THIS has been another interesting week for Liverpool FC.
Aided by Michael Laudrup’s mystifyingly over-dramatic approach at Anfield, they fed on the Dexter-esque ruthless efficiency they craved.
Sure, 4th will probably end up being 5 points too far, but one thing is quite clear: the highs of the Brendan Rodgers era have been charming, and they have been encapsulated by a most vital statistic: goals.
Last season’s goals haul (47) has been eclipsed (49) with 11 games to go, and although we are only 6 away from last season’s total conceded (40), I would like to remind ALL Liverpool fans of the following fact:
At this rate the team will score 69 goals, making this our second most prolific EPL season of the last decade, since 2008/9, when the team topped the scoring charts, but were runners-up to United.
I remember watching game after game last season thinking how predictable we were in our adventures, like a teenager trying to impress a girl with balloon tricks and ineffective close-up magic.
Bars, posts and semi-decent chances…remember them?
Instead of being fatalists, let’s savour the re-emergence of dynamism.
Today, as a writer and fan being read by other fans of the club, I wanted to explore how we could convert others to our cause; not only through social media and ‘content access’, but also through stories and experiences.
This is Part I, a backdrop for why it’s important that we keep growing our fanbase, and do so in the most Liverpool of ways, with knowledge and stories.
Context: The Fans We Know
Ever since I was a young lad, every time Liverpool have had a tough week – say an unanticipated cup exit or a flaccid defeat to a mid-table team – I’ve had a ritual where I turn off the TV when football panel shows come on. I also don’t read the papers or talk about the game to anyone.
This last week therefore, was déjà vu.
I know its cowardice. I know I should be man enough to read and listen, to spar the jabs meted out by my ‘Big 4’ friends (we’re not part of that club anymore). I can’t. Their logic is stupid and they all grew up watching football from the late ‘90s. And although that is no crime in itself, being blindly cocky, is.
I won’t waste my time trying to explain that ultimately, football is a cyclical experience, it is a patient experience, because it is a sport played by human beings; animals that are ultimately slave to a larger, more random scheme. Some things are good/stay good, others don’t. All we can do is make sure the variables work in our favour.
And that is the success of people like Sir Alex, the seasoned prize-fighter of management. Having a manager at the helm for over 20 years is an exception in any timeframe in football history, let alone the most lucrative last 30 years. Ferguson will have to retire, because he is human, and because this is life – United will fall from their perch.
I am not saying they will go into terminal decline, but they will dip. A change of personnel will mean a change in philosophy, and every philosophy, and the subsequent realignment in the day-to-day that is caused, has an effect. In the beginning this effect is negative.
In scholarly parlance it is known as “The Implementation Dip”
Why is this important, to us, as Liverpool fans in 2013? More to the point how does this tie in with the theme of this article?
Matthew Baxter was recently appointed the club’s Chief Media Officer. No string-pulling Svengali a la Alistair Campbell, he is a relatively young man who specializes in pushing and prodding all the different ways a public-profile business like LFC can make money.
Baxter can count MGM (Senior VP), Warner Bros, Disney and the Travel Channel as his previous employers and Ian Ayre has handed him the task of “establishing a world-class television and digital media business by further developing our digital platforms domestically and internationally.”
In other words, ‘platforms’ like the club site will harness the video and audio it produces everyday and find sharper ways of integrating this with modern technology. It will ultimately mean that a fan in Ghana has the same access as one in Rio, as the one in Bangladesh…
To be honest, I like where we are. We are a football club, not an exploitable shop window for other ‘things’, yet I can understand how the club needs to find ways of generating cash. We are not moving to a new stadium anytime soon, and therefore we are losing out on some profoundly sustainable revenue.
Fans, Their Cash, and Thinking Long Term.
Published in February 2012, the Deloitte Football Money League table shows LFC 9th worldwide in terms of revenue generation with €203.3m. Real Madrid are top with €479.5m. In case your math is as average as mine, that’s almost two-and-a-half times.
United are in 3rd with €367m, whilst Arsenal and Chelsea are also above Liverpool.
Although the team is sliding down that league (LFC were 8th in the previous financial year), there are some strong revenue sources in place. The Standard Charter and Warrior deals will ensure strong enough numbers in the forthcoming report, but the hole caused by a loss of Champions League revenue is quite gaping.
Real made £111.6m from their match days that year, Barca £100m and United £108.6m. Liverpool? £40.9m.
Imagine that gap growing: season after season.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. When we consider overall financial stability, FSG have ensured manageable debt-servicing and a willingness to spend, albeit inconsistently.
Contrast that with the plight of the three just mentioned. The Glazers have loaded a £423m debt, “increasing the risk” of their ability to operate it as competitive business. The numbers are even more staggering in Spain: €590 million at Real Madrid and €578 million at Barcelona.
My point? Yes, we are temporarily 7th in the table, but the ground we stand on, while definitely a tad rough and certainly not lush, is one that is firm and secure. The Uniteds, Reals and Barcas of the world are living in a bubble, and using all of modern finance’s instruments to live in that artifice a season longer.
Chasing one more La Liga, chasing one more EPL, a UCL perhaps?
Five years ago I would have thought this unsustainable pursuit of success as something worth risking. Maybe I’m getting old, but after seeing the world go into a double-dip recession, a team built over time (very) slowly improving with young players seems a lot more palatable than a team that is going for a financial ‘Hail Mary’ every season.
Which brings me back to the appointment of Matthew Baxter, and his mandate of creating a new kind of Liverpool fan; one ‘consuming’ the theatre at Anfield off a tablet in a subway in Tokyo, all whilst ‘sharing’ the experience on Twitter.
Expanding the Empire.
My fellow fans! We shall welcome these new fans into our circle. We shall not alienate them. We must accept that initially, these individuals may not know their John Barnes’ from their Burnleys and Beardsleys, but their energy in trying something new and choosing us has to be rewarded with warmth and a desire to educate.
If you leave outside the UK alone, and experience your Liverpool FC off cable TV, you may soon find fewer and fewer Liverpool shirts on youth pitches. Glamour is not everlasting.
Rest assured, other clubs can’t tell a story like we can. Our triumphs and tragedies, our shaping of English football by giving it a landmark to beat, that is rare. The fact that all the success happened before this media-saturated generation makes it all the more romantic.
So how do we create this? I have a few ideas and I’ll present them in Part II of this article.
In the meantime, I hope you leave stories of how you came to support this great club and if any of your mates or family share the glorious suffering and joy of being a Liverpool fan in 2013.