I’m not sure how well this post is going to go down on an FC United blog, but we can’t just ignore issues because it involves them from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road. After all the issues that are affecting them, are exactly the ones that were affecting us when we started up FC United. OK, we’ve gone about things slightly differently. Very differently. But I can’t help but feel that a lot of the flack they’re receiving isn’t because what they’re doing is wrong. It’s because they’re, you know, Scouse.
There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding AFC Liverpool, most of it coming from the fans themselves. Are they a breakaway club? Are they a tribute act? Are they just a bunch of whining, self-pitying tossers? Much of the criticism being levelled at them seems to echo the brickbats thrown at FC United when we formed. It was ill-informed bullshit then, and it’s ill-informed bullshit now. But what troubles me most of all is that much of this criticism is coming from fans of our club. Who really you’d think should understand a thing or two about the thinking behind setting up and running a fans’ club.
The AFC Liverpool crowd, and Alun ‘Rick’ Parry, were very clear from the start. This is not a break-away club. This is not a protest club. This has nothing to do with Gillette and Hicks. This is a club that aims to provide affordable football to the people of Merseyside who have been priced out of top flight football. I don’t see how anyone can argue with that manifesto.
But argue people did. And continue to do so. And as I said, it’s the same tired arguments as were used when FC United were formed. On the one hand Liverpool (and Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea) fans are pilloried for supporting a successful club, and aspersions are cast over where they were when their team were shit. And on the other, in practically the same breath, these dullards are asking why these AFC Liverpool fans don’t just go and support someone else. I mean, Jesus, really. Football support doesn’t work like that. You can’t just transfer your allegiance. You can’t wipe out years of shared experience and belonging. These people are Liverpool fans, not Prescott Cables, or Marine, or Liverpool Reserves fan. They aren’t protesting about not being able to afford to attend football matches. They’re protesting about not being able to afford to go and watch Liverpool. This, I think, is an important distinction to make.
The other main gripe coming from outside, and particularly from the non league forums I’ve been lurking in all week, appears to be AFC Liverpool’s involvement with Liverpool FC. For instance, it was recently announced that LFC TV, Liverpool’s own channel co owned by the club and Setanta, would carry an hour-long documentary titled ‘This Is AFC Liverpool’, as well as a regular highlights show throughout the season. Also, Liverpool’s chief-exec Rick ‘Alun’ Parry released a statement wishing AFC Liverpool well and offering support to the new club as part of his commitment to grassroots football.
Now, as a Manchester United fan, who sees the current regime as ‘the enemy’, and whose manager has banned all mention of FC United from his press briefings, I find this astonishing, and struggle to think of a series of events that would lead to similar happening at our club. But then while most of us still are Manchester United fans, we are a break-away club. We are a protest club. We are alienated by most aspects of top-flight football. AFC Liverpool aren’t, and never claimed to be. So if there’s any confusion about the aims and objectives of this new club, it’s coming from the fans. And hey, if people want to whinge about them having a satellite TV programme, why did they not scoff at Wimbledon’s ‘Football Hurts’ programme on Nuts TV?
I don’t need to be lectured on the (often wildly over-played) Manchester/Liverpool rivalry. And nor will the creation of AFC Liverpool see any softening of my feelings towards them in a football context. But in my eyes there can be no doubt that this is a good thing. The more fan owned and controlled teams there are the better. This is an important revolution in football in this country, and is the only way we can realistically have a say in the way the game is run. To let petty parochialism get in the way of this seems to be a classic case of nose cutting and face spiting.
I wish AFC Liverpool great luck in their endeavours, and hope they not only succeed but enjoy the whole trip as much as we have. I also hope that when we meet, in the future, we thrash the Scouse bastards.
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