Liverpool owners give up in price row

Liverpool fans walking out of Anfield stadium on Saturday in protest against the club's proposal to increase ticket prices from next season. Their stance found widespread support among fans from other clubs and even earned the backing of British Prim
Liverpool fans walking out of Anfield stadium on Saturday in protest against the club's proposal to increase ticket prices from next season. Their stance found widespread support among fans from other clubs and even earned the backing of British Prime Minister David Cameron.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

FSG scrap plans for Anfield ticket price hike from next season and apologise to fans

LONDON • Liverpool's American owners bowed to pressure from the club's fans by backing down on plans to increase ticket prices significantly for next season following a mass walkout protest at their Anfield stadium on Saturday.

Around 10,000 supporters headed for the exits during the club's 2-2 Premier League draw with Sunderland in protest against proposals to introduce a highest-priced £77 (S$154) ticket for next season.

Principal owner John W. Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon issued a statement on the club's website on Wednesday apologising for any distress that had been caused and saying those plans had been scrapped.

The most expensive ticket will stay at £59.

"It has been a tumultuous week. On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group (FSG) and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season," read a 937-word open letter jointly signed by Henry, Werner and Gordon.

"The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don't care about our supporters, that we are greedy and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club's expense. Quite the opposite is true."

MAJOR U-TURN

On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season.

JOHN W. HENRY, TOM WERNER AND MIKE GORDON, representing Liverpool's ownership, in a statement which retracts their original ticket price plan for next season.

The club said that, while some prices may move marginally from this season, total ticket revenue would be frozen at the current level, excluding new seats which are due to be added in the redeveloped Main Stand.

The U-turn will go some way in appeasing their fans. Days after the hike was announced earlier this month, the website of Fenway Sports Management - the marketing arm of the Boston-based investment group which seized control at Liverpool in October 2010 - had a tagline that read "transforming fans into customers". That has since been changed to "transforming consumers into fans".

Fans immediately turned to social media to celebrate the climbdown. "Never underestimate the power of the fans #LFC," tweeted a user named Paul LFC Foreman (@redsmicer).

Writing in his column in the Daily Mail, former Reds defender Jamie Carragher said: "When I heard that Liverpool's owners had taken the decision to freeze and apologise, I felt proud of my club once again."

Carragher was among a number of high-profile Liverpool figures who joined Saturday's protest, leaving Anfield on 77 minutes. Former manager Roy Evans had tweeted his support.

The Liverpool protest has gained widespread support among fans from other clubs and supporters' groups, while Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said in Parliament that he would "look very carefully" at the issue of ticket prices.

Liverpool has high levels of unemployment compared to other cities and is ranked the fourth-most deprived local authority, according to national statistics for last year.

In defence of their ownership record, Liverpool's owners said they had not taken a "single penny" out of the club and had invested heavily in the team and infrastructure.

FSG replaced former co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who had faced widespread protests from fans for leveraging the club with debt and pushing it to the verge of insolvency.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Liverpool owners give up in price row'. Print Edition | Subscribe