Red Letter: Results irrelevant as Liverpool fans win battle

Date published: Thursday 11th February 2016 12:03

Liverpool fans: Won their battle against ticket prices

In his weekly Liverpool blog, Dave Tindall reflects on a huge victory for the club’s supporters at the end of a disappointing seven days on the pitch.

As is the norm this season, the past seven days have been anything but straightforward for Liverpool fans.

On the pitch, it’s been one of those miserable weeks – blowing a 2-0 lead at home to Sunderland and getting knocked out of the FA Cup in added time of extra-time when we looked all set to go into and very likely win another penalty shootout (well we have won 14 of the previous 17).

But, off the pitch, it’s been a very different story. And a truly heartening one.

On every row and section of Anfield last Saturday, the same question was being asked: “Are you going to walk out?”

It had become such a huge talking point after the club had announced a new ticketing structure the previous week. A 77th minute walkout by the fans had been planned as an appropriate protest given the most expensive ticket next season had been set at £77.

Liverpool is a city where causes and wrongdoings, both perceived and genuine, stir the passions perhaps like nowhere else. Indeed, Labour MP Tony Benn once described Liverpool as the most political city in the country.

Liverpool fans protest ticket prices

The fans weren’t going to let this go without a fight, and it was no surprise that, true to their word, they headed to the exits in their masses. This wasn’t a few songs and a militant 500 signalling their dissatisfaction. This was a mass walkout of 10,000 which equated to 25% of the crowd.

In other words, it was a huge statement. ‘Enough is enough’ became the slogan of choice.

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher joined the walkout, and that helped fuel further press coverage.

Meanwhile, on social media, the well-known Uli Hoeness quote did the rounds and struck a chord with fans everywhere, not just those at Liverpool.

Bayern Munich fans

When Bayern Munich cut their season ticket price to £104, Hoeness pointed out: “We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2million more in income, but what’s £2million to us?

“In a transfer discussion, you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”

In his Daily Mail column, Carragher picked up the baton.

“Liverpool generate around £35 million from ticket income. Had FSG announced a freeze on prices when the new stand was completed, the income would have risen to £37 million.

“The increase means they could generate £39 million.

“All this for the sake of £2 million for the ninth richest club in the world!

“That would not make the slightest difference when it comes to negotiating for a player.

“The club say that £77 gets you the best seat in the newest stand in the country, but why should that be an elitist thing.

“Why can’t the normal working man have the chance to sit there. It isn’t fair.”

Fans DO matter

As if somehow orchestrated by the gods of making a point, shortly after the walkout, Liverpool went from leading Sunderland 2-0 to drawing the match 2-2.

You couldn’t have scripted it better to show that fans matter. The atmosphere in the stadium had changed and it seemed the walkout had a direct result on the outcome on the pitch. Two points had been lost, but a much bigger point had been made by the supporters.

Owners Fenway Sports Group were shocked by the magnitude of the protests, but the cynic in me believed they were just paying it lip service despite the talk of holding ‘emergency talks’ in light of the events at Anfield that Saturday afternoon.

But then it happened.

I was in a taxi home on Wednesday night when I idly flicked through Twitter and noticed my timeline had gone beserk.

FSG had made a U-turn!

In an open letter from co-owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon, FSG announced that “for the next two seasons, LFC will not earn a single additional pound from increasing general admission ticket prices.”

They’d listened and acted. All power to them but, most of all, power to the people.

As Times writer Oliver Kay said on Twitter: “Credit to LFC for accepting their ticket policy was wrong. Bigger credit to fans for forcing the U-turn. It can be done, you know.”

Fan rivalry is a hugely important part of the game. But whatever colours you wear, supporters up and down the country should be saying a big thank you to Spion Kop 1906, Spirit of Shankly and all those who took part in the walkout at Anfield on Saturday.

Who knows what effect that this defiant show of togetherness could have in the campaign to make the game more affordable for everyone.

Forget the draw with Sunderland and defeat at West Ham because Liverpool fans can celebrate a huge victory this week.

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