I have to start by saying I think Liverpool’s a great place to live. I’ve no intention of leaving and wouldn’t swap it for a return to the North East, not for a minute. Other people appear to like it too, it’s increasingly a tourist destination, with the river, nightlife, national museums, the Beatles and the Grand National all playing a part in attracting visitors.
As does football. Many of those tourists will make a detour to Anfield, fewer to Goodison. They don’t all go on match days but a significant number do; enough when Liverpool is at home, especially on European nights, to make a difference in the atmosphere of the city centre.
So it’s no surprise to me that Liverpool FC milks its popularity. Any club would do the same. But I wonder what those tourists think when they get there because Anfield stadium and the area around it “is a dump”.
Those aren’t my words, they come from a stalwart Liverpool supporter, born and brought up in the city. I have to agree with him, however. There are many areas of deprivation in Liverpool, a lot of them in the north, especially where the city wards butt up against Bootle, which has problems of its own.
One of those abutting wards is County, home to Goodison Park, and next to County is Anfield. Look these wards up in the City Council’s profiles and you’ll find some alarming figures. Two thirds (65.2%) of County ward falls into the most deprived five per cent of the nation’s neighbourhoods, 85 per cent of the ward is in the most deprived 10 per cent. Anfield fares a little better but, even so, “almost a third of Anfield ward is in the most deprived one per cent of neighbourhoods nationally”.
Taking the two wards together, almost 20,000 residents around the city’s football stadiums are living in some of the most deprived areas in England, and that’s before we think about nearby Kirkdale, where many fans will have stopped for a pint, unaware that it is doing even worse.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that Liverpool and its hinterland isn’t particularly high earning. Once again, we look to Liverpool City Council, this time for their latest economic briefing.
This tells us that while Liverpool, as a city, is holding its own with comparable cities the region has a median gross income below the North West’s average, and below the country’s as a whole.
Furthermore, there is a gap between what workers in Liverpool earn and what residents in Liverpool earn. In other words, a lot of people who earn high wages in Liverpool live elsewhere, as appears to be the case with LFC’s footballers. In fact, when it comes to Gross Disposable Household Income per Head, Liverpool, at just under £14,000 (2013 figures) is doing poorly compared to places like Cardiff, Leeds and Tyneside, never mind nationally, where we have below 80 per cent of the average figure.
This might help to put a £77 match ticket into some context and explain Spirit of Shankly’s ire. Over a season it’s a massive amount for the average Liverpudlian to find, and for anyone on low wages and with a couple of kids it verges on the impossible.
There is a difference of opinions, of course, and the club puts a different spin on it, as do some supporters. One season ticket holder recently told me most ticket prices weren’t rising but the club had cocked it up in the way they had presented things, and maybe they have. I don’t really care, as it happens, as I’m an away supporter and I have my own opinion. For what it’s worth, I think LFC’s attitude stinks.
Away fans pay £47 to be stuck in what must be the worst part of the ground. The view’s poor, even from the seats which don’t have an obstructed view, and the concourse is jam-packed at half time. If anyone had had a heart attack on the way to the toilet last Saturday they would have died. No ifs, no buts, it would have been impossible to reach them and perform CPR before brain damage set in. Some of our own fans, I have to say, didn’t help, but that’s beside the point. LFC’s ticket price, for the facilities it provides, is a disgrace.
In the 1960s, around the time I got into football, a new word entered the English language. A property dealer had been buying up slum dwellings, making life so impossible for the existing tenants that they moved out, and then replacing them with new, often impoverished but desperate, tenants at a much higher rent. His name was Peter Rachman, and his activities made him filthy rich. Not that this stopped his behaviour. He continued because he was greedy and because he could.
The word “Rachmanism” was coined in his dishonour.
Now, what LFC is doing isn’t “Rachmanism”. I voluntarily paid to go into Anfield, as did all of the other away supporters, all of Liverpool’s true fans and all of the tourists who managed to get tickets that day. LFC don’t intimidate, LFC don’t act illegally. They’ll even argue, with some truth, that the redevelopment of Anfield will be good for the area.
But just as Rachman didn’t care about his existing tenants, LFC don’t care about the fans. Like Rachman, they don’t need to rip people off. They are the ninth richest club (more accurately, the ninth biggest revenue generator) in the world, with revenues of 392 million euros last season, and they’re about to get richer. They are ripping people off because they are greedy and because they can. As the Spirit of Shankly website puts it:
“the decisions of the ownership are based purely on economics with no compromise”
In Liverpool Football Club, as in many Premier League clubs, the spirit of Rachman lives on.