I would like to make it abundantly clear from the out-set this article is not a justification of the recent increase in Anfield ticket prices. The rise in ticket prices are a betrayal to the common fan, no matter the reason for the spike.
Nor is this a defence of the current set of players at Liverpool Football Club, some of which seem to be in over their heads to such an extent we can only hear a faint cry for help every time they look to play the ball.
I do have several points of contention with mainstream Liverpool fans’ views and opinions on the current state of the club.
I am aware that writing this article after throwing away a 2-0 lead to Sunderland at home is not the best moment to defend the ownership and wider fan-base of Liverpool Football Club, but these are things that need to be in the domain.
Firstly, in defence of Fenway Sports Group. The American sports investment company have two major teams on two sides of the Atlantic ocean under their umbrella. In America, the Boston Red Sox baseball team and in the United Kingdom, our very own Liverpool FC. I should make it abundantly clear at this point that I have been a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan for ten years now, long before FSG owner John Henry sought to buy Liverpool FC.
When I heard that my baseball and football teams would now be owned by the same man, I was delighted. Primarily, I liked what Henry had done to the Red Sox baseball team. Acquiring the Red Sox in 2002, the team won its first World Series for 86 years just two years later. They would go on to win two more titles in the next nine years. FSG’s willingness to invest in the team (and believe me, some giant contracts were, and still are being handed out) showed the commitment that Henry had to seeing his sports teams succeed.
In short, when FSG bought out Liverpool from the frankly cancerous ownership of Hicks and Gillett in 2010, I was over the moon. I knew that money would be invested into the club in large quantities, and I believe that hope has been fulfilled. Liverpool FC have had a net spend of £163m since the takeover, and although the players the money has been used on have been sub-par to say the very least, to attribute that to Fenway Sports Group is ludicrous.
In addition to monetary investment into the team, I also knew we could expect a solution to the stadia problem. The Hicks/Gillett solution that sought to see a new stadium built in Stanley Park would be of both enormous cost financially, and culturally. A trip to Anfield is as good as it gets for the English football fan in my opinion. The place reeks of glorious European nights of times gone by, and being able to stand next to your Dad as he vividly describes exactly what he saw Ian Rush do down at the Kop End whilst you stand there looking at it is supreme.
FSG were no strangers to the dilemma of what to do with an ageing stadium. Back over in Boston, Henry had evaluated the various pros and cons of knocking down the historic park of Fenway Park and building a new one, or simply renovating what already stood. Renovation was the key. Fenway underwent a face-lift, and now exists as a symbol of what renovations should look like. A combination of history with modern design secures a safe and enjoyable place to watch a match, without the need for a new build altogether (Arsenal, take note).
The Main Stand renovations are the first step towards cementing Anfield’s future as a staple of European football, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.
Finally, I’d like to address something not relating to the ownership of Liverpool Football Club, and focus on the supporters.
Before the Sunderland game Saturday, I chanced upon many a tweet setting upon foreign Liverpool supporters receiving an autograph from Sam Allardyce. Many of these tweets and replies were labelling this foreign support as the reason why everything was now terrible.
That isn’t the Liverpool FC I know. That isn’t the Liverpool FC that won the Champions League five times and dominated football like nobody’s business for the best part of twenty years. Liverpool fans are Liverpool fans no matter where they come from in the world. Just because you may have been born down the round doesn’t mean your heart is any more red than someone who was born in Malaysia, or China, or Australia. The idea that fans from abroad might be pushing up ticket prices is open for discussion, and I’m willing to listen to all arguments. But labelling these foreign supporters as the “problem” is wrong, hateful, and not what Liverpool’s about. The Kop doesn’t sing “You’ll never walk alone except if you’re from anywhere beyond Kirkby”.
My message to Liverpool fans is as follows: calm down, and look at what’s before us. We are getting the best stadium in English football renovated. We have (in my eyes) one of the best managers in European football at the helm. We have an ownership that is willing to give that manager the funds he needs to build a team that can succeed. And to think back to the days of Hicks and Gillett when we thought our club’s days were numbered.
Football is changing, and there’s not a lot we can do about it. The sad fact is that the game that was once a working man’s exploit is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with the costs of that being passed onto the consumer. I can’t say that I’m happy with that.
But we need to remember this is a world of football that was created with our consumeristic consent. How can you seriously protest modern football whilst simultaneously renewing your Sky subscription?