If you’ve been to Anfield, you’ve almost certainly asked the question: What exactly is ‘Operation Anfield Exercise’?
It’s a message that can be heard on the tannoy mid-match at Anfield and in a recent Q&A with stadium announce George Sephton it was one of the most asked questions.
George, aka ‘The Voice of Anfield’, is closing in on celebrating 50 years as Anfield’s stadium announcer, having first overseen Liverpool’s clash against Aston Villa back in August 1971.
The 75-year-old has been present for all of the great moments the stadium has hosted, gleefully announcing the goalscorers and providing the pre and post-match music.
A Liverpool institution in many ways, George was kind enough to speak to the This Is Anfield podcast about various topics surrounding his job.
Something that cropped up was both ‘Operation Anfield’ and ‘Operation Anfield Exercise’ – an announcement that is made on the public-address system during matches, with many unaware of what it actually means.
Speaking about the much-heard phrase – which he admits he doesn’t actually announce himself – George filled us on its purpose on matchdays:
“Operation Anfield is what would happen if there was a catastrophe going on and we needed to empty the stadium.
“If there was a terrorist bomb threat, a major fire or an explosion in the kitchens, whatever – if we had to operate Operation Anfield, everybody would be out of the stadium in two or three minutes.
“Operation Anfield Exercise means that we practice without actually moving anybody out of the stadium.
“When we do that, the stewards who are responsible for opening out gates would get to their gates, stand by, say they’re ready and everybody else involved in the possible evacuation of the stadium would be in the same place.
“After a couple of minutes, everybody’s in their place, so if they had to do it they would press go and all the gates would open.
“But obviously an exercise just means they’re practicing without actually letting it end up with people being turfed out of the stadium.
“It’s all for your safety, it’s done with the cooperation of the police but it’s run by our stewards, who incidentally like the team, are the best in the business.”
The lifelong Red was also asked about the most satisfying goal he has ever had the pleasure of announcing, with thousands to choose from throughout the decades.
It was Luis Garcia’s ‘Ghost Goal’ at home to Chelsea in 2005 that he selected, on a night when Jose Mourinho’s side were sent packing:
“Luis Garcia against Chelsea in 2005, just to wipe the smile off Jose’s face.
“It was worth all the nervousness and the trauma, not just because it won the game for us, but because still to this day I’m not entirely convinced it went over the line, which made it even more special for ‘The Special One’!
“My perch is not level with the goalline, but it’s not far from it. At the time, I really didn’t think it had gone in. It was a very strange angle, but obviously the linesman clocked it.
“The referee turned round, put the whistle in his mouth and pointed to the circle – end of.”
It is a strong choice from George, with that Chelsea victory one of the most intense and nerve-shredding in Liverpool’s history.
The controversial nature of the goal only made it more memorable, as he alludes to, and it is a moment that will never be forgotten.
* You can pre-order George’s book, ‘The Voice of Anfield: My Fifty Years with Liverpool FC’, here.
* Subscribe to the new This Is Anfield podcast here.