LFC supporters’ union ready for next stage of the fight

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.

Spirit of Shankly Meeting - March 15thShanks’ 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.

SOS T-shirts on sale at the Olympia meetingWith 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.

Leaflet distributed prior to Reading game, urging supporters to boycott official merchandiseThe 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.

Banner: Comittees are better than cowboysThere 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.

SOS meetingThe 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.”

SOS membership formThere’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.

13 thoughts on “LFC supporters’ union ready for next stage of the fight”

  1. Jim, you have a feel for where SoS are going. Thus far I am as one with their aims on the ownership. I haven’t signed up as I am not convinced that once that issue is resolved they won’t morph into the Ku Klux Kop telling people what clothes and hats they can wear or banners they can carry. Mobilisation is more effective when organised in this way but will SoS maintain an appeal to a wide cross-section of fans. We are a very broad church after all. What do you reckon?

  2. John, I know what you mean and I had some concerns myself at first.

    The very first meeting, or mine and others’ understanding of it, was originally meant to be a small meeting amongst a few people such as Tony Barrett, website editors, supporters’ club representatives and so on, I was invited myself. The idea was that it would be better done this way to start with to discuss strategy, get a feel for what different fans were thinking – at the time there was no doubt at all we needed action against the owners. But whether through misunderstanding or something less accidental I think one site decided to throw the meeting open to everyone. That wasn’t the plan, and it could have backfired badly. I couldn’t get there in the end, but the impression I got from some who did was that a lot of people had arrived pitchforks in hand. It sounded like it very nearly got hijacked.

    It worked out in the end though. The union got a committee, headed by Nicky Allt who comes across as a guy who’s willing to listen to all sides of a story. Nobody will be left out. Any fan can join, it costs £10, and if you’ve got a view you’ll get the opportunity to voice it.

    Examples yesterday were the angry few who said speaking to Hicks should never happen again. He lied, the door should be locked shut. The anger of those saying this was genuine, and in the past I think their anger would have been loud enough for them to get their way. Allt and the others on the stage allowed them to get their views out, and then invited others to speak too. Some good points were raised. I personally think we’ve got to be willing to talk, to press for answers and negotiate whatever we can in certain circumstances. We don’t make ourselves weak by talking. Instead of the angry few getting their way, as often happens, they accepted the vote had gone against them. Another example was when mention was made of overseas fans (Norway was the example) soon having the ability to pay online to join. A local fan said he hated the difficulties faced in getting tickets for him to take his son, and said overseas fans were making it harder to get tickets. He wanted the union to campaign for more tickets being made locally than to Norwegian fans. A lot there agreed with him. But the union said it’s wrong to exclude one set of fans over another. They understood his point, they understood his frustration, but Norwegians were as welcome to join the union as any other fan. The issue is still there and can still be looked at, but not as part of some campaign to stop overseas fans from coming.

    The closed-minded clique-like approach from other movements isn’t here.

    The key point is that everyone can join and get a say. The technical and legal obstacles are almost all overcome now and the ability for all to partake is going to be even better.

    Small groups of fans with controversial views that alienate vast sections of our support are going to have to be very persuasive to get their way in this union. It’s not run by extreme people, it’s not a militant movement, and if a wide cross-section of fans joins up then it should always be representative of our whole support.

    £10 is not a massive amount of money for most supporters, compared to a match ticket, a Sky sub, a year’s worth of e-season and so on. You get a nice badge too!

  3. Jim, thanks for taking the time to respond so fully. I will now sign up. ……………I lived abroad for some years and was dependent upon local supporter’s clubs (Far East & Middle East) to get tickets for the match when on leave. Membership of the Official International Supporter’s Club was good only for a periodic magazine. Although I bow to no one with my "scouse" credentials I detest this OOTs and "Us" business……………….. As well as the Norwegians, Irish et al there is a considerable scouse diaspora of red fans who would be discriminated against if the hotheads got their way.

  4. We have a lot of football left this season. Lets concentrate on winning and supporting the club for the remaining vital games. 

    I know this issue is of upmost importance to everyone, but put it into perspective.

    When the Glazers showed up at utd the reaction was and still is very similar to whats going on here. But they learnt the best way to survive was to keep out of the limelight and to run the club as almost invisble men.

    I would prefer the yanks not to have taken over. What Moores did at this moment doesn’t make sense. I just feel that at the moment there is nobody better to stear our ship.

    It will sort itself out, just like the football has now the public disagrements have stopped.

    Rafa seems solid, the boys are playing like they want to win and hopefully there will be a few quid to spend in the summer. I love this club and i do not want it to turn into a chelsea one minute cash spending wonder club. Anyone can win the league with unlimited funds, even Blackburn Rovers showed that. Thats not what we are about. Lets win things the old fashioned way, like we always have done before.

    Stay strong, stay committed. Things will change for the better.

  5. Thanks John and Jim for asking and answering some questions I had about SOS. I’m often made to feel like my commitment to the club counts for less than local supporters, so it’s good to hear that those of us who don’t live within a 5-km radius of Anfield will still be taken seriously.

    Out of curiosity, what does the union plan to do with the funds from the dues it raises? £10 per supporter will amount to a significant accumulation.

    Was there discussion at Saturday’s meeting about what the union will do if Hicks does get control of a majority stakeholding in the club? He will certainly be more difficult to oust from the boardroom if that happens. Conversely, to echo John’s sentiment, I wonder what kind of role the union envisions for itself if/when H&G are no longer the owners. Will the union work with ShareLiverpool to facilatate supporters’ ownership?

    I want to lend my little bit of support, but it would be good to get a few more details of exactly what it is I’m supporting first…

  6. SoS is the best way forward for fans! Local or Oversea´s. Having fans all over the world helps get the message across the world faster, and kept there, like myself as i live in Germany. SoS will now stand up and be counted, Promises will be followed through, and people like Hicks and Gillett will know that they will not be able to ignore us, and will understand that we do not want them here at Liverpool FC.
    I agree that every fan will have a voice and will not be turned away, as we know Liverpool FC has an Army of fans and that means they cannot be ignored!!
    The one thing i would say to Julie (Toronto) is Don´t let yourself feel you are not wanted, WE are Liverpool, part of a big Family, I myself am not from Liverpool and when i have talked to Liverpool fans from Liverpool they tell me that i am just as important to Liverpool as they are, you couldn´t wish to meet a nicer group of people, and they are very welcoming.

  7. I’ve asked for someone to send me a copy of the FAQ that was handed out on Saturday, it probably answers most of the questions people have got.

    Just to repeat what’s said above really, it’s not an exclusively scouse movement, although at the moment all the voices on the committee are scousers. I think for practicality reasons that’s probably how it has to stay, other than getting fans who are exiled to the area on board as committee members. The union meetings may be once a month or so, but the committee needs to meet up formally or informally more often than that.

    Regards the money, and speaking off the top of my head so don’t quote me on this, but as well as admin costs, the free keyring, leaflet/flyer production, website costs and so on, they’ve got plans in store for helping reduce travel costs to games and having money available for larger issues as may be needed.

    Those behind it all have spent a lot of their own money – and time – in getting this movement going and deserve a lot of credit. You wouldn’t believe the mobile phone bill one of them told me he’d got, caused by having no internet access at work but constantly using his phone to see what was going on.

    The recent batch of fliers and application forms I believe were designed and printed – on good quality paper – for nothing. I don’t know who did that but they’ve not had any free plugs out of it as far as I know – but they deserve one.

    The help with travel is not a subsidy, as some might have feared, but will cut costs dramatically. To charter a plane, for example, requires a deposit up front, non-refundable, with the balance paid in advance too. If you worked out 200 seats at £200 a time, that’s a £40,000 flight. The union could pay the deposit of £20k to secure the flight, and perhaps charge say £210 each, a surplus that would go into the funds to help secure the next flight. £210 is probably, based on figures from the other day, still a saving of £100 on using a commercial ticket agent.

    EDT are administering the money, so this kind of thing won’t be done unless the risks are minimal, and they’ll not allow anyone to get rich on the back of it.

    There’s stuff in the FAQ about the other questions raised, I’m sure, but I’ve not got it to hand. I’ll try and get them on here later.

    There’s a lot that can be done with a strong union like this will hopefully become one day. And if other clubs start similar movements we might see the FA and others start to remember who we are again.  

  8. Thanks, Jim. I do support the union’s aims and objectives and I’m not advocating for any non-scouse representation on the board or committees (it’s just good to know that everyone’s opinion will be acknowledged). I was really moved by the letter that Karen Gill wrote as it summed up so eloquently the commitment supporters have for the game beyond any corporate (and thus moneymaking) agenda.

  9. Daily Mail today:-
    Liverpool FC stalkers Dubai International Capital just won’t go away. They believe the credit crunch across the Atlantic is now seriously impacting on Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks’ businesses and that he will soon be back at the negotiating table. DIC also believe they can challenge Hicks’ blocking rights which allowed him to veto DIC’s deal with his partner George Gillett to take a 49 per cent stake.

  10. I was just on google, trying to find the Texas Rangers fan blog I read a number of months ago about their hatred of Hicks. No luck so far, but I’m including a blog entry I did find as a general overview of Rangers fans’ opinion of Hicks:
    While I soooo sympathize with the Liverpool fans and am tempted to contribute to their cause [the ShareLiverpool proposal], I am going to restrain myself from doing so– because if he doesn’t have Liverpool to screw up, he will have more time to screw up the Rangers.

  11. One more addition to the think-before-you-support-Hicks bonfire… This is an online petition from Rangers fans trying to oust Hicks as owner. Not only is it scarily familiar, it casts a large ominous shadow of things to come:
    <> Since Tom Hicks bought a contending team 10 years ago, his mis-management as owner and chief executive of the Rangers has left fans with a team that has placed 3rd or 4th in a 4-team division for 7 consecutive seasons. The team’s 2007 performance shows continued decline with no hope in sight for a championship season.  Additionally, he continues to rip off fans and the City of Arlington to line his billionaire pockets. Despite rising ticket, parking and concession prices at The Ballpark, more ads at the Ballpark and constant annoying sponsorships and ads during radio and TV broadcasts, the team’s salary, especially as compared to other MLB team salaries, has disproportionately declined while the local market has rapidly grown.   The talent in the Rangers organization has been drastically depleted under Hicks’ tenure due to frequent swings of strategic vision and changes amongst coaching, development and scouting personnel combined with bad trades, poor free agent signings, and bad decisions to not re-sign talented players or acquire better free agents. Hicks has left the Rangers void of the talent necessary to compete for a division title, much less a World Championship, and has shown a complete lack of vision or capability to turn the team around.  With all this and more in mind, you are encouraged to sign a petition to voice displeasure with Tom Hicks as owner of the Texas Rangers and insist that he sell the team ASAP to an owner committed to winning. Click here or on the link show below now to read and sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/rangersfansagainsthicks  

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