On Monday, shortly before RTÉ released a public statement about the issue, a text came through: Ronnie Whelan and Ray Houghton would not now be appearing on the Sun-sponsored ‘Premier Soccer Sunday’.
The decision to remove them from the show was thanks to the tireless campaigning of Irish Reds and came as a huge relief. The two players stopped playing for Liverpool a long time ago but any introduction for either of them will always include the club’s name. In effect their appearance on the show would give ammunition to the tiny minority who think it’s possible to be a Liverpool fan and a Sun reader. It would also give ammunition to the sick, small-minded, individuals who feel that it’s acceptable to abuse Reds based on the Sun’s false version of events.
Having already spoken on the issue to The Irish Independent, journal.ie and Dublin radio station Spin 103.8 before the announcement was made it was clear that the story was gaining a lot of attention in Ireland. After the announcement had been made there came another request to talk to Irish Radio, this time to the national station Newstalk.
There was some disappointment at the lack of any word from either player about the position they’d been in. RTÉ just said they wouldn’t now be appearing on the show – they didn’t say why.
If the two had made it clear that they fully support the boycott and pulled out as soon as they were informed of the sponsorship situation it would have helped repair their reputations and raise even more awareness of the boycott.
Their reputations are of course for them alone to worry about – it’s up to them to decide if their status amongst supporters was damaged during the time taken for them to be withdrawn. It’s up to them to decide if any damage can be fixed by just leaving it to heal of its own accord. And of course any hit their reputations might have taken is nothing compared to what their appearance on the show would have done.
Awareness still got a massive boost from the coverage afforded to the story. People previously unaware of the boycott have been made aware there is one, and why. The response to posting a link to the full transcript on Twitter was for a number of supporters already aware of the boycott to express their shock at how bad the Sun’s fabricated version of the disaster really was. Younger Reds are getting the full details and coming to the same conclusion that the younger Reds of 22 years ago made – to boycott.
The boycott is also increasingly coming to the attention of supporters around the world. And of course it isn’t just supporters of Liverpool who join in the boycott after seeing the lies that were told.
A point raised quite often is whether or not Liverpool fans should be dictating how ex-players can make a living. The simple response is that ex-players get these offers because they used to play for Liverpool and were given huge support from those fans; to turn work down when it relates to that one boycotted publication isn’t a great deal to ask in return.
Another point raised regularly is whether there is anything The Sun can do to bring an end to the boycott after 22 years. It’s a fair question: what will it take?
It’s a question that only the families and survivors can answer and there’s little point asking them before the truth – not the lies the Sun headlined ‘The Truth’ – is made public.
The Sun wasn’t the only newspaper to print the lies fed by a Conservative MP and the high-ups in South Yorkshire police. But it was the only paper that didn’t follow it up with an immediate retraction. Instead The Sun waited years, waiting until fresh attention was drawn to their lies, attention that came after Wayne Rooney spoke exclusively to them.
Their apology was seen as insincere, all the more because it included a dig at the Liverpool Echo for writing about the boycott and the backlash to the Rooney story.
The Sun’s lies have got in the way of the truth coming out. They have allowed small-minded scum to have sick fun at the expense of survivors and the families of the victims. They added to the trauma and suffering.
The panel set up in 2009 following Andy Burnham’s appearance at the memorial service is quietly suggesting that the truth might finally be close. That truth will come as a huge comfort to those affected by Hillsborough.
Until that truth does come out, until that truth becomes the accepted version of events so that small-minded scum are shouted down by those who excuse their behaviour, there is absolutely no chance that the boycott will end.
Until then no true Liverpool supporter will allow The Sun into their home in any form; printed, electronic or as the sponsor of a TV show they watch.
Don’t buy the Sun.