On Friday night, AFC Liverpool, a club founded by 1000 Reds fans in 2008, take on Radcliffe Borough FC in the FA Cup qualifying round at the Marine Travel Arena.
Ahead of their big game, Luke Chandley caught up with AFC Liverpool chairman Chris Stirrup to find out more about the club and what makes it tick.
Q: Firstly, AFC Liverpool – for people who don’t know, what’s it all about?
A: AFC Liverpool was established in 2008 to give football back to those who no longer have live football in their lives. In early 2008, the Premier League wanted to introduce a ‘39th game’ which would see a league game take place across the globe; so for example, Norwich v Bournemouth, played in Singapore or Liverpool v Stoke played in Montreal, highlighting the fact that top flight football is more and more about generating money than being the game we all know it to be.
You also only have to look at the price of a top flight game and the availability of tickets. Nowadays, going the match is planned months in advance and to take your family costs about a week’s wage.
It’s becoming more of an experience than simply watching football. So we decided to give football back to those, who for whatever reason, no longer go to football matches.
We aren’t a protest against LFC, far from it, we simply want to give football back to people who don’t have it anymore.
Q: What is the aim of the club? In this instance, is there more of an emphasis on ‘off-the-field’ success that isn’t financial gains? (With AFC being a non-profit organisation). Or would that be belittling the on-the-pitch hopes the club has?
A: Like has been previously mentioned, the club’s aim is to provide affordable football. Being not for profit and fan-owned means that the club can grow as much as people want it to. The club isn’t about making money so that enables us to re-invest in both community projects and on the pitch.
Q: How did you get involved with the club?
A: Myself, Alun Parry and Mark Woods started the club and I’ve been here ever since!
Q: Having never attended an AFC match before, is there a difference in atmosphere between Liverpool FC and AFC Liverpool? (Not just noise, I mean general feel to the experience).
A: Yes, I’d like to think so. AFC Liverpool is a lot more relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, the supporters are still just as passionate but I think the fact that our supporters can sit/stand where they want, be with who they want to be with, have a laugh and a joke with away supporters, means that there is a lot more of an enjoyable feel to it for a lot less money.
Q: How has the team been accepted/embraced by the city and surrounding areas since it formed?
A: I think it’s been largely accepted.
There are still people who haven’t heard of us or think that we are a protest group like FC United of Manchester but that’s down to us to dispel that myth.
Once people become aware that we are solely about affordable football people give us great support.
Once we find our own home inside the city boundary, we will become the only non-league side in the city and that is our ultimate aim, to find our home within the city as for the city of Liverpool to not have a side at non-league level, is a disgrace and one that we want to change.
Q: Sticking with the historic questions, in what ways has the club grown since its inception in 2008?
A: Its now an established football club on the non-league circuit. We’ve been in five cup finals in seven years and won promotion once, so with that success it makes the club grow naturally. The fact we are still here, seven years on, still without a permanent home and the revenue streams that brings, shows that the club is growing.
Q: What is the age-range of supporters that attend the games? Is there a large scope, or is it a lot of traditional fans who have become disillusioned with today’s game?
A: Very large. From toddlers right up to old fellas with the rattles! We have drawn supporters from all walks of life and each of them will have their own reasons for attending but for the majority, it is about affordable football.
We have supporters who have previously travelled the globe with LFC but also people who have rarely been to see Liverpool if at all.
Q: When people become fans of the club, is there usually a severing of ties from Liverpool FC, or do supporters very much embrace both clubs?
A: I don’t think there is a severance. With the way modern football is now, people still watch and support Liverpool albeit from their own home or in the pub and more often than not, LFC play at a different time to us. We even have a few LFC season ticket holders who come to watch us just as much and enjoy it just as much.
Q: This Friday, at home, you play Radcliffe Borough in the FA Cup after winning 9-2 in the last qualifying round. What is the expectation going into Friday’s game?
A: I think, for me, for us to give a good account of ourselves against higher league opposition, really. One thing our lads do is give their all and really, that’s all you want from your football team. If the players do their best then if you get beat it softens the blow. Hopefully, we can do ourselves justice and if we play like we can, then who knows.
Q: How can people get involved with the club in both an official and unofficial capacity?
A: Various ways, really.
For us, the simplest thing is about getting our message out there, that we are here and we are an alternative to sitting in the house watching Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson on a Saturday afternoon.
We are always looking for help off the field too and if anyone thinks they have something to offer to help move the club forward then just email me on [email protected] and we can certainly have a chat.
We are always keen for any help, from match day volunteers to board members; if someone has something to offer, then we’d happily take it!
Q: Without wanting to divide the camp, a first-time attendee like myself, which players should I be looking out for on Friday night?
A: All of them, honestly! I suppose if its goals, though, then you’ve a choice. Ryan Cox was our leading scorer last time out; he bagged near 40 goals last season. Then this season Steven Jones has scored, I think, seven already including from the halfway line and a couple of free-kicks; he is a dead ball specialist. But then Ronnie Morgan and Franny Barry have chipped in with a couple too.
Q: Finally, I always like to try and get a score prediction and first scorer shout before a match. Who are your shouts for the FA Cup tie on Friday?
A: I don’t want to jinx it! (But 3-1 us with Ryan Cox first scorer).
Thanks a lot, mate. And if you want to go and see AFC Liverpool this weekend, they play at their regular home the Marine Travel Arena, a 7:45pm kick-off on Friday, with tickets at £5 for adults, £3 for seniors and £2 for Under-18s.