‘This Is Anfield’.
The placard nailed to the wall on approach to the tunnel at the home of Liverpool Football Club stares predominantly down, glaring at all those who will be imminently passing beneath before stepping out onto the hallowed, famous turf.
It has the desired effect for many, countless Reds managers and players developing a superstitious side that they may not have realised they possessed. Foreign coaches are aware of what it stands for, the history, the passion, the success all attributed to one of the most famous clubs in the world.
Rafa Benitez, and prior to him, Gerrad Houllier both felt the same infectious love for the club that current manager Kenny Dalglish clearly holds. It’s encased in the walls of Anfield. Just the mention of Liverpool’s ground will unleash a trigger of memories for their supporters across the globe, football fans in general can recognise its significance in the history of the game.
Liverpool FC, along with any other major outfit, is considered a brand in the modern era, marketable to the four corners of the earth, and certainly has wide spread appeal, from Ireland to Asia via Scandinavia.
Owners, who are evidently determined to exploit any angle to generate funds, and, who sadly, have every right to do so, should not neglect the fact that the supporters who keep the club afloat, will be in attendance regardless as to whether their team is gracing the Champions League or scrapping away in League One, care about one overriding issue, and that is its foundations – the history.
Copious arguments are witnessed between rival supporters, in the office, the pub, at your 5 or 6 a side Leisure Leagues, and one dominant feature is the history of a club, what they have won, what they have achieved. Fans taunt one another on the terraces, ‘You’ve got no history’, frequently gets a run out. Part of a clubs past, those fortunate enough not to have relocated to a soulless bowl, is the ground with which they ply their trade. And in the case of Liverpool, Anfield plays a substantial part in the clubs makeup.
The grumblings which are taking pace suggest that the proposed expansion of Anfield is becoming increasingly unlikely, and that should Liverpool’s desire to enhance capacity remain then a relocation is inevitable. In terms of income, it is deemed a necessity that the Merseysider’s keep pace with their rivals, Old Trafford’s 75,000 dwarfing the majority of Premier League clubs, producing a significant windfall through gate receipts.
So, if as it seems, Liverpool are forced into following the trend and are forced into a move, then so be it. Just like Highbury and Maine Road before it, Anfield will become a memory.
Of course it won’t vanish from memory but there is a substantial chance that a visit to the new home will lose a degree of compassion for supporters. That said, Liverpool fans could take a look at the bigger picture. The enhanced capacity will result in larger profits from games, thus increasing the opportunity for new signings, and so forth. All in all, it will prove beneficial in the long term future, something which Liverpool Chief Executive Ian Ayre is keen to reiterate: "Like any other business, we can only proceed as and when we are clear on all elements and we will not be forced to make a decision that is not in the best long-term interests of our club and we will not make any promises to our fans that we cannot keep."
Indeed the clubs latest owners appear to be producing all the right sounds, but, should a move be unavoidable, there is one trend which is entirely avoidable, one which is tarnishing the English game – prostituting naming rights.
Manchester City, for example, are in the process of re-branding the City Of Manchester Stadium, incorporating the shirt sponsor further by taking it to a whole new level and re-naming the ground. Yes, this may encompass more global recognition, especially in wealthy quarters, Ethiad being the national carrier for the United Arab Emirates.
York City stooped to a low with the Kit Kat Crescent
Surely the traditionalists feel let down by the club? The name of the stadium is something which should not be altered, should not be banded around for auction, the highest bidder getting their grubby name tarnished over the side of the ground. It’s ugly and isn’t befitting of the game and its history, something which is becoming increasingly overlooked.
Leicester City provide a great case example. Known as the Walkers Stadium since opening its gates, the Thai owners, who have ploughed millions of pounds into the East Midlands outfit, have determined that their company name needs more exposure, and are using a major asset to do so. The King Power Stadium? Abysmal. That comes close to rivaling York City’s once upon a time Kit Kat Crescent.
Yes football is a money orientated environment, but perhaps the owners should take into consideration the fans, those who generate the primary capital? And by fans, there is no illusion to those catching their Easyjet flight the following morning. There’s an idea for the low budget airline’s next marketing drive, bid for the naming rights to Anfield.
Greed has smothered the majority of football, but some things should be left alone. What’s next, sponsoring the back of players shorts? Oh hang on a minute…