We received this letter from a fan, he has sent this to the club and supporter’s committee. While you will probably not agree with everything here he does hit on some good points.
Dear Liverpool FC and it’s representatives.
I am writing as one of a number of disillusioned fans, both young and old, from far and near, who the club is in danger of losing as a fan. If it hasn’t already. I have shared this email with friends and it may not be the first time you have heard some of these. But I believe every one of them to be true.
You will no doubt have seen countless ticket price protests, and with good reason. However that is not what this is directly about. This is about the blood of the club, how and why it has been drained out drop by drop, and some suggestions of how to get it back.
Firstly, we are aware of the 100,000 paying members the club has, the Season Ticket waiting list as long as the queue for the toilets at The Sandon, and the fact that Anfield sells out every game months in advance. This may lead you to believe the club has a happy and passionate fanbase. Some of us are not, and the passion is dying.
For those of us who have not yet been priced out of the game, and those of us who sacrifice all other pleasures in life are witnessing the constant decline of what makes this wonderful club what it is. Diehard, loyal support.
As an example, lets use the recent game vs fierce rivals Manchester United. This game saw many things which make real supporters very sad indeed. I will list a few below.
1) Fans, on the Kop, leaving around the 60 minute mark because they were, apologies in advance, “Sick of the shite on the pitch”. Now why anybody would be leaving the ground early is a mystery to me. But the fact fans can waltz out of the ground with 30 minutes of what may be the most important game of the season is abhorrent. The club markets it’s support as The Twelfth Man – yet this happens? Would keeping the doors closed for the full ninety, or at LEAST 80 minutes, be possible? The argument may be “false imprisonment” but try telling that to the away fans we keep in their seats until the game is over? I am also aware of the stadium disasters both domestically and around the globe that mean this is not really a viable option, so we at least need active discouragement.
2) Manchester United fans on the KOP. Those of us on Social Media (god rest our souls) have seen the images, heard eye witness accounts or possibly even seen first hand the smattering of Manchester United fans on the Kop. Merseyside derby apart, fans should be segregated, of that there is no doubt. BUT the REAL question is how those men got their tickets? For a game that sold out quicker than the club did, these tickets were like gold dust. 8+ games from last season you needed. So how did these people get tickets? Either a) an illegal tout, b) a sponsor or c) Thomas Cook.
Whichever of these it is, it is something which HAS to stop.
If it is a), well, any match going red can walk around the ground pre-match and hear the crys of “Spares, anyone need spares, spare tickets, spare tickets” as loud as “Hat Scarf or a Badge” or even “LIV-er-pool fanzine” This means the club are not doing enough to eradicate touting.
If it is b) Yes OK the club needs sponsors to compete, but to place these fans on the Kop is wrong. We have adult/child sections, we have directors
boxes, we have family zones, we do NOT need non-supports on the Kop for the biggest game of the season.
If it is c) Well, the less said about the club’s relationship with Thomas Cook the better. But again, these people should not be on the Kop. Anybody can get a ticket if they have enough money is the message that is coming across. And it is wrong.
3) The singing. Or lack thereof. We have dreams and songs to sing, I like to sing I like to shout I go there quite a lot. Words that should invoke memories in any true Red. However, one block of the Kop aside (306, in case you were wondering) these words were not uttered by the majority of people in the ground. Why is this? Those in the ground who do try to sing songs get met with “mucky” looks and derision at best, the threat from a steward to “sit down and shut up” at the worst. I have spoken to fans who were forcibly ejected from the ground for singing, because they stood up to get their voice across the sea of mutes, or used a few choice words. Was this an overzealous steward or the remit that is handed down? A few more instances of this and we will have stony silence.
The solution? That is an unknown. Ideas are plentiful, and I hope the club can meet with some likeminded fans to discuss the large list we have come up with.
4) Cameras, iPads, Selfie Sticks, etch-a-sketch ad nauseum. This needs to stop. Yes people are proud to be at the ground, and so they should be. But one of the lasting images will be the corner of the stadium all with their phones, iPads and cameras out to take a picture of Juan Mata, the man who had broken our hearts. Not only is this wrong, and said player should have been put off his game with boos, whistles and jeers, but those people are not going to get a better picture than the Sky + HD 1080p roving cameras at the side of the pitch. So this act is benefiting nobody, and harming everybody who holds the club dear.
What you can also see if you search, is the selfie/shot of the fan taking a photo of himself with his selfie stick whilst Daniel Sturridge pulled one back for us. Don’t even get us started on the “Instagram Story” full of idiots.
But that was just one game, let us move on to some of the wider and even more important things bringing the atmosphere down and the true supporters with it, and some ideas as to how this can be countered…
So lets address some of the concerns I have heard over the last few seasons, so you know this is not just a reactionary rant.
1) The noise from the 300s doesn’t travel around the ground.
This is true, be it at the ground or on TV, if you’re not in the gods on the back of the Kop, you cannot hear singing. And if you can’t hear singing, unless you are brave, you will not sing. Add into this the problems with one song starting in 304 and another starting in 306, how is anything expected to get off the ground?
There are multiple ways to solve this. The one I hear often is “move those in the 300 blocks further forward” and is one that should be entertained. Now moving them to the 100s, behind the nets, may be troublesome, too much standing would cause an entire quarter of the ground to be forced to stand, and we can’t be seen to be encouraging standing now, can we (unless it is a big game, and then we never get punished. Perhaps we should take a risk in a few more games?).So offer a move to the 200 blocks? Create a scheme and put that scheme into practice if, and only if, it gets enough support.
How can we send 3-5000 fans all the way to London for away games and be the loudest people in the ground, yet we are outsung by smaller teams at home? We write to every ST holder, ask them to move to the 200 blocks. Make it clear/recommend in the letter than in this stand singing will be encouraged and only those who enjoy 90 minutes of noise making should sign up. Get in touch with supports clubs and SOS, RTK, OTK and the others, let them know it’s happening. What happens then? In all likelyhood the “allowed” standing will move down another 10 or 20 rows. However we have an all standing Kop in European games and major domestic ones without issue.
2) You’re only allowed to sing if you’re on the Kop.
If this is through overzealous stewardship, peer pressure or just plain shyness, if someone doesn’t sit on the Kop their singing is not welcome. Now if I may use person experience for a moment. A few seasons ago, in the Gerrard 3-0 Everton game, I had the pleasure of a seat in the Upper Anfield Road end. I was on my own as my friend couldn’t make it, yet as a passionate fan I still sang my heart out, joining in every song I could hear from around the ground and attempting (with no luck) to get some started myself. What was the outcome? At HT an (admittedly apologetic) steward of the club approached me and asked me to keep sat down and to keep quiet, as a family had complained they were trying to enjoy the game. I was shocked, and this ruined the rest of the game for me. The worst I had said was “Blue and White Shite” – tame as any Liverpool song comes.
How do we fix things? One, the attitude needs to change. Once the Kop is sorted, and in full voice, small sections of our vocal fellow Reds could be dispersed around the ground. The attitude of the steward in that section is to let them sing (as long as it is not bigoted) and be loud, and to those who complain, tell them “this is Anfield, not the Opera House sir”.
Or a small scale trial could be put into place, in that there is a small amount of collect at the ticket office tickets. Prebought but not allocated individually. This would allow the club to know who was sitting where, as per regulations, and allow friends to sit together, thereby increasing comradeship and confidence when starting a song. It is louder in The Park than it is in the ground, usually with the same ringleader. If we can have a ringleader and his/her friends in each section, the ripple effect will kick in.
3) View obstructing articles of clothing.
Now I am not talking about turbans here, obviously. I am talking about big joke hats, jester, pink cowboy hats, Guinness hats. They add nothing to the event except amuse one “fan” for one minute, and they create tension between the person in the hat and the fans around him. These are Reds that should have their arm round each other singing and cheering, not at each others throats for “blocking my view with that hat” – these should be put in the fans bag while the game is on.
4) Late entry
This is a big bugbear of many a fan, four, six, fifteen minutes into the game, and you’ve let 3 or 4 people past you, spilling their drink on you and stamping on your feet. Now why were they late? Because they fancied one more pint or because they’re too “cool” to get in and sing YNWA (it happens more than you think). This needs to be stamped out. Shut the gates at 3:00pm. Reopen at 3:10. Fans should be encouraged to get in the ground early and gee the players up whilst they warm up. I imagine our players would go into the game full of confidence having warmed up to their names sang by 100s, if not thousands of fans. A lot more than a quiet game of piggy in the middle to the sound of Wonderwall over the tannoy. Oh and theres another thing, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE turn down the speakers, and lets try playing club songs before the game and at half time? We love George, we really do, but we don’t want to hear Kasabian and Florence and the Machine at 2:53, we want to be full of gusto and ready to blow the opposition away. If there has been a traffic incident this late entry rule should of course be relaxed.
5) Tourism on the Kop
Now this may be difficult with the above ideas, but lets be honest we won’t implement all these ideas, if any. But another reason the Kop is quiet is that people simply do. not. know. the. words. That’s because they haven’t been to the ground before. The Kop should be graduated to, not used as a marketing tool for anyone with enough money to get on. Open the entire Kop to the priority sales, don’t hold any back. Keep the Kop at 8+ or 14+ or whatever the limit is until interest truly dries up. We understand the need to generate interest and revenue, but lets be honest, with 100,000 fans fighting over 10,000 tickets (or 95,000 fighting over 5,000 once the Priority Sale is taken into account, a 5.26% of securing a ticket if every member applies, which is scandalous in itself) how can you advertise the famous Kop, when it is dying? This is nothing about where somebody is from either. I myself was not born in Liverpool, and some of the loudest fans I have met have been from China, south Asia and Scandinavia
6) Young local kids cannot get into the ground…
Without young local support, the traditions cannot be passed down from generation to generation. If someone doesn’t grow up singing the songs, and learning the nuances of the Anfield crowd, then how are they expected to carry it on when the rest of us get too old to go and make a load of noise any more? Parents need to take their children to the game. This means an increase in adult child tickets. Personally I don’t benefit from this, as I am a childless adult, but it has to happen. And it should not be limited, it should be encouraged. Why can a member/ST not buy an extra junior ticket, out of the general sale/membership sale lot, and take a new/soon to be Red with them? Or how about tickets to schools around Liverpool for every game, it doesn’t have to be a lot, but I can bet there is a diehard red teacher in each and every school who would happily lead 4/5 “lucky” kids to Anfield each weekend as a reward for doing well in their studies and in the community. For example, 5 schools, 5 teachers and 20 children, 25 x 40, or £1000 a game roughly, to increase both the number of young reds in the ground and the impact the club has on the community? Sounds like a bargain to me.
7) Not being able to sit with your friends and family
This is a big problem. If me and my friend, both members, want to sit together, we have to find two seats together. The chances of this happening in the luck of the draw members sales (5.26% chance of securing a single ticket if all members apply, remember) is slim. I can count the amount of games in the last 3 seasons I’ve got to sit next to my mates on one hand. Not only does this create a problem in that we cannot start songs together, and increase the chance of it catching on, but it also leads (my apologies in advance) in the practice of going up to the 300s and blending in in order to stand together. Which is surely not as safe as being in allocated spaces together.
How can this be solved? Quite easily. Instead of being allocated a seat, people should be allocated a block (break the blocks down even further if necessary) or to make it easier to police, a row or two. If someone gets in last minute, the choice seats are gone. This encourages people to get in the ground early. Which in turn increases pre match noise (which will increase player confidence and perhaps even points on the pitch) and also encourage people to buy their food and drink from the ground, increasing takings on a match day.
The alternative is Safe Standing. We all know this is an emotive topic and not one I will go into now. I just hope that behind the scenes, away from the public eye, the club is looking at this as a viable option. The only two things I will say on the subject are: a) SAFE standing is different to the standing of yesteryear, and b) Time and time again it has been proved that Standing Did Not Cause The Hillsborough Disaster. Personally I find the excuse that we cannot have safe standing because of Hillsborough to be an insult to the memories, and innocence, of our fallen brothers and sisters.
Further tiered sales
I know the reason we do not open all ticket sales to people with “some” purchase history is because it will make it a closed shop. It is an unfortunate but necessary thing that is accepted. Someone cannot build loyalty if they cannot get on the ladder, as we see with the away ticket sales. But this season fans who had attended 13 games in the league had as much chance (5.26%) at getting a ticket as any of the other 95,000 members who had paid for access to the bulk ticket sales. This, by pure luck, meant that fans who had spent their time and money following Liverpool, racking up £500+ on tickets alone, was afforded no thanks or gratitude by the club. Instead of 14-0 in a 5,000-5,000 split, it would have been fairer to those fans who had no choice but to miss a handful of games in the prior season if the split had been closer to 17-8-0, with 3-4000 held back for those between 0 and 7. Of course these figures are arbitrary because I don’t have the full stats and I don’t envy the people who have to come up with the parameters, but I believe the current system is wrong. The impression that it gives loyal Liverpool fans is that the club does not care about regulars.
“The club don’t want me in the ground, because I do not spend in the club shop, they want a first timer who has come for an experience” these are not my words but the words of dozens of fans I have spoken to. It may be true, it may not, and of course we need to sell merchandise to be competitive in spending, but if every season you are losing 100s of fans to this way of thinking, it only takes a decade before the famous Anfield atmosphere we market so heavily is gone forever.
9) Greater food and drink options pre and post game, less during.
Many a time people have streamed past me on 35 minutes to go get a hotdog, a pie, a bag of crisps etc, and to return on 52 minutes covered in crumbs and spilled ale. Not only does this leave the fan in his seat disgruntled, but on the large scale it happens, it leaves the ground missing 100s of its fans as our Red Men see the first half out/take hold of the second half. I have to applaud the club in its recent efforts of the walking beer tenders beneath the stands. I would ask that we only serve drinks at half time. I know the idea will not be taken on board, and probably rightly so, but I cannot imagine someone who cannot go without a meal for 90 minutes. The increase in food quality and ease of access pre game once again gets people into the ground earlier, and money in the coffers to ofset the half time loss.
10) Touting needs to be stopped.
I alluded to this point in the earlier Liverpool v Manchester United examples, but touting needs to be stopped. Full stop. Anybody can go on the internet, on Social Media, walk the streets of Anfield before a game or know the “right” person and pick up a ticket if only they are willing to pay a substantial markup. We all know the club do not actively encourage this, but the recent increases in ticket prices and disproportionate loyalty schemes do encourage fans to buy tickets to games they know they cannot afford and will not attend, in the knowledge they can pass on the ticket, and usually pocket £20 in the process. I do not know a way to solve this, as I believe, as any reasonable person would, that buying a ticket as a gift or passing to a friend/family member when you cannot go is something that should continue, but the many acts of illegal touting that are so easy to spot have to go. Send undercover LFC agents out on the streets of Anfield before a game, you will be offered tickets once every five minutes if you know where to look. Take those tickets, instantly ban that person and revoke their membership/Season Ticket. Post undercover comments on social media and wait for the ticket offers to roll in. Seek them out on auction sites and event selling websites, send an LFC agent to pick those tickets up and again revoke the membership/season ticket. On the odd occasion errors will be made, and allowances should be made to reflect this, but on the whole this would dramatically decrease touting, which will also mean the person whose name is on the ticket is the person in the ground. Helping police the stadium.
11) A Season Ticket Move Pricing Amnesty
It is a fact that many fans who started out as young girls and boys on the Kop many years ago now do not wish to sing and shout. It is also a fact that there are many older fans who do still sing and shout. There is a sense of entitlement to that Kop ticket, and reluctance to move is no doubt hindered by the pricing.
We should have a summer in which all Kop season ticket holders who wish to move to other stands should be allowed to do so for the same price as their current Season Ticket, at least for several seasons. This rewards the loyalty of some of our longest serving fans, whilst blooding newer ones in. There will be many who choose to stay and this is fine, noone can and noone should be forced to move. But for those fans who are irked by the noisy people who surround them, who just want to watch the game and catch up with the people they have sat next to every weekend for the last 20 years, this is a perfect solution.
12) Decrease Ticket Prices.
Of course I have to finish with a mention of ticket prices and the effect that has on the average fan. You will be aware, as everybody is, that many fans are being priced out of the game. For me it can cost £100 just for my ticket and travel. When you add a program and a meal to that it’s £110. For 19 games a season that is over £2000. 7% of my post tax income. I can’t justify that. Liverpool has always had a traditionally working class fanbase. One that has stood up to oppression, stuck together and sacrificed for the city and the club. And many of those very same fans cannot afford to go to the game. Many of those who can afford to go to the game now go with expectations that are unfair or unrealistic. They have paid £50+ for this “product” and feel like they should be “entertained”. That is not what we should be expecting. Liverpool fans are the 12th man, and have a job to do. That job is to encourage every Liverpool player on the pitch, and hinder every opposition player. Instead, as previously mentioned, we have fans who have come as a tourist, to take pictures of every minute of the game for their snapchats and their buzzfeeds. Where are the old fans, that would hound a rival player as opposed to try and grab a selfie? They are in the pub, putting the £20 they have for the game behind the bar, watching on TV. That is sad.
Liverpool will be getting an incredible uplift in income due to the new TV deal. Money from Domestic and International TV rights will only continue to rise as football becomes more and more in demand, and the role that gate receipts play in that will get smaller and smaller. Some money needs to be set aside to offset ticket prices, and encourage some of the passionate supporters who have fallen out of love with the game that it is not “us and them”, just us. Liverpool FC as a family.
I hope you take the time to read this, and consider the contents.