Some food for thought?

In the past 12 months I have noticed an incredible wave of new supporters rolling in around the world for Liverpool Football Club.  The attraction was an delicious package of attacking football culminating in a emphatic charge towards England’s greatest prize, the English Premier League.

It’s been beautiful to see so many new Reds join the worldwide family of passionate supporters.

Naturally, with the style of play and big scalps as the season wore on, it would be inevitable that tickets for matches, both home and away would become prized assets for supporters. By early March this year the ticket office at Anfield was reporting unprecedented demand for match tickets with requests coming from South Africa, Indonesia, America and New Zealand.  It seemed everybody wanted a slice of the pie.

Recently, I began to read “Redmen: A Season On The Drink” for the second time. It’s a wonderful recital of season of 2008/09 is recounted through the wit and wisdom of Jegsy Dodd and John Mackin.

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The following is an insightful passage from the book.  Some food for thought if anything about the changing face of football.

With the changing face of football, the money, the marketing, the sponsorship, the American ownership saga, the cynicism and all the other usual things it’s becoming harder and harder to be a fan.  It seems to be getting more geared to being a television sportnow than a live spectator sport.  Did I just say sport?  How old fashioned of me. It’s now one big seedy marketing circus of wheeling where the corporate pigs stand side by side with their snouts in the trough.  Grunting and farting as they suck the game dry of any respectability.  It’s a sad fact that people like Tommy O’Hagen, Smigger from Kirkby, Dennis from Wallasey and numerous others have decided to call it a day.  How much longer me and the other lifters will last is another question.  But you can see by the creation of supporters’ action groups like “The Spirit of Shankly” that all is not well on planet football.  More about S.O.S in a bit.

One of the maddest results of all the gradual erosion of LFC’s male. local, working class fanbase is the new phenomenon that is happening downstairs at The Sandon – a half bricks throw from the Kop, and the place where this football club, this institution, this Liverpool was founded.  Every home game, The Sandon is packed to the rafters with all the old match heads while the game is being played out a hundred yards away.  And it’s not just a case of tickets being the proverbial gold-dust at Anfield, and any spares being hoovered up by touts and cash-rich daytrippers who will get in, literally, at any cost.  A lt of the ex-diehards don’t want to be part of what they see now as a sanitised marketing ritual (later in the season, Commercial Director, Ian Ayre will refer to Liverpool Football Club as “the product”).  More of him later.

In a weird way, meeting up at The Sandon and having a laugh, this regular crew of 200 former lifers still think they’re kind of actually at the match, but not really, if you know what I mean?  I’ve had the odd spare ticket and offered it to Ally or Jimmi or someone else and they have refused saying it’s a better laugh at the pub where you can sit with your mates and have a few bevvies and even nip out for a smoke if you want.  The mad thing is though, if they watched it in town or nearer to where they live they wouldn’t class it as going to the match.  So in their minds, they’re actually at the match but not wasting money on a ticket for “The Product”.  Confused?  So am I.

There is a real sense of desolation reading that passage by Jegsy Dodd.

It’s partly why my blood boils when I hear foreigners who want to watch Liverpool Football Club at Anfield but only, and this is a common demand, only when the red men are playing Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.  Worse still, they expect 3 or 4 tickets, together, on the Kop and with the best spec.  Offering them tickets to a home match against Hull or Northampton Town in the League Cup just doesn’t cut the mustard with some which makes you wonder why they support Liverpool Football Club to begin with?

There is a certain sense of respect that should be adhered to when searching out a match ticket.  You need to respect the supporters who have been going the match their entire life.  Born and bred locals who have been there through all the highs and lows along the way.  Rolling up to Anfield with the expectation that you deserve a big match ticket is a slap in the face to those supporters who have been there long before and long after you head home from your visit to Liverpool.

I’ve helped out plenty of fellow reds over the years, 99% of them just happy to watch Liverpool Football Club play.  Every now and then though I get a request from a “big game Charlie” who wants 4 tickets to the home match against Chelsea at the business end of the season for their first trip to Anfield.  I hope people like that read the passage I reproduced from “Redmen: A Season On The Drink” and show a bit more respect to the regular match goers, the locals who are slowly being priced out of the game by “The Product”, touts and Thomas C(r)ook Travel packages.

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