11 Feb Liverpool owners forced into embarrassing climbdown
Liverpool’s American owners have been forced into a U-turn over ticket price rises after being hurt by accusations of greed by protesting fans.
Angered by the plans of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), supporters sang “You greedy b******s, enough is enough” before walking out in the 77th minute of Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland.
The moment was chosen in reference to the proposed introduction of a £77 match ticket next season.
An estimated 10,000 fans joined the exodus and its impact was felt across the Atlantic by FSG, which immediately launched a review of a structure which would have also introduced Anfield’s first £1,000 season ticket.
It took just four days for the climbdown and an apology to come, with a freeze on season and match ticket prices announced for the next two seasons.
The change of policy was hailed as “remarkable and unprecedented” by one of the protest organisers, the Spirit of Shankly group.
In an open letter, principal owner John W Henry, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner and FSG president Mike Gordon said: “The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense.
“Quite the opposite is true. From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football.
“To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club.
“Instead we have injected vast sums of our own money to improve the playing squad and modernise LFC’s infrastructure – exemplified by the £120million advance (to be repaid over five years interest-free) from FSG to build the new Main Stand.
“This massive undertaking was made in order to provide more supporters access to Anfield and also to produce additional revenue to help us compete financially with clubs that have greater resources.
“When it opens in August this year the stand will accomplish those goals, thereby fulfilling a promise we made upon acquiring LFC in 2010.”
Henry, Werner and Gordon did, however, admit it was an error to freeze only 64 percent of season tickets while raising the most expensive match ticket from £59 to £77.
“It has been a tumultuous week,” said their letter. “On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016/17 season.
“We prefer to look at the parts of the ticketing plan we got right. On the other hand, part of the ticketing plan we got wrong.”
Under the revised structure, the highest match-day price for a general admission ticket will remain £59 – the lowest will be £9 and these tickets will be offered for every match with an allocation of 10,000 across the season.
The highest season ticket price will be frozen at £869 and the lowest at £685.
Liverpool’s owners also announced the removal of game categorisations, so regardless of the opposition, supporters will pay the same price for match day tickets.
“We believe we have demonstrated a willingness to listen carefully, reconsider our position, and act decisively,” they added. “The unique and sacred relationship between Liverpool Football Club and its supporters has always been foremost in our minds.”