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Friday 9 December 2016

Everyone should back Anfield ticket protests

Liverpool supporters demonstrate against the club’s proposed new ticket prices for next season: Alex Livesey / Getty Images
Liverpool supporters demonstrate against the club’s proposed new ticket prices for next season: Alex Livesey / Getty Images

There is no doubt in my mind that football fans have an absolute right to protest about excessive ticket prices. What is happening at Liverpool is just the tip of an iceberg.

Whether it can bring about a fundamental change in the way fans are viewed by wealthy club owners is another question entirely and I lean towards a cynical view of that.

My suspicion is that the majority of supporters just want to go and watch football, preferably winning football and if their team is delivering, they may grumble but they will pay the price.

It happened at Old Trafford when the Glazers took over. The Green and Gold protest was fatally wounded by the simplicity of success.

The Fenway Sports Group own a great club which hasn't been great for years and they are effectively asking fans to pay more for failure.

Liverpool fans see the money they spend wasted by a committee which has splurged on players who have simple not delivered.

The Glazers pushed up prices because they knew that Alex Ferguson's success had a global imprint. There were thousands ready to fill every seat.

They rode the protest out and they now have a club worth billions and have made a fortune in dividends.

Most important of all, they have shown no hesitation when it comes to spending huge money to try to recover the position they enjoyed while Ferguson was winning and because the club's finances are so strong, it can absorb the cost.

DIFFERENT

It's a very different story at Anfield. It's always harder to pay more when you're not seeing trophies or even progress.

I've always argued on behalf of the players when I've seen bad treatment or poor behaviour from a club or a manager. There's been plenty of that to shout about but I have to admit, we all should be shouting on behalf of the fans because without them we're lost.

I've put forward the view that diving, cheating and dishonesty in general will be the death of football because it will drive the fans away but it's obvious that there are other forces at work which are doing the same job an awful lot quicker.

They are removing local communities from the fabric of clubs by making it too expensive for ordinary fans to support the team they helped build, layer on layer, generation on generation.

No matter what way you look at the issue of club ownership in modern times, that is wrong and ultimately self-destructive as FSG found out at the weekend.

I understand that John Henry and his business partners want to make money but they have a duty of care and I don't believe that they understand this properly.

Every football club with history is an institution in its own city and not just the Premier League elite. Football clubs cannot be treated as simply a profit making enterprise. There's more to ownership than that.

When you buy a club, you buy the fans too. They are part of the family. They pay for everything but they get a say in nothing. It's a unique relationship which works completely on trust and cannot be based on the bottom line.

The very least club owners could do is to look after their most important asset and their primary source of cash - the fans.

I think the Liverpool fans are to be congratulated for mounting such an effective protest and showing how dangerous a game FSG are playing. I was impressed that so many did get up and walk out.

It brought the issue to a head and FSG to the negotiating table.

In John Henry's world, these people are customers, numbers on a balance sheet. FSG raised ticket prices to meet an accountant's target.

But if those same fans - sons, fathers, grandfathers and even great grandfathers - had not invested so much of themselves in Liverpool for over a century, there wouldn't have been anything there for John Henry and his pals to buy.

Someone should point that out to them.

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