Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group have attracted supporter criticism after their website boasted that a core operation of the company was “transforming fans into customers”, right next to the image of the Liverpool crest.
The revelation, first spotted by the Daily Mirror, comes at an inopportune time for FSG, with a fans’ group labelling a new ticket pricing structure as “morally unjustifiable” only this week.
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Despite the huge riches on offer from the new TV deal which comes into force this summer – with even the team finishing 20th earning almost £100m in prize money – Liverpool have announced that there will be £77 tickets, and £1,000 season tickets, when their new Main Stand opens in time for next season.
There are special initiatives to attract young supporters to the club, including free tickets made available to local schools. Liverpool also say 64% of season tickets across the whole stadium will either freeze or decrease in price.
But the headline figures prompted the Liverpool Supporters’ Committee to issue a statement: “The outcome is extremely disappointing and a missed opportunity for LFC to lead in a fairer approach to ticket prices.

Happier times: Luis Suarez 'photobombs' John Henry and Tom Werner at the 2012 League Cup final. (PA Sport

Image credit: PA Sport

“After months of time and effort, meetings and debate of ideas and plans to lower supporters’ costs, the owners have chosen to increase prices for many. In the context of the huge income rises the club will receive next year, to up their revenue from fans through season and match day tickets is both unnecessary and morally unjustifiable."
So in the context of the debate over rising ticket prices, the image highlighted by the Daily Mirror, which can still be seen on the website of Fenway Sports Management, is unfortunate in the extreme.

How did Liverpool supporters react?

Not too favourably, if this sample of responses on Twitter is anything to go by.

Should FSG be hammered for this?

John Henry’s group are hardly the first to speak of supporters as customers, or treat them as such. This kind of mentality pervades the Premier League, from the organisation itself to the clubs prominent within it.
You only need to look at how enthusiastically the Glazer family have collected official partners in every corner of the globe while failing to engage or placate supporters in the wake of their controversial takeover. Profit over popularity – or local popularity at least.
Nearly all big clubs are not just big businesses, but global brands too. Liverpool are not unique in having foreign owners who use a language which grates to traditional ears, employing the vernacular of commercialism. Especially with a tag line which sits not on Liverpool's website, but the website of a company which "serves as the sponsorship sales arm for Fenway Sports Group’s prestigious sports portfolio."

Liverpool fans with a banner

Image credit: Reuters

This is not a mission statement about Liverpool's relationship with their supporters; it's a marketing message for potential commercial partners. Still, notable recent successes in appointing Jurgen Klopp and getting the new Main Stand in place for next season cannot disguise the wedge that rising prices are driving between the club and their traditional supporter base. The attitude expressed on the website is a revealing one.
Locals talk of an atmosphere at Anfield that is growing ever more quiet, with supporters being priced out of seeing their beloved team play. We will give the final word to Mirror blogger Jim Boardman who wrote an impassioned piece on Thursday. Its conclusion bears repeating:
Customers are not the same as fans. Customers only make a noise when something is wrong. I remember remarking a few years back that football was moving from being a regular activity – as it was when the Premier League began – to an occasional treat. Anfield, like many other grounds, has become little more than a theme park, a place you go to once or twice a year to be ripped off in return for some photo opps, some overpriced souvenirs and, if you’re lucky, a nice memory or two. At least the theme parks care what their customers think.
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