his eyesight was going. He considered not renewing his season ticket but he kept it. He kept it in the hope that I could continue it. Because that’s important isn’t it? That legacy, that passing on of the torch, that instillment of passion? That’s what we’re about, isn’t it?

And I kept it. I sat in it all last season. My first season as a season-ticket holder in my own name being the last season that seat would be there. I found something quite poetic in that, something that spoke of transition while retaining history.

And you know what? Anfield were brilliant. To be precise, the Anfield ticket office were brilliant. There were stories that warned that you shouldn’t admit to the ticket change, that you should keep your mouth shut and just keep going, that there were people in the Main Stand who were still miraculously match-going at the age of 125. But the light on the ticket thing at the gates? Flashed amber instead of green. So I rang the club. I rang them in January and it took them until August but they did it. They changed the ticket into my name. It didn’t go to a tour company, it didn’t pass on to somebody different each week, it passed on to me. As it should, as he wanted.

I don’t know how many times the Main Stand has been redeveloped since the early fifties when my dad started his lifetime pilgrimage to Anfield, I don’t know how many times he moved seats. I know that he sat in this seat for as long as I can currently remember. I know that the grooves on the edge of the seat back come from his back along with the feet of whoever sat beside him. I know that the seat held his weight. I know that he sat in it, rose from it, sat in it, rose from it, acclaimed glory and endured defeat for decades.

Taking that seat home would be taking a part of my dad home. And there are lots of parts of my dad here. His photo is to my left, I have his watch, his ties, some of his books, a suitcase he used for holidays before I was born. I have him. I always have him. But the seat? The seat was a link. It was a link to Liverpool and to what we shared. Specifically, what we shared. We shared that view and that seat and the camaraderie of those who sat near us. And I know that those who sat near us have the same stories. I know that pretty much every season-ticket holder has a similar story. Every single seat has a story. Every single seat is personal.

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Don’t get me wrong here. Anfield are capable of doing fine things. Sorting my season ticket obviously but the stones in the new walkway? They’re great. The stones are great. I’d hoped that the club would do something along those lines from the day that my wife organised her father’s stone at Goodison — it’s genuinely a beautiful thing to have. Buying the stone was obvious. And the message our kid decided should go on it? Magnificent.

This though? This selling of ‘a piece of LFC history’? It’s disgusting. It’s a new low from a club that I thought couldn’t show itself more insensitive to the fans’ feelings than it did over the ticket price fiasco. This is worse. To me, this is much, much worse. This is a disgrace. This is a sign that there is somebody in the club’s commercial department that doesn’t get it. Or, that there is simply ABSOLUTELY NOBODY who DOES get it.

There’s a lack of understanding here that is staggering in its depth. There’s a lack of empathy to what this club actually MEANS to the fans who have paid for season tickets for decades. There appears to be nobody at the club who has had the foresight to realise that the seats have value to the fans who have sat in them. All they have seen is that these seats, these generic seats, this fucking PRODUCT has generic ‘value’. There is money to be made here. There’s no place for sentiment. There’s money to be made. It’s as wrong-headed as business ever gets. It’s as lacking in humanity as commerce manages.

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And, again, don’t get me wrong. Thirty years in retail. I know how to sell stuff. I’m bloody good at selling stuff. I understand that we’re viewed as customers by the men who run the business. Not fans; customers. And I’m genuinely okay with that idea. I’ve defended the club on that concept quite a few times. “We should be told what’s going on behind the scenes.” Why? Why should we be told? Because we’re fans, because we give them money? Justin Bieber fans will claim the same allegiance to their love as we to ours. And, yes, they’re completely bloody different because theirs isn’t going to transcend the ephemeral and enter history while ours has, but we still have no say over how the business is run, how the money is spent, who gets the top jobs.

And I’m fine with that.

These seats aren’t about commerce though. These seats are about having the chance to show that the club can do the right thing for the fans. They did the right thing for me with my season ticket, I applaud them for that, I make sure — in my own little way — that people know that they did that; that they’re not as heartless as they’re often painted.

This was a chance for them to show that on a large scale. £50 for the seat? Money to Alder Hey? Sound, where do I sign? Will cash do? Sorted. How beautiful gesture would that be?

£225 for A seat. Capital A. A seat. Just A generic seat, one of thousands. A seat in a box with a booklet. Hideous.

And there are people on Twitter who agree with this viewpoint. And there are those that don’t.

I don’t know if it breaks down by location, I’ve not looked. I’m not going to, I’m not interested in us vs them, Scouse vs Wools — I’m not here for that. There are those who say “why do you want it?” I hope I’ve explained that. I hope I’ve explained it on behalf of a lot of us because I know, I bloody KNOW, I’m not alone. There are those who say “but you’re just renting that seat”, that you have no ownership. There are those that point out that we’re being asked to pay £225 for a seat that we’ve already paid thousands for but it’s not even that.

We’re not being asked to pay for THAT seat, we’re being asked to pay for A seat. For SOMEBODY’s seat. Not ours. There are those who think FSG are appalling. I don’t agree with that, I think they’ve got this very, very wrong and I don’t think there’s any way out of it. And there’s the old “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it”. And that’s also not the point.

The point is this: seat 92. Show me a seat 92. Show me one of the, what, 70, 80, 90, seat 92s? I reckon I could pick mine out. But you can’t. It’s in an iconic presentation box in a warehouse.

Seat 134. That seat you’re using to advertise this whole bloody thing? Whose seat 134 was that? Which row was it in? Who sat in it? Who was his favourite player? What was the best match he ever saw? Was his name ever called on the tannoy? Did he ever have to leave the ground for a birth or an illness? Did he stand on it for St Etienne or Chelsea or Dortmund? Did he slump on it against Arsenal? What did he feel? What did he see? What did he remember? You have no idea, do you? On every conceivable level you have no bloody idea.

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We’ll sell you a seat. You can buy a piece of history. And it’s not like selling the bricks from the Kop. I’m not having that one. And I didn’t want a brick from the Kop. I didn’t stand on the bricks, I didn’t touch the bricks. Each brick was one of thousands. Millions. Many. Each seat wasn’t. Each seat was worn down by us, by our loved ones, each seat held the magic. And you pulled them apart and threw them on the ground and you put them in storage and then you placed them in iconic presentation boxes and called them product. They’re not fucking product. They’re people’s lives and hopes and memories. They’re the moments that they loved and everything that they gave to the game and the game gave to them.

So, the season ticket holders and the members get the first chance to buy A seat from the Main Stand. And you can get my seat and I can get his seat and he can their seat and somebody who is a member but hasn’t been lucky enough to get to the game yet (and there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s all tied into not having the foresight to go big in the nineties) can have your seat.

But that’s okay, isn’t it? Because they’re all just seats. They’re all just product.

I love my club. I adore Liverpool FC. I’ve never been as disgusted by anything that the business of Liverpool has done as I am right now.

They just don’t get it do they?