There’s no point in protesting, they said. They’ve already got your money, they said. Fenway Sport Group won’t care if you walk out of Anfield, they said.
Well they were wrong.
A huge section of Liverpool fans, led by lads from Spion Kop 1906 and the Spirit of Shankly, made their feelings clear to FSG when they walked out of Anfield after 77 minutes of the game versus Sunderland over the weekend. Though the £77 tickets grabbed the headlines, it was about more than just the most expensive ticket in the ground.
The complaints and issues raised were about the rises to ticket prices across the ground. It was about season tickets rising to £1029 and supporters sitting in the Anfield Road end and the Centenary Stand having to pay more despite nothing being improved in their section of the ground. It was about disabled fans being asked to pay more when they’re already being stretched beyond their means. It was about the club wanting to line their own pockets at the expense of the fan.
More than anything else, though, it was about supporters being asked to pay more money when they’re already paying more than they should have to to follow the team they love.
Credit where credit’s due, though: FSG listened. In a remarkable statement issued by the club on behalf of principle owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon the trio not only apologised for the stress the proposed ticketing had caused but also promised to freeze things as they are for the next two seasons.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 10, 2016
More than that they also promised to end categorisation, something many thought they’d never see. No longer will fans be punished financially for wanting to see the Reds take on Manchester United or Everton. You’re heading to the ground to see Liverpool, regardless of the opposition, so you shouldn’t have to pay more if it’s a different team on the other side of the pitch.
There’ll also be improved access for younger fans and the £9 tickets promised won’t just be in the category C matches but across every game in the league.
Tonight you can feel proud to be a Liverpool fan.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, of course. Access remains an issue, as does the way tickets are distributed and how fans apply for cup matches and so on. All of that is to say nothing of the fact that prices are still too high, even if they’ve been frozen for a couple of years.
But Fenway Sports Group have allowed Liverpool Football Club to lead the way on ticketing in such a manner that fans of other clubs will now be asking questions of their owners. Will Arsenal fans ask why they must pay for the most expensive ticket in the country? Will United respond to their fans about the Auto Cup Scheme they operate that is viewed as extremely unfair?
There’s no way to know right now, but it could be an interesting couple of weeks ahead. Will Liverpool now change their stance on the £30 cap on away tickets?
This shouldn’t be the end of the matter but, rather, just the beginning. There’s a long road ahead to make football more affordable for fans across the country.
— Spirit of Shankly (@spiritofshankly) February 10, 2016
Tonight, though, you should raise a glass to the lads at Spion Kop, to Jay McKenna and all involved with Spirit of Shankly, to the Liverpool Supporter’s Committee and the ticketing group. You should say thank you to all of the Liverpool fans who dared to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’ even when others were telling them not to. But don’t forget to toast FSG too. It’s not easy to admit you’re wrong and harder still to do something to fix it.
A long road lies ahead, but every journey begins with a single step. Tonight Liverpool FC took a leap into the unknown. Let’s applaud them for it.