Saturday 23 September 2017

Victory for fans? Liverpool to consider review of ticket pricing following mass protest

Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices
Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices

Chris Bacombe

Liverpool’s owners will consider a review of their controversial new ticketing policy following the mass walkout of supporters during Saturday’s Premier League fixture with Sunderland.

Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owner, held emergency talks at boardroom level in the immediate aftermath of the unprecedented scenes in the 77th minute at Anfield. Those conversations began on Saturday evening, continued throughout Sunday with senior management in Liverpool and will continue into this week to establish if a restructuring of the proposed ticket strategy is feasible.

The club is now under increasing pressure to act having been warned by supporters’ groups the protest held this weekend is merely the first stage in what would be a series of co-ordinated responses should their concerns not be met. Supporters have already started to target some sponsors, with club partners Subway among those in the firing line via social media.

Fenway management including President Michael Gordon and chairman Tom Werner were involved throughout the 13 month discourse on ticket prices and are ready to intervene again to address the situation, although at this stage it remains unclear what – if any – concessions they intend to make.

Liverpool fans protested at the new ticket prices imposed by the club Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble
Liverpool fans protested at the new ticket prices imposed by the club Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble

Liverpool incurred the wrath of fans by introducing a series of measures, a £77 seat in the new Main Stand becoming the most symbolic of the price increases.

Liverpool insisted those tickets took up just 200 places in the stadium next season and 1,200 over the course of the year. They also pointed to the numerous price freezes and decreases when arguing the response to the hikes was disproportionate to how irate fans received schemes aimed at assisting younger fans.

There is undoubtedly a sense of shock within the ownership that they are being accused of greed given the £120 million investment in the new Main Stand, funded with an interest free loan. FSG have not taken a penny out of Liverpool since purchasing the club in 2010.

Nevertheless, the sight of an estimated 10,000 supporters vacating the stadium 13 minutes from time was hugely damaging to both the club and the image of the Premier League, with Liverpool one of the most televised English sides across the world.

There is no appetite for a repeat of Saturday’s events, ensuring the next step by the ownership will be closely scrutinised by those who feel the English game has gone too far in its refusal to use the new £5.14 billion TV deal to reduce the cost of watching football.

There are also indications Liverpool’s protests will trigger similar movements across the country, with supporters increasingly alienated not only by rising prices but the consistent shifting of kick-off times and late changes in fixture schedules.

Meanwhile, manager Jurgen Klopp hopes to resume his duties at Anfield on Monday, just 48 hours after undergoing surgery for appendicitis.

Klopp was rushed to hospital on Saturday morning having felt pain ahead of the draw with Sunderland.

Liverpool fans' ticket price protest did not have any bearing on the result, according to coach Pepijn Ljinders.
Liverpool fans' ticket price protest did not have any bearing on the result, according to coach Pepijn Ljinders.

His appendix were removed and he was discharged to his home in Formby on Merseyside on Sunday to recuperate. However, the German coach is eager to get back to work at the earliest opportunity and has told the club he wants to return to Melwood on Monday.

A decision will be taken on Monday depending on how Klopp feels. A press conference is scheduled ahead of the club’s FA Cup replay at West Ham on Tuesday.

Telegraph.co.uk

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