Following the collapse of the European Super League, Spirit of Shankly have met with Liverpool FC CEO Billy Hogan to seek seats on the board and a veto on major decisions. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool FC supporters group Spirit of Shankly (SOS) is asking the club for representation at board level, with a real veto, as the fallout from the European Super League (ESL) fiasco continues.
In April, plans to launch the ESL collapsed in just 48 hours after Liverpool and five other Premier League rebels all pulled out of the multi-billion pound project. A huge backlash from fans, football authorities, other clubs and senior politicians forced a u-turn.
Spanish sides Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and the Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan had also signed up for the ESL. John W Henry, head of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the owner of Liverpool FC, issued video apology to fans.
In the days following the debacle calls grew for greater supporter representation at the board level of top clubs. On Tuesday Chelsea FC announced that three ‘supporter advisors’ would attend board meetings from July to ensure “general supporter sentiment” is taken into account when decisions are made.
However, also on Tuesday, representatives from SOS met with Liverpool FC chief executive Billy Hogan and other club officials and asked them and FSG to go much further than Chelsea by not only allowing fans representatives to sit on the board, but also giving a veto on major decisions. SOS is asking for:
- Two SOS representatives at LFC board level in relation to issues that impact fans and the Anfield community as a whole. This would involve a reconstitution of the LFC board that includes effective, elected and accountable fan representation, and not for members of the current LFC board to be that elected representative. This cannot be token representation, but one that has the ‘golden share’ or veto on the decision-making process. We believe this is desirable, practical and achievable both in the short and long-term.
- A formal agreement between LFC and Athletic Grounds Ltd and SOS in order to improve collaboration and supporter engagement and involvement, and to ensure this is sustainable for the future.
- FSG and LFC collaborate with SOS to lead the reform agenda ahead of/in conjunction with the national fan-led review.
- We also asked for a commitment from FSG that any costs incurred in relation to the creation of and withdrawal from the European Super League will be funded solely by the owners and not by the club. We note that the Kroenke family have already made this commitment to Arsenal FC fans.
In a statement SOS added: “These motions were acknowledged, and received, by LFC. They have taken these away for discussion and will respond formally to SOS with a further local meeting expected in the coming days.
“This initial consultation was positive, and both parties agreed there is a need for a new structure leading to meaningful and lasting supporter engagement. We will keep all members updated as and when we have more information.”
SOS was formed in January 2008 by 350 Liverpool supporters angry at the broken promises from Tom Hicks and George Gillett, whose disastrous reign as owners saw the club taken to the brink of administration before being bought by FSG.
Their first meeting was at the Sandon pub in the shadow of Liverpool’s Anfield stadium and where John Houlding formed Liverpool Football Club in 1892. It was chaired by Paul Rice with a panel made up of Nicky Allt, Neil Atkinson, Andy Heaton, Alan Kayll and Dave Usher.
The anger from supporters at the ESL plan has not abated in the weeks since its collapse. There have also been calls from politicians to introduce the 50+1 rule in English football. In the German Bundesliga the rule ensures fans must hold 51% of voting rights on club boards.