As I write this, the owners of Liverpool FC – Fenway Sports Group – have already begun the process of licking the wounds they created.
A few hours before it was announced the reigning Premier League champions would be withdrawing from the proposed European ‘Super League’, I agreed with my editor that I’d write a scathing opinion piece which would effectively call for John W. Henry and his pals to leave the club.
My shift had ended and I had a couple of days off to plan the article – it was very important no errors were made or emotion got the better of me, but when the news of the ESL’s collapse hit my Twitter feed, I celebrated by cracking open a bottle of rum and the anger began to evaporate.
The reversal of FSG’s decision was enough for me to cast the elitist proposal to the back of my mind and move on – but it’s not enough for me to completely forgive and/or forget what Liverpool’s owners did, and I know I’m not the only one.
It’s not the first time Henry and co. have dropped an absolute clanger either, with changes in ticket prices and furloughing of staff sparking outrage in corners of the wide fan-base.
The point of this article is to urge fellow Liverpool fans to not simply allow FSG to get away with continually dragging our name through the dirt.
Our club isn’t just a money-making machine for the mega-rich. While that is a symptom of modern football, it stands for so much more.
When Liverpool were enjoying a meteoric rise in the 1960s, the beautiful game was one of few joys the people of the city had, as unemployment soared and Scousers were forced to leave the city for pastures new under Tory rule – and this isn’t exclusive to us, the exact same goes for Everton.
The Reds and Blues represent the city of Liverpool, and the extended region, and nothing sums up that feeling more than both sets of fans signing “Merseyside, Merseyside, Merseyside,” together in the 1989 FA Cup final, just a month after the Hillsborough disaster – a clear message of unity against central powers and their role in bringing the region so much pain.
To have the current owners of Liverpool rip the heart out from the club and attempt to place it on a pedestal unattainable to 99% of all other European sides is nothing short of a disgrace, and I agree with every word of Everton’s statement amid the madness, criticising their rivals among the other five Premier League outfits involved.
Football is for the many, not the few – and a fenced off version of the beautiful game for the mega-rich simply cannot be allowed to flourish, even if the gap between the biggest (richest) sides and everyone else continues to grow.
The beauty is that any club can reach the very top. Crosby-based outfit Marine, notable for taking on Spurs in the FA Cup this season, currently play in the Northern Premier League Division One North West and are seven promotions away from being in the Premier League. Despite that being an incredible hill to climb, it is possible – and that’s amazing.
The proposed ‘Super League’ could have potentially destroyed UEFA’s flagship Champions League tournament and harmed the domestic competitions, setting up a level of the game which most clubs will never reach – in no small part because the founding members were immune to relegation, much like how many sports work in the US.
Whether Fenway Sports Group genuinely felt they had to get involved with the proposal or not isn’t relevant – they’ve repeatedly shown they don’t understand the club and its supporters, nor how the average football fans thinks, it seems.
But I’m not daft. I know the people behind FSG are mainly in it for the money, and Liverpool could have much worse people in charge; just take a look at the off-the-field improvements the club has made in recent years.
The good comes with the bad.
I’m not going to stand outside Anfield with a placard demanding the owners sell the club. They’ve recognised the latest error they’ve made, but fans can’t just let go of it, even if we move on from it.
Henry and co. have permanently damaged their relationship with the supporters and they can’t be let off the hook. Any big-money signings in coming transfer windows shouldn’t change that.
Like what we’ve seen with the Glazers and Manchester United fans through the years, the Anfield faithful can’t forget what FSG did are were willing to do in the pursuit in the name of greed.