With hundreds of Liverpool protesters turning up at short notice last night to protest at Anfield about the owners and Christian Purslow, it’s clear that anger amongst supporters shows no sign of fading. Today the Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, announced a plan that they hope will help fans take the club back from the banks, the profiteers and the personal empire-builders.
Last night’s protest, which saw the US flag set alight by supporters trying to send out a message to the owners rather than their compatriots, wasn’t actually organised by SoS, and perhaps that’s why it caught authorities by surprise with the turnout much stronger than it seemed they were expecting.
Although members of the Spirit of Shankly committee joined in, it was in their capacity as supporters. It was a supporters’ protest. Although it happened just hours after the club announced their sacking of the manager – dressed up by lawyers as “mutual consent” – it wasn’t a protest about the departure of Rafael Benitez. Of course that was one of the issues that had angered many of those there, but not just for the act itself more for the way it had been planned, more for the way the club had gone about it.
Some of those there felt the best way to get a message out to the owners back in the USA was to burn the US flag. Anyone with an understanding of the situation knows that this wasn’t aimed at the people of the USA, but at the people from the USA who own the club. No doubt those who set fire to the star spangled banners would love the USA to get together and shame the owners into accepting a fair price for the club, and if the US people don’t like to see such desecration of their national symbol they might find it’s easier to appeal to the owners, stubbornly holding out for an exorbitant price, than it is to appeal to those supporters who really have had enough.
As it is, the owners rarely get involved in the running of the club these days. For the last year they had left it all to the little man who doesn’t want the profile, but always seems to pop up where he’s not expected. After he failed to do the main task he was hired for, instead of being sacked he was given someone to share the heat with, the owners stepping down as co-chairmen and handing the reigns to one of Chelsea’s executive supporters. That man is Martin Broughton, who couldn’t attend a Liverpool-Chelsea match in case he celebrated a Chelsea goal on camera but was more than happy to indulge in the pleasures of his favourite club’s end-of-season awards. That was the party where he allegedly revealed to a Sky Sports News presenter that Torres should leave because it’ll be at least three years before the club is turned round.
Of course Broughton isn’t here to run the club, just to sell it. Or so he said. So he won’t have been involved in the decision to sack Rafael Benitez, one that was made easier by the manager forfeiting at least £10m of the money owing to him. He’s not the first one to lose out on what he was owed by those at the top of this club.
If he’s not running the club then the decision to sack Benitez, and the decision on how to force him out over a period of months, would surely rest on the shoulders of the managing director, Christian Purslow. He was brought in to help sell part or all of the club, all he achieved was to con a few influential people into thinking the transfer budget had been £20m when it was nothing of the sort.
He’s also – allegedly – got his own nickname for supporters’ union. To call SoS “Sons of Strikers” isn’t exactly helpful, but would no doubt cause much mirth in any chats with Martin Broughton, himself fighting off trade unions in his day job at British Airways. His reputation for the leaking of criticism of the manager or the owners to whichever audience he feels wants to hear it is legendary, as his ability to angrily deny such comments or views to those he knows don’t want to hear it.
Most people see through him in the end, but some seem to be taking longer than others.
There is absolutely no doubt that future protests will be stepped up, especially without a manager to use as scapegoat for the failings of his superiors. That said, they won’t be hiring a replacement unwilling to keep quiet about massive budget cuts, unwilling to pretend all is rosy when it’s anything but.
And just as the next manager will have to fit into a vision for Liverpool FC that shares little with the vision of the fans, so will the next set of owners. If the current owners want their successors to be right for the club they’ll look positively at today’s announcement from SoS. Nobody will be holding their breath though of course.
SoS had hoped to join forces with ShareLiverpool, but for reasons so far unspecified ShareLiverpool’s board voted against a merger with SoS.
When Rogan Taylor first announced the ShareLiverpool idea he spoke about a £5000 investment as if it was pocket money. And for those who would consider that kind of amount to be pocket money there was no room to buy more than one £5000 chunk. Unsurprisingly his scheme never really got off the ground.
The announcement by SoS today has a target of £500 and fans won’t have to pay it all in one go. The scheme won’t necessarily exclude wealthier individuals or commercial groups from investing appropriately.
If it succeeds it will finally see fans getting a say in how the club is run. And that must be better than how it is being run now, by a so-called fan and a Chelsea fan who says he’s only here to sell the club.
More details in the announcement below, including a link for further information.
The Spirit of Shankly wish to inform members that there have been detailed discussions with Share Liverpool over the last six months regarding the progress that had been made by Share Liverpool in promoting a supporters’ ownership scheme.
The discussions centred on the perception from our members (and supporters generally) that progress had stalled under the Share Liverpool scheme and that an opportunity was being lost which might not be available again for some time.
The Management Committee of the Spirit of Shankly reached the conclusion that a merger of the two organisations would be appropriate in order to use the momentum and resources that the Union had together with the expertise that undoubtedly existed within Share Liverpool.
The merger discussions reached a point where the Union put a formal proposal to Share Liverpool for merger and Share Liverpool met on 2nd June to consider the offer.
Unfortunately Share Liverpool have rejected a merger which has left the Union with no alternative but to put into place a contingency plan that we have been working on for some time.
This plan involves the creation and launch of a credit union scheme to collect payments from supporters to establish a fund for the purchase of a stake in the Club. It will allow for members to make monthly payments to reach the starting point of £500 per supporter.
This will be launched this summer.
In addition the best of the Share Liverpool proposals relating to the structure of how the scheme will work and the approach to wealthier supporters and commercial organisations will still take place except now there will be transparent progress. Members will see their funds safely secure and will be able to see the growth in the fund.
We would urge all those that made an initial pledge to Share Liverpool to fall in behind the Union with the promise of action, progress and the best effort that can be made for us to secure a preliminary stake in our Club.
We have put a more detailed explanation of the background to this decision at http://www.spiritofshankly.com/supporter-ownership.html