A unanimous call for Bill Shankly’s granddaughter to be made patron of the new supporters’ union named after him came on the day the Spirit of Shankly constitution was ratified.
Shanks’ granddaughter is Karen Gill, and a statement she’d written was read out by Nicky Allt at the beginning of the latest meeting, held at the Olympia on Saturday, attended by hundreds of Reds. It was an extremely inspirational piece and was loudly applauded by everyone in the room. She said her granddad would have been extremely proud to have this movement named after him, and would have been fully behind its aims, something she said was necessary in this new age of corporate football. After the applause had died down Allt asked for a show of hands on approaching Karen to become patron. Not one hand went up for “No”, and the approach will be made. Given the tone of her piece it’s an approach she is likely to accept. We’ll hopefully have a copy of the statement to put on the site soon.
Later in the meeting came even louder applause when Michael Shields’ father, Mike senior, was introduced to the meeting. After a long standing ovation he spoke of optimism that his son would be “decategorised” and moved from the prison in Preston he described as one of the worst in the country to an open prison where there would be a vast improvement in his son’s treatment. He said that he hoped for an answer in the next couple of weeks. It’s of course ridiculous that given the massive amount of evidence disputing his conviction Michael is still in prison at all. He never got a fair trial, in effect he was framed, and despite a lot of effort from supporters and many individuals there remains a feeling that more could have been done to clear his name and set him free. This, said Allt, is where the union could have been a major help had it existed three years ago.
With the ratification of the constitution came the ability for the union to start functioning properly and effectively. The union still doesn’t have a bank account and as such has been unable to cash cheques sent in with membership forms, to accept on-line donations from fans or to even process one membership form. Now that the legal requirement of a constitution has been met this changes; the bank account will be opened and the union can use new-found strength to fight for its aims.
A representative of the unfortunately-named Everton Development Trust, the non-profit-organisation who will administrate the union’s finances, spoke about how all funds will be properly managed, and welcomed callers to the office in Great Homer Street if they had any questions.
The one stated immediate aim of the union is to “rid the club of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.” The list of lies and broken promises has been well-documented, as have the many reasons why offering the manager’s job to Jurgen Klinsmann was so wrong, and also the worries about how the club could be destroyed by the amount of debt it is now in. Although Gillett has been in hiding for the past few months, only popping out briefly to tell some lie about the dollar being the reason he went back on his word, Hicks is making it clear he’s going nowhere.
Many observers feel Hicks is not going to be able to raise the funds or attract the investors to buy George Gillett’s shares, and others speculate Gillett wouldn’t sell to him anyway. However Hicks was in 380th position in Forbes’ September list of America’s richest people, and maybe one or more of those 379 American people ahead of him in the list is willing to join forces with the Texan in his battle with the Middle East. There is also a faint possibility that DIC and Hicks will be able to agree a joint ownership arrangement they can both work with. On top of that is the possibility that the stand-offs will drag on for months.
A recent report said that SOS had met with Tom Hicks Junior following his infamous visit to the Sandon, but the union said that in fact Hicks Jnr had met with a supporter, not SOS. A meeting between a member of SOS and a DIC representative after the West Ham game was also mentioned, and it was pointed out that this was an informal meeting, arranged at short notice, and served as an introduction between the union and the people from DIC. It was keen to allay fears in some quarters that the union were already negotiation with both Hicks and DIC, which was far from the truth.
There had been a call from some sections ahead of the meeting to block all future talks with Hicks, to reject such talks out of hand. The damage had been done and there was no going back. However there were others who felt that dialogue may be important – and would offer an opportunity to ask questions until they are properly answered, to put concerns forward directly without there being any manipulation from others with slightly different agendas. The union were not going to, at this stage, actively seek a meeting with Hicks, but if approached should they agree to meet? Any talks should be properly minuted and so any promises made or excuses given would be there in black and white for future reference. In the light of the recent claims purportedly from DIC that Hicks called talks off when they asked for a fan representative on the board, claims denied by Hicks and never confirmed by DIC, any talks with DIC should also be properly minuted. It’s important not to take any “promise” seriously if it hasn’t been backed up first.
A vote wasn’t unanimously in favour, but only a slight minority were against the idea of the union speaking to any potential or current owner.
One reason why such talks were felt important was related to the fan-board-member claim. The union noted that Hicks hadn’t ruled out such a move as being possible, and that DIC’s representatives had seemingly suggested it as being an option. That kind of recognition for the supporters is something the union were keen to get hold of, and something that could be made possible through talks.
The union are also keen on using their potential strength in numbers to cut down on travel costs for supporters to away games, and some examples of how much cheaper they should be able to negotiate coach or air travel were given.
At the end of the meeting leaflets were handed out to distribute to supporters at the ground calling for a boycott on all official merchandise and on products sold inside the ground.
Part of a recent Brian Reade column from the Daily Mirror was read out, which illustrated the speed with which this union is growing into a force:
“A week earlier, 600 Liverpool fans met to form a supporters union called The Spirit of Shankly (SOS), aimed at forcing out the club’s owners. On Wednesday representatives of Dubai Investment Capital held a meeting with SOS to discuss ways of grabbing power from George Bush’s side-kick, Tom Hicks (or as he used to be called in Hollywood – Tom Mix, King of Cowboys).
“Let me run that past you again. Representatives of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, one of the world’s richest men, swopped thoughts with a three-week-old fans’ group on how to bring down a billionaire adviser to the most powerful man on earth.
“This remarkable scenario came about when ordinary fans realised they’d been taken for patsies. That American speculators had spun lies to them about their passion for their club. That they planned to milk it for all they could without putting in a dime of their own.”
There’s a genuine desire from the union to listen and to be listened to. All views will be heard and considered, arguments for or against a particular situation will be given time to be heard. In the past there have been situations when a minority group finds itself being considered as the voice of all fans, without ever having consulted more than a small number of fans. This always seems to lead to resentment, even if people agree with the aims of the group they complain at being kept out of the loop, or make big issues out of minor details. But this situation should now be a thing of the past – join the union and you’ll get a say, regardless of where you live, which websites you use or which pub you go into before a game.
Shanks wouldn’t be happy to see supporters pushed out the way they feel they have in recent times, and this union seems intent on fighting to make the fans a far higher priorities for those running the club.