5 Jan 2008

Liverpool’s Luton snub is the ultimate betrayal of Bill Shankly’s legacy

Liverpool’s refusal to donate their share of Sunday's FA CUP gate receipts to ailing Luton Town is a disgraceful betrayal of the values and philosophy instilled in the club by the late, great Bill Shankly.

The gravity of Luton’s situation cannot be understated: They are in administration, losing ₤400,000 a month, are unable to pay their staff and are on the verge of folding. Liverpool is one of the richest clubs in the world, with an annual turnover of ₤120m+.

If Liverpool waived their gate income, they would be losing approximately ₤100,000 – basically what Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard earn in a week. In the grand scheme of things, the club would suffer no negative financial impact whatsoever, but the consequences for Luton could be utterly devastating.

Additionally, if Liverpool win the game, they will receive a ₤40,000 prize money, which would offset the gate receipt loss somewhat and present the opportunity to play another money-spinning tie with even bigger prize money on offer.

Unlike Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea, Liverpool have always been a club that neutrals respected; It was seen as 'The Peoples' Club due its humbleness and lack of arrogance.

Not anymore.

This snub of Luton will lower the club in the estimation of many, and will create negative feeling that will shatter the goodwill of neutral fans built up over the last hundred years.

With the above in mind, what is the compelling reason Liverpool could *not* grant Luton this comparatively tiny concession? For the last 3 years, Liverpool have played Wrexham in pre-season, donating their gate receipts to the Welsh club in the process, which usually amounts to about ₤100,000.

So why Wrexham and not Luton?

Who cares *why* Luton are in their current predicament? The typical response from people is ‘well, Luton got themselves into that position, so tough luck!’ There is, however, a wider issue at stake here - namely the steggering financial gap between the top clubs and those in the lower leagues

Whilst the likes of Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano wallow in obscenely inflated salaries and all kinds of club bonuses, teams in the lower leagues desperately fight for survival, scrimping and saving every penny to ensure they can make it through the next week.

The Premiership’s television deals bring in approximately 900m a year, with only a little over 1% shared amongst teams in the football league. Conversely, premiership teams are drowning in money, with top clubs swallowing up ₤50 or ₤60m a season. Even relegated teams can expect to take home ₤25-₤30m a year.

Despite these riches, Liverpool have chosen avarice over philanthropy and decided that making money is more important than a selfless act of vital generosity – An act which would embody Bill Shankly's brand of humanitarian socialism.

Well tonight, Bill Shankly will be turning in his grave.

As a staunch socialist, Shanks strongly believed in doing things for the greater good and valued team-work and team spirit above everything else.

"The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That's how I see football, that's how I see life."

These are the very beliefs that endeared Shankly to Liverpudlians and made him so revered by the Kop. These are the ideas that Shankly infused into the fabric of the club, creating a new socialist-driven philosophy, which separated Liverpool from every other club in the world.

Liverpool is a working class city and many of its inhabitants, like Bill Shankly, are no strangers to hardship, which is why the club's insensitive dismissal of Luton’s plight is so disappointing. Indeed, given its history, Liverpool is the one club that should be able to empathise with Luton’s predicament.

Using Shankly's comment above, the 'goal' for Liverpool (and all premiership clubs) should be to preserve the integrity and survival of English football. Luton Town has been in the football league for 110 years - this is what Liverpool would be helping to save. Looking at the wider context and ignoring who's to blame, isn't helping a long-standing member of the footballing fraternity worth the 100k?!

Going out of business may not have any direct impact at Anfield, but it’s bad for football as a whole.

Liverpool’s dispiriting response to Luton’s plight is indicative of the selfish, insular attitude that pervades modern football. Corporate narcissism is the name of the game, and the only thing that matters is the ever-increasing wealth of players and shareholders.

Of course, the painful reality of top flight football’s gluttonous greed should come as no surprise to Liverpool fans. A survey in 2007 by Intelligentgiving.com, a not-for-profit company based in London, revealed that, for the 2006-2007 financial year, the club made no direct financial contribution to any charitable organization.

Manchester United were almost as bad, stumping up an embarrassingly meager ₤7000. Everton donated ₤82,984, whilst at the top end, Spurs contributed ₤4.5m to charitable causes.

The club can try and spin this by arguing that players do Charity work, but that is just glossing over the cold hard fact that despite making millions through sponsorship and television deals, the club decided not to directly donate any money to charity.

The fact is, the depressing greed of modern football has infected Anfield, and as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the Liverpool we know and love is dead.

Irrespective of the consistent destruction of Liverpool’s enduring legacy over the last 16 years, I always retained the (foolish) hope that the spirit of the club I love was still there somewhere, laying dormant but still alive and ready to re-emerge. Well, Liverpool’s refusal to help Luton is the final nail in the coffin, and Bill Shankly’s vision of Liverpool is now officially dead.

All true Liverpool fans should be disgusted with the club’s behaviour and demand that the decision to ignore Luton is reversed. Fans should also consider the club’s actions in relation to what Liverpool FC is supposed to stand for.

Apathy will rule though – too many so called fans just don’t care about Liverpool’s past and have no sense of history. Furthermore, these blasé fans are happy to just ignore petty distractions, like the fate of a club on the verge of oblivion. After all, what do they care – it doesn’t affect them, does it?

As I said above – Bill Shankly’s Liverpool is dead, replaced with a soulless, unfeeling, commercialised, self-serving imitation.


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