Tag Archives: Spirit of Shankly

All Together Now – the Football Quarter

If you were following the Twitter #banter during Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final between fans of local rivals Everton and Liverpool, you might be forgiven for thinking it was all a little charged:

In reality, we manage – despite our allegiances – to be most of the time the best of pals. In Liverpool, the line between Red and Blue is often drawn between siblings, cousins, colleagues, mates or even spouses. It usually remains fairly well-mannered, although family gatherings after a result has not gone your way tend to be approached with the same sinking in the gut as a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

So derby day is always fraught with excitement and trepidation. I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of derbies at Anfield and it is exactly as you would imagine: an electric atmosphere. The result is almost secondary to winding up the other fans with an array of chants about the misdeeds and missteps of their players. There are usually a few sendings-off as the teams get caught up in the occasion, which everyone pretends to disapprove of but is secretly happy about, for proving that the players know what is at stake. I remember once yelling at the Everton fans for 90 minutes before calling into my grandparents’ house on the way home to find the Blue half of the family already installed, drinking tea and laughing over the insults they had been flinging back at us. Good times!

So perhaps with all these family ties it shouldn’t cause too much surprise that fan organisations Keeping Everton in Our City (KEIOC) and Spirit of Shankly (SoS) are working together to promote plans for turning the area of North Liverpool where both clubs are based into a ‘Football Quarter’. This aims to create an attractive destination for the thousands of visitors who attend matches at both clubs each season, as well as providing a greater quality of life for the residents of Anfield and Walton.

The scheme was launched just after Christmas, with a prospectus put together by Capita Symonds, backed by local MPs and available to read here. It looks like an attractive option for what has remained a chronically neglected area of the city in all the redevelopment that has taken place in recent years. Despite the millions spent on the river-front, new hotels and shopping centres in town, other parts of the city have missed out. A grand regeneration project which stalled has seen families moved on and streets of houses boarded up awaiting demolition, with no progress being made towards their replacement.

Liverpool’s recent history is so full of plans which promised the earth and delivered little more than destroyed communities, that people there are right to be suspicious of the idealised daydreams contained in the drawings of planners. For the Football Quarter to avoid the pitfalls of these earlier grand designs, it must bring together the competing interests of local and central government, businesses and investors, residents and visitors to the city, not to mention the two football clubs.

It is truly ambitious in scope. And if done right, it represents the best chance in a long while to build a future for a neighbourhood which is currently both world-famous and close to derelict. For that to happen, everyone needs to know about it. So whether you live in L4 or make the pilgrimage there to watch your team play, read the prospectus and pass it on. Please show your support and sign the associated e-petition. Let’s make sure that this proposal involves as many people as possible who have reason to love this corner of the city, whatever the colour of their scarf.

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Indirect action

Updates to ten minutes hate have been few and far between lately, for which I am sorry, although in my defence, the situation is as yet nowhere near as bad as it was this time last year when I was studying for the qualification that would see me end up in Japan 12 months later.

That said, with the sheer number of heartening stories around at present, this is no time for a blogger with something to say about our ways of living and how screwed up they have become to be sitting on her hands, especially since recent weeks have seen successes for a couple of causes very close to my heart.

First, the fan’s campaign at Liverpool Football Club saw hated owners Hicks and Gillett finally shown the door following a series of financial mis-steps which made even the bankers despair.  Despite initial wariness, new owners NESV seem to be making all the right noises, with their recognition of the supporters’ role as the true custodians of the Club.  Union Spirit of Shankly remains committed to fan ownership and participation in the running of the club as a future aim.  All to the good.

Then, the sleeping class consciousness of the UK seems to be awakening at last.  Not quite as fond of a riot as our French, Greek or Italian cousins, a slash-and-burn approach to public sector cuts, alongside the retention of the Downing Street stylists and photographers, seems to be pushing even the most placid of British people into taking out poor, defenceless police vans.  Long may it continue.  It is good and healthy for a government to have next to no idea when its population will kick off.

And yet, and yet…

It is with a sometimes heavy heart that I read the blog updates, emails and news stories telling me what you have all been getting up to during this new Winter of Discontent.  Those that follow me on Twitter may have been noticing a higher than usual number of retweets as I am recycling other people’s news.  It is not just the physical distance you notice at a time like this, the time difference also sees my part of the world steaming ahead into the new day while you are all asleep and dreaming of new anti-kettling avoidance tactics.

So, sure, I have clicked on some links, sent my support along the line and written some words.  But is it enough?

To see what I want to see for the UK and around the world – real political power returned to the people, the space to live a free life, access to education and services for all, an end for those who seek to control and trammel life – is that going to be brought about by a few mouse clicks?  Perhaps not, which is why I am resolving to spend the rest of this year finding more ways to get more involved, if there is a way to do so from 6,000 miles away.

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Hicks and Gillett, do one!

Almost three months to the day since we gathered at St George’s Hall to declare our independence from the owners of Liverpool Football Club, it looks as if the gig is finally up for these two particularly septic tanks.  As the Liverpool Echo reports that Gillett’s role at the club is now unclear following a default on a £75 million loan, and while Hicks desperately scours the globe for refinancing that seems unlikely to appear, although it may still be premature to crack open all the champagne no doubt being kept on ice by Liverpool fans, it looks as if the financial obituaries for the dastardly duo can at last be written.

Not bad for a fan’s campaign that some said was doomed to failure.

Supporters from all around the world have joined in, with direct action on match days, Hollywood producer Mike Jeffries’ YouTube film and Spirit of Shankly’s ‘Not Welcome Anywhere‘ message.  As events have unfolded, it has become clear exactly how far from the Liverpool Way as Shankly would have recognised it we have come, when stories of undignified boardroom struggles such as these appear in the media:

Broughton, Purslow and Ayre gathered for the meeting at the City of London offices of Liverpool’s solicitors, Slaughter & May, beginning at 3:30pm. Just 15 minutes before that, they received a faxed notification from Hicks and Gillett that they were sacking Purslow and Ayre and replacing them with Hicks’s son Mack and Mack’s assistant, Lori Kay McCutcheon. When Hicks had said on buying Liverpool in February 2007 that his was a “multi-generational family commitment”, nobody envisaged the appointment of another son in a last-minute cling to power.

This has led to a high court hearing to determine if the directors have the power to sell the club out from under the two Americans.  The Echo is also reporting on fans’ determination to make their voices heard as the relationship begun with such hopeful PR statements on the Anfield pitch comes to an unmourned end on London’s Strand.  While the campaign to get Hicks and Gillett out is one all fans should back, on whichever front you prefer – as listed here on Well Red’s website – we will do well to keep in mind as Spirit of Shankly reminds us, that it will not end with them gone.

Liverpool fans will never return to the naivety or innocence of financial wheeler-dealing that we displayed in 2007.  Never again will we allow ourselves to be bought off with a few pictures of grey men in suits from thousands of miles away waving scarves and shirts at us and promising a new dawn.  From now on, it all changes.  A real say in the future of our club, with fan ownership the ultimate goal, is the very minimum we will accept as we seek to create a new Liverpool Way.  One that links the strong traditions our club’s success was founded on together with the campaigning zeal and knowledge of intricate financial instruments which we have had to develop over recent years.  We are more qualified than anyone to act as custodians of our football club.  Whoever buys the club in the coming weeks will need to be aware of the millions of us looking over their shoulders, paying particular attention to the balance sheets.

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My team is Red

‘It’s all thought out,’ Flavia said.  ‘This [music] and the football stadium – they give us two places to scream and curse and stamp our feet.  They’re not stupid… they’re evil.  They know they have to provide an outlet.  Without a valve to release the pressure, this country would explode.’

– Nathan Englander, The Ministry of Special Cases

To some, a World Cup presents the opportunity for an enjoyable grand delusion, a chance for the skilful to shine, allowing dreams of achieving greatness in front of a global audience to become reality for one fortunate group of players.  As well as the chance to lift the Jules Rimet, there is also the hope of every no-mark with a political theory going spare of seizing the opportunity to get their byline in the paper.

Via Max Dunbar, I learn of Terry Eagleton‘s recent assertions that:

… for the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished

(emphasis added)

If Mr Eagleton had paid closer attention to the English Premier League team nicknamed ‘the Reds’, he might have found much to love.  Or perhaps not.  His brand of politics is a more ideologically driven variety of the simple socialism proclaimed by Bill Shankly and adopted as a slogan by the fans’ campaign named for him:

The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life

Mr Eagleton might be encouraged by Spirit of Shankly’s progress towards putting these words into practice, as shown at their Independence Day Rally.  We heard from great speakers such as Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, who spoke of his politics having been learnt as much inside Anfield as in his early working life in Liverpool.  Yet the aim of the day was not fine speeches, but the launch of a scheme for future fan ownership of Liverpool Football Club.

The glossy, corporate-sponsored face of football is the aspect of the game that has become the dominant force in recent years.  It has received a lot of attention and, to a casual observer, may appear to be the only one.  There should certainly be disquiet at the way life in South Africa has been presented during the tournament, backed up with support for campaigners who are attempting to change the lives of the population of what is still, for all the first-class stadia that have been built, a Third World country.

That said, to suggest that a love of football and a love of freedom can’t exist side-by-side in the human heart is to miss what many fans take from the game.  It is also to ignore that, even in the so often despised professional game, the lowly can still beat those with greater resources.  Barcelona, with its ‘more than a club’ ethos, can overtake the corporate-backed Red Devils.  For many fans, that alone would be enough to secure utopia!

Unlike other sport football requires no specialist equipment and can be played by two people with a proper ball, or a broken tennis ball, or even a stone or tin can, as the players of millions of worldwide childhood street games can attest.  So the effects of football on our political consciousness should not be dismissed and calls for the game’s abolition should not go unchallenged.  As Carlos Fernández writes:

It’s one of the most wonderful things when we meet someone new at a game, or our bonds strengthen at dinner or a bar after we play. If the football field is essentially a meeting place for play, it must then extend to wherever people enjoy being with each other. That’s where anarchy might start, or at least where it can blossom. When the idea of self-organization can be made obvious by how a goal is scored or how a team trains, anarchism seems like no great feat

It is time to establish football for the fans, not the fat cats.  It is our game and after all, we so often hear that it would not exist without us.   As the over-leveraged owners of our clubs cast around for additional finance, we can come together to build a new model, however long it takes, because we know that what we create will stand for generations.  In football, so it goes in life, as well as in politics:

I am an Anarchist not because I believe Anarchism is the final goal, but because there is no such thing as a final goal

— Rudolf Rocker, The London Year

(… unless that goal is a last-minute winner against Villa away on the final day of the season to secure us number 19, eh, Rudolf mate?!)

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Independence Day

Liverpool fans gathered at St. George’s Hall in the city yesterday to celebrate their independence from the American owners who have loaded the football club with millions in debt while failing to invest in promised infrastructure such as the much-needed upgrade to the Anfield stadium and other essentials such as world-class players.

Around 3,000 supporters attended to hear music and speeches on the future of the club, organised by the supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly.  There were banners:

Karen Gill, Bill Shankly’s granddaughter made a moving speech – despite saying how nervous she was! – about her granddad’s love of the city and its people, as well as his belief that it was the players, the fans and the manager who made a club, not its owners.  She also said it was time to:

Reclaim our club, reclaim our game!

Comedian John Bishop overcame the hostility of a certain section of the crowd towards his woolyback status and remarked that:

The Yanks are like a mate who’s knocked off your missus and expects you to pay for the hotel room

And then it was time for the serious part of the day.

Get out your quids, because we are going to buy the club ourselves.  Spirit of Shankly explained how in this leaflet given out on the day:

(click to make it bigger)

The Credit Union being established to assist fans in investing in the Spirit of Shankly and Share Liverpool scheme will initially be for Merseyside residents before it is rolled out worldwide. The general idea is that you put in as much as you can afford, borrow the rest and pay off an amount each week or month until you reach the magic £500 mark.

This model of ownership has worked on the continent for decades, with clubs like Benfica being fan-controlled (and didn’t their fans look like they were loving it at Anfield in the Europa League last season?)  Stirling Albion recently became as the first senior Scottish club to be owned by its fans.

So, if you are a Liverpool fan, make sure you are signed up to Spirit of Shankly and Share Liverpool.  As John Aldridge noted at yesterday’s rally:

We must stick together. One day we will be the proud owners of our football club

I can’t wait until the day that every seat at Anfield is designated as the Director’s Box!

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