Over the last week I’ve had to make my mind up once and for all on Spirit of Shankly (SOS) – the Liverpool Supporters’ Union.
Until now, having been working away from Liverpool for the last ten months, SOS has almost passed me by. The issues the union faces and deals with haven’t, but the way they have been received and action taken by SOS has. Simply because I haven’t been around for a while.
Life’s taking me back to the city of Liverpool seven weeks from now on a permanent basis and with seemingly perfect timing the last week has brought SOS fully to my attention.
As many of you will know, a video was posted on the internet last week showing a controversial impromptu performance at the SOS end of season party last month.
This Is Anfield moved quickly to distance ourselves from the behaviour of the fans in the video. It was something that shouldn’t have happened and something SOS condemned outright in a statement of their web site.
Since the emergence of that video, SOS has come under a lot of criticism from the local press, web sites and Liverpool supporters in forums, including our own.
So it’s given me the opportunity (or rather forced me) to discover SOS for myself and reach my own conclusions which I’d like to share with you, whether you’re already a member of SOS, you’re unsure about them, or have never heard of them. My overall conclusion is:
Spirit of Shankly is the best thing to happen to Liverpool Football Club in many years.
I’m writing this article very simply to benefit supporters from L4 and beyond ‘“ all LFC communities, online and off. The purpose of this article is to convince Liverpool fans from all over the world of SOS’ potential, how important that will be to our club and fans, to appreciate the aims of a supporters’ union and the endless positive consequences it could achieve if we all have faith in it.
SOS are a voice for Liverpool fans to express their concerns to the club in an organised and effective way, with an elected committee of hard-working, dedicated Liverpool fans who strive to achieve the best intentions for the club. They aim up uphold the traditions of the football club, whilst simultaneously allowing and helping the required commercial drive forward to compete, and be a force, in world football.
350 outraged Liverpool supporters met in The Sandon pub by The Kop in January last year to discuss action about the “dreadful custodianship of Hicks and Gillett”. That night other club issues were discussed and out of the night, Sons of Shankly, later renamed Spirit of Shankly – a Liverpool supporters’ union was born.
Having been established for only just over a year, SOS’ hard work and determination driven by our love for the club has seen achievements made already. They’ve organise cheaper away travel for fans, held meetings and liaised with club officials over growing concerns including ticketing schemes and the new stadium, met with the club’s sponsors ‘“ and Rafa Benitez has kept his job and been given a new contract when even the bookmakers had written him off.
The long term goal is to ultimately have fan representation in the board room and eventually fan ownership of the club. That’s a long way off and financial difficulties could mean it forever stays only a pipe dream. But in the mean time, they’re trying to get the voice of the fans heard before it’s completely drowned out by extortionate ticket prices, greedy commercial schemes and Coca-Cola vending machines.
Daily Mirror columnist and lifelong Liverpool supporter Brian Reade explains it simply. We are not your typical consumer in your typical business.
‘œFootball fans are exploited. They’re not just products you can buy and sell. With football supporters, there’s this passionate thing that’s inside you. It’s a habit; an addiction that’s very hard to break because you’ve got these because you’ve got these loyal bonds which are totally illogical.’
Without a union, the club will never be told this and we will turn into the franchises our American owners are so accustomed to over the pond. Football has changed since the last time we won the league, but the supporters haven’t and won’t. We’re not here to be ripped off and the club and its owners need to understand that.
As a member or supporter of SOS, you don’t have to agree with everything. We’re not robots, we all have our own opinion and SOS can be used as a debate box within our own community to help us discover, realise and agree upon the outcome that will benefit the club and fans best of all. SOS is not a religion or cult and what it believes in is not black and white. Situations change, opinions change and can be changed and that’s what SOS is about ‘“ creating a democracy within the fans so we can reach out our voice of concern to the club.
Bill Shankly wouldn’t be proud of some of the songs sung in the boozers. He’d be ashamed. He was good friends with Sir Matt Busby. But focusing on a few fans who got carried away is the wrong thing to do. Anyone inside or outside the club can see that this is not a representation of Liverpool fans by any means.
Shankly would be proud of the socialism SOS strives to create. The union’s website quotes Shankly as once saying, ‘œI believe in everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.’ Working together to achieve the best for everyone involved is what Shankly would have wanted.
SOS is new to this game and makes no denial that it is still learning and will continue to do so. There’s a lot for us all (and Hicks and Gillett) to learn about the running of a football club, 21st century football economics and business. Mistakes do happen and things are said (or sung) that are best left unspoken.
SOS didn’t handle the situation over the posted video in the best way for a number of reasons but what’s done is done and there’s no need for fans to discuss this further. In everything that we do things happen that we would like to change and we need to realise mistakes, take them with regret, learn and get stronger because of it. Our club is important and worth the work. The positives (and potential positives) that can be taken from SOS massively outweigh any negatives.
We’re all in this together. Whether we’re from Liverpool or Liechtenstein, Merseyside or Malaysia, we all want what’s best for Liverpool Football Club. SOS aims to ‘œcreate long lasting relationships within all aspects of Liverpool FC’s supporting community’.
SOS could well be the piece of the jigsaw that we’ve been missing. It’s up to us to make it that last piece in the jigsaw. It’s the piece that finally puts the links and communication between all Liverpool fans and the men in charge to send OUR club in the right direction on the issues WE feel are important.
So this is my personal thank you to the people that have established SOS, put their own time and money into because of their overwhelming love for Liverpool FC and achieved all the things they have done for the fans and the future of the club.
By researching and writing this article, it’s allowed me to formulate my own opinion of SOS and I will pledge my support to it by becoming a member on my return to the city this summer. I hope I’ve made your mind up too and I hope I’ve proven why SOS is both important for us and ground-breaking for football.
These are exciting times for Spirit of Shankly and Liverpool FC ‘“ and we’re only just getting started!