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Opinion

‘Do Liverpool fans and their club occupy the moral high ground?’

1 month ago
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It was interesting to read the pre-match comments of Liverpool fans on The Mag on Wednesday night.

One phrase that particularly struck me was ‘we are better than them’.

As someone who started watching football back in the 70s, I used to believe that this was true, that Liverpool fans were better than other supporters.

Back in the 70s and the 80s, part of this superiority was the idea that Liverpool fans wouldn’t get involved in the hooliganism that was common back in those days. I remember reading, that if there was any hint of bad behaviour by Liverpool fans, then some of their other supporters would quickly nip it in the bud.

Two things led to me stop believing that Liverpool fans were better than other supporters.

One was actually meeting certain Liverpool fans and talking to other people who’d encountered some of their fans and had bad experiences.

The second thing was watching what happened at Heysel Stadium in 1985. This was a shocking thing to see live on TV but even after this event, some people still questioned whether those involved were actual Liverpool fans, due to their reputation.

I know a number of Liverpool fans say that they would never accept money from an oil rich state or an oligarch, or from any other morally compromised source, but if you believe that then you really have to believe that old myth that Liverpool fans are better than other supporters.

I can’t remember fans of any Premier League club protesting about the background of their owners and protests only normally take place (as happened with Gillett and Hicks with the Kop displaying a banner which said ‘built by Shanks, broken by Yanks’) when a club isn’t performing on the pitch.

If Liverpool were to spend 14 years in the doldrums, I just wonder if their fans really would be that different from other supporters and reject any investment from say Russia, or China, or The Middle East? This very nearly happened back in 2006, when Dubai nearly bought the club, then again in 2008 when Sheik Mansour made an offer for the club. At the time it was said that Liverpool needed these mega rich owners to be able to compete with the likes of Chelsea and I can’t remember there being any major protests or objections to these possible takeovers from Liverpool fans.

As Liverpool fans have never had to experience long periods in the doldrums, or gone decades without winning a trophy, it’s difficult for them to empathise, unlike fans of other clubs who are outside of that elite group. If this did happen, and Liverpool did need investment from an oligarch or some oil rich state to compete, I think there would probably be a mixture of reactions, as has happened with Newcastle United fans.

I do think that Liverpool fans also seem to view their own owners through rose coloured spectacles. They might talk of ethics and how they haven’t succumbed to wealth or greed, or sold their soul, but their owners are American billionaires who made their fortune on the New York stock market, which is not somewhere that’s particularly interested in ethics, and they’ve bought the club as an investment and as a money making opportunity, hence their interest in the European Super League.

They’re also not above accepting money from repressive regimes, as one of Liverpool’s sponsors is a Chinese state-owned automative company. I wonder if Liverpool supporters would regard this as sportswashing given that country’s disregard for human rights, which include accusations of genocide against the Uighur population.

So, the question is…’Do Liverpool fans and their club occupy the moral high ground?’

The answer, not surprisingly, is no. They are no better or worse than pretty much any other set of supporters, some great people and some not so great, with the vast majority somewhere in between. A bit like all walks of life, not just football.

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