Football wages: are they a threat to Shankly’s ‘holy trinity’

Bill Shankly, a famously socialist thinker and miner from the small town of Glenbuck in Scotland, frequently spoke of the union between players, manager and supporters at Liverpool football Club. He described it as a ‘holy trinity.’ To Shanks, there was a common bond and football was a working class sport.

He wanted his men to be payed well, of course. One of his most inspirational quotes was about what he would do if he was a bin man. Typically, He spoke of wanting to be the best bin man in the world, with the cleanest streets. He also said that his workmates would receive the biggest bonuses, and why shouldn’t they? After all, what would make anyone think a bin man was less important than anyone else? He asked.

I believe that behind these sentiments is a philosophy based on collectivism, equality and, put simply, an honest wage for an honest day’s work. Shankly abhorred anyone who he felt wasn’t giving everything they had for the team.

“To play for me, a player has to be prepared to run through a brick wall and come out fighting on the other side,” was another immortal quote.

Nobody working for the great man could ever get away with half measures, and certainly nobody would be allowed to see themselves as a star. Shankly did talk about the value of individual reward, though he saw it as the result of collective effort.

He once pointed out that so many of his players had achieved international caps, a personal accolade. However, he would go on to lecture that it was through their collective efforts, that they had achieved individual gains. You don’t get into the national team unless you are doing well for your club, and your club only does well when it works as a team, was his reasoning.

In this respect, the boss also felt that the supporters and the people of Liverpool were also part of the collective. Their efforts from the terraces were equally important and central to the vision. While he didn’t have the power or resources to pay them, he resolved to reward them with silverware – to make the people happy and proud. They would hold their heads up high, and say ‘we are Liverpool,’ he promised.

Stretch the gap between player, manager and supporters too much, and the ties that bind might snap. The bond may be broken, the trinity undermined. In truth, Shankly could never have envisage the disparity in earnings between his players and those who stood on the terraces. Nobody in the 1960s and 70s could have.

The level of wage inflation in football since those heady days can scarcely be believed even today. We do know that Bill was often prepared to spend big on a transfer fees, if he thought the player could improve his squad. He broke a number of records in this respect during his tenure.

However, it’s about proportion. And, we have certainly lost all sense of proportion today.

Figures published by Spotrac recently, show the eye-watering amounts shelled out by the club to its stars. ‘That’s modern football,’ you might say. ‘Yes, but a player’s career is short,’ you could argue.

It is, and they are. But the disparity is truly shocking, even allowing for inflation.

What, then, would Shankly make of today’s sky-high wage bills. Liverpool’s total payroll bill of £104,780,000 in 2019/20 truly dwarfs the levels he would have been familiar with.

George Scott, one of the Scotsman’s first signings, and a man Shankly described as the “12th best player in the world,” recently sent me a copy of Liverpool’s weekly wage bill from 1960. It covered everyone from players to coaching staff, and it came to a grand total of £517:12 Shillings and 2 pence.

According to the National Archive, it would be worth £9,119.33 in today’s money. In the 1960s a sum like that could have bought you 2 horses, 7 cows, 116 stones of of wool or 86 quarters of wheat. It was also the equivalent of almost years wages for a skilled tradesman.

So, it was a big wage bill by the standards of the day. But, it is dwarfed by those of the Premier League era, even when you factor in inflation.

Liverpool FC’s weekly wage bill in 1964

By now I am sure nobody is shocked or surprised by these revelations. I’m certainly not. Nor can we blame individual players for taking the rewards on offer to them. Who amongst us would look such a gift horse in the mouth.

However, it does speak to a growing divide between those who pay to watch the game and the stars they idolise. In Liverpool, like in many working class cities, there are people making incredible sacrifices in order to watch their team, and there are those who can barely afford food, let alone a match ticket. Those people will likely never even watch their heroes in the flesh, much less identify with them.

In the 50s and 60s you could reasonably expect to see a player on the bus or in the pub. Even earlier, in the 30s, supporters would chat to Elisha Scott – the club’s legendary goalkeeper – as he took the ferry from Birkenhead to the Pier Head before a game. These men were still stars, but they were within reach and identifiable.

Today’s players feel like movie stars, and those with a human touch, who go out of their way to bind with the supporters are to be cherished. Mo Salah, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner, amongst many others, do leave you with the sense that they understand their enormous privilege and remember their origins.

However, for me, this is a more systemic problem. It’s obviously not just Liverpool’s problem, or even the Premier League for that matter. Though neither seem even interested in addressing it. This is of course a political problem and one that UEFA and FIFA must do more to address.

There are so many reasons why they should. For a start the current system is unsustainable. There are those who argue that clubs going into administration as a result of unsustainable wage bills is just business, a sort of Darwinian natural selection. Or, the natural consequence of market forces and poor management. The footballing authorities will hand out their punishments in response – fines, points deductions, relegation and even expulsion from competitions. And, we all move on.

But there’s a cost that goes beyond all of that. Whole communities suffer as a consequence, when their club goes out of business. Football clubs employ people beyond the playing staff and they bring hope and something to look forward to for so many. Because, as Shankly recognised, football is a communal experience. It’s more than a business.

I spoke to Karen Elizabeth Gill, Granddaughter of Bill Shankly and author of a fascinating biography of the man, The Real Bill Shankly. She told me,

My granddad was all about passion and commitment to the game. He would have played for nothing and expected his players to feel the same. The supporters, for him, were equally important in the equation. So having inflated wages for the players, which could end up with money-oriented players as opposed to football-oriented ones and core supporters whose wages might leave them unable to afford inflated ticket prices, for him, would mean the destruction of the game he loved so much.

So, when faced with the stark contrast between the football played and watched by our grandparents and their idols, and the game watch today, I won’t pretend to feel shock or surprise. I do feel that the game is slipping through our fingers though, if it hasn’t already moved completely out of reach.

I hope that’s not the case. However, if we are to reclaim even a small part of it, supporters need to become more vocal and more active in shaping the future of the game and the clubs they love. Politicians also have a role to play in influencing the direction of the game. Indeed it may take political action to rescue it.

With a potential UK General Election on the horizon, it wouldn’t do any harm to let them know.

George Scott: Life after Liverpool, Elizabeth Taylor, a biscuit factory and the enduring influence of Shankly

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George Scott, one of Shankly’s first signings, continues his amazing story. In this instalment, we hear about his life after Liverpool, a chance encounter with Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Kissinger, killing time in a biscuit factory and the enduring power and influence of Bill Shankly.

I had never earned more than £50.00 per week at Anfield, despite having been on the verge of the first team. However, I received a signing on fee of £1,200 on returning to Aberdeen in 1965. This was the era when a new Mini cost £534, and I took my windfall and bought one with cash, immediately driving it out of the showroom.

Aberdeen were my home town club. I had supported them since childhood. So, imagine my joy when I scored on my debut against Glasgow Rangers. We won 2-0 at Pittodrie in front of 28,000 fans and I received rave reviews. There were nine full Scottish internationals in the Rangers team that day, including the Rangers and Scotland captain John Greig.

I remember nutmegging Greig and hearing his Glaswegian accent following me around the pitch. In very basic terms, he was requesting the name of the hospital I would prefer to wake up in, if I ever did it again.

I thought I was really on the way to justifying Bill Shankly’s faith in my ability and at last making the breakthrough into the big time. Unfortunately the difference between success and failure in football can sometimes be wafer thin. Half way through my first season, having cemented my place in the first team at Aberdeen and starting to score goals, I suffered a serious cruciate-ligament injury and was released at the end of the season in May 1966.

After starting the season with such high hopes I was out of work at the age of 21 having left school at fifteen years of age, with nothing to fall back on and having no qualifications other than football.

George scores on his debut for Aberdeen in 1965 against Glasgow Rangers

After being released by Aberdeen at the end of that 1965 season, I returned to Liverpool to live with my girlfriend’s family. I would spend many weeks training on my own to regain my fitness.

I got a job for a few months in Crawford’s, a biscuit factory, throwing ropes round pallets of biscuits and loading them on to wagons. The factory workers were brilliant, always wanting to hear stories about the great Bill Shankly. 

Then in June 1966, I received a call from a representative of the South African Premier League club, Port Elizabeth City FC, telling me I had been recommended to them by Bill Shankly. Thanks again to the great man’s recommendation, another £1,000 signing on fee came my way and my wife Carole and I got married on July 30th 1966 (the same day that England won the World Cup). We flew to South Africa on 8th August 1966 to join Port Elizabeth FC.

There, I won the 1967 South African Premier League title. Bill wrote to me in South Africa a number of times. One of his letters that I still have today, sent me the best wishes of everyone at Anfield and ended with the words:

“By the way we are still winning the five a side games, no wonder with five referees in our team”

In 1968 I received a visit in Port Elizabeth from the then Chairman of Liverpool FC Mr Sydney Reakes, who conveyed the best wishes of Bill Shankly and all of the staff at Liverpool FC to me. He told me that if I returned to the UK he was confident that Bill would fix me up with a club in England.

On my return to England, I remembered Mr Reakes words, and I nervously went to Anfield in October 1968 to try to see Shankly. I saw Roger Hunt in the car park as I approached the player’s entrance, and Roger said Bill was in his office and would be delighted to see me. 

When I entered the stadium and made my way down to Bill’s office, I heard his unmistakable Jimmy Cagney staccato voice chatting to a reporter who I think was Colin Wood of the Daily Mail. Or, it may have been Dave Horridge of the Daily Mirror.

As soon as Bill saw me the reporter was immediately dismissed and Bill invited me in to his office. The conversation went like this. “Mr Reakes tells me your team have won the championship and you have set South Africa alight scoring goals, so what are your plans George?”

I said that I was married and that I had a young son who was barely four months old and I wanted to return to play in the UK.  “Where do you want to play son”? I said “Anywhere Boss I replied” Bill replied “I tell you what son, how about Tranmere Rovers”

He then picked up the phone and called David Russell who was then the manager of Tranmere Rovers and, in his inimitable Shankly way, 

“I have a boy here. Just come back from South Africa, where he was the leading scorer in their Premier League. And he was the best player ever to play for my reserve team.”

It was just incredible.

George scoring for Port Elizabeth against Durban

Within five minutes, and on Shankly’s word, the Tranmere Rovers manager had committed himself to giving me a month’s trial on first-team wages.

When I went over to Prenton Park that afternoon, Mr Russell said to me, “I hope you can play son.” Without having seen me play and purely on Shankly’s word he put me in the first team for Alan King’s testimonial match at Prenton Park against Derby County.

Derby were about to become the English First Division Champions under Brian Clough. They boasted players like Archie Gemmell, Peter Shilton, Kevin Hector, Alan Hinton, Alan Durban John O’Hare and Dave McKay.

I played regularly in the Tranmere Rovers first team over the next two seasons, but more importantly I was able to settle back into the UK with my wife and begin to build a successful life on Merseyside. It was all thanks to Bill Shankly.

I was playing third division football, but we used to get crowds of 10,000 or more on a Friday night.  I enjoyed it at Prenton Park, and I went on to make many appearances in the first team in the next two years including a great FA Cup run to the fifth round in 1969. We eventually lost in extra time to Northampton Town after a replay.

Northampton were then drawn at home against Manchester United and lost 8-2, with the great George Best scoring 6 goals.

George Scott front and centre for Tranmere Rovers, 1969

However, I was now approaching the dreaded age of 30. Having done nothing but play professional football since I was 15 years of age, I knew that I needed to find another job. I couldn’t play football forever.

In those days you got to 30 and you were on the way down. Most of us had left school with no qualifications, so didn’t have many options. Opening a pub was the main route lads went for, as there wasn’t much punditry work around then.

While still at Tranmere I saw an advert for a Nestle sales-rep job. Interviews were taking place at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool city centre and I went along. I almost didn’t go through with it and was about to walk out. Then, I thought Shanks would never do that. So I stayed.

When they asked me for a reference I showed them the one that Bill Shankly had written for me. Once they realised it was genuine, that did the trick. So I became a part-time footballer, while at the same time working in sales with Nestle. And from that point on, I never looked back.

Stan Storton had left Tranmere to become manager of the Northern Premier League team Ellesmere Port Town. He asked me to join them as a semi-professional, on a three year contract. I had a tough decision to make. My sales position meant being trained in a new career and a company car. Combining that with my non-league contract meant I’d be earning more than I was at Tranmere.

To their surprise, I ended my full-time contract with Tranmere and joined Ellesmere Port. It was the best decision I could have made.

George standing behind Elizabeth Taylor

I went from strength to strength in sales. I had a career spanning 46 years, and I retired in 2006. It included a great spell in the 80s, selling and marketing Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume range throughout the UK and the Channel Islands. In this role I was fortunate enough to meet her on a number of occasions, in London and at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

I was responsible for the marketing and distributing her perfume in England and the Channel Islands and I was there with some other members of my sales team. While she was chatting to us her personal assistant, who carried a stopwatch to make sure everything went to schedule, came over and told her she had a guest. It was US politician Henry Kissinger.

We just sat there in disbelief as he walked in and they started talking. It was a brief taste of a different world.

I am now happily retired with my wife of 53 years Carole. Carole and I have two sons, Gavin and Craig, and I am enjoying retirement, playing golf, watching Liverpool FC, and enjoying my four grandsons aged 17, 16, 15, and 9.

Bill Shankly signed me for Liverpool in 1960 and started my football career off in the best possible way. He sold me to Aberdeen in 1965, enabling me to return to my home town, gain financial stability and have a great spell at the club I supported as a boy.

In 1966, he recommended me to Port Elizabeth City. It was an act that enabled me to continue my football career abroad. It also gave me the resources needed to get married. I had two wonderful years in South Africa.

Finally, he then personally recommended me to Tranmere Rovers in 1968. That allowed my wife and I to return to the UK with our baby son, who was only four months old at the time. We could also buy our own house and settle on the Wirral.

Bill was a major influence on my life. His passion and enthusiasm lit up the game, and the standards he set have inspired me over the last 59 years. I owe him so much and I am grateful and very lucky that I crossed his path.

Even though I was within a whisker of the first team in 1964/65, I understand why he had to let me go. Bill looked after me over the years and that shows the caring nature of the man. It also shows his commitment to anyone who showed enthusiasm and gave of their best at all times. It is no wonder he is so revered and he will never be forgotten.

What a man he was and what an unforgettable character. There will in my view never be anyone like him again.

George Scott, 2019

Simon Meakin: The Blue Angel, Kevin Keelan and consorting with Canaries

Simon Meakin channels his inner Ronnie Corbett, as he looks forward, backwards and sideways to this Friday’s clash with Norwich City, at Anfield.

Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home.  That’s apparently what Norwich stands for according to my mate.

Many Liverpool supporters I know – particularly those from Liverpool itself it seems – appear to operate a policy of strict neutrality when it comes to other teams.  With the obvious exceptions of Everton, Man United, probably Chelsea and whoever we are fighting with for the title, fourth place or whatever. City were never really that much of a rival until the last few years, despite being Mancs. I get the impression that most Liverpool fans don’t really care who wins between say Sunderland and West Brom.

Whereas I’ve always had a different view.  I’ve always had certain favourites and other teams I’ve disliked throughout the leagues.  Usually for absolutely no rational reason whatsoever. For example, I’ve always quite liked Middlesbrough, never liked Sunderland; Rochdale good, Stockport, I can’t be doing with them. 

Some have remained constant, others have ebbed and flowed. Maybe it’s because they went from playing beautiful flowing, football to being a bunch of cloggers or vice versa.  I really don’t like Mansfield purely because of the derogatory comments one of their fans posted about Liverpool supporters after we played them in the cup a couple of years back.

The point of all this is that I have a favourite other Premier League team.  And it’s Norwich.  I’m not sure whether it’s because I liked their kit, or because they were the first team I ever saw at Anfield back in 1978 aged 7. We won the game 3-0, although I thought we’d only won 2-0 until my Dad put me right. Oh, and I remember being really impressed that their goalkeeper was called Kevin Keelan, which was pretty much the same as Kevin Keegan in my book. 

It’s certainly not because of any connection with Norwich.  I’ve only ever been there once, to see a girl I’d met in the Blue Angel.  It didn’t really work out.  Took about three days to get there, she drank too many beers and ended up chucking up everywhere, and I think at one point suggested I should “consort” with her mate instead.  On the plus side I did see Gonch out of Grange Hill in the pub (possibly engaged in a hair-brained moneymaking scheme to sell toast or something). So it wasn’t all bad.

Whatever the reason I’ll admit to a little bit of a warm glow when they got promoted back to the top flight.  So, once Friday is out of the way, I’ll be wishing them well for the season ahead and hoping that they do more of a Wolves than a Fulham.  They’ve even got a German manager so what could possibly go wrong!

Norwich were also the last ever team to play at Anfield when they still had standing on the Kop.  I can’t remember much about the game to be honest other than we were awful, and we lost.  I’d always thought the score was 1-2 but on checking it turns out it was 0-1.  I really don’t have a good track record with remembering Norwich scores.  What I do remember is the price of the ticket.  £7.  And Liverpool’s promise that the move to an all-seater stadium would most definitely not lead to a big hike in ticket prices. Oh no sir.  Not ever.  I’ll file that one along with the claim that Paul Stewart was going to be the next Ian Rush!

My favourite Norwich game though had to be the prior season when we beat them 4-1.  Thanks in no small part to a dominant central midfield performance from a pair of 19-year-old starlets named Redknapp and Hutchison which led me boldly to predict we were looking at England’s central midfield partnership for the next ten years.  And, if it wasn’t for Redknapp’s terrible luck with injuries, I think I’d have been proved right.  Well, that and the fact that Hutchison mysteriously turned out to be Scottish, and that he seemed to devote more of his time to sticking Budweiser labels on his cock in Labinsky’s than actually playing football. 

I must point out that during my in-depth research for this article, I’ve discovered that Hutchison was actually 21 at the time, which slightly messes up the narrative.  Most of the rest of my in-depth research however involved reading a Daily Express article with Louise Redknapp talking about getting over her split from Jamie.  Talk about investigative journalism at it’s finest!  Move over Woodward and Bernstein.  I’m taking over!  And, of course Louise, in the reasonably likely event you’re reading this, I’m up for a pint if you need someone to talk to.  Unless you’ve moved to Norwich.  I’m not doing that drive again.

Back to the football.  My other favourite Norwich memories have to be Luis Suarez related.  And the fact he pretty much scored at least a hat trick against them every single time he played them.  Best of all were the four goals he scored against them in the December during the ill-fated Rodgers championship bid.  That run-up to Christmas saw Suarez at his absolute zenith in my opinion, as he drove us to the top of the league on Christmas Day.  His fourth best goal that night was worthy of being a Match of the Day goal of the month contender.  I defy anyone, anywhere to show me a goal that good that doesn’t even make the players best three goals of the night.

Anyway, time for a match prediction.  Last time we played them was in a lunatic 5-4 win in Klopp’s early days at the club. Lallana grabbed a last-minute winner, after we almost managed to shoot ourselves in the foot against a side tumbling into the Championship.  We’ve learned how to defend a bit since then though. So I can safely say that won’t happen again unless Van Dijk falls down a well.  I’m going for a comfortable 3-0 to ease us into the season.  A Bobby double and a late Keita pile-driver after coming off the bench.

By Simon Meakin

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George Scott: My Anfield Story

First day of training at Melwood in 1965

George Scott became one of Bill Shankly’s first signings in 1960. He spent five years at Liverpool Football Club, walked out at Wembley in the 1965 Cup Final as a member of the squad, and was top scorer in the second team three years running. He left with a personal letter of recommendation from Shankly himself.

Tales of Anfield Road is honoured to bring you his story, unedited and in his own words. It is moving, entertainment and informative.

In 1944 my mother was engaged, married, gave birth to me and was widowed all in that year.

My father was killed in Normandy, two months before I was born, whilst serving in the Gordon Highlanders. It was left to my Mum and my Granddad and Grandmother to raise me until the age of five, when my mother remarried a wonderful man who became my father until he passed away in 1991.

In late 1959 I was playing for Aberdeen Schoolboys and my footballing ability had been spotted by a man named Jim Lornie. Jim was caretaker at my school and also a scout for Liverpool FC. The Dons [Aberdeen] were my heroes. Initially I only wanted to play for them. Then, when I was 15, Liverpool came along. The furthest I’d been up to that point was just down the road to Dundee.

Jim persuaded my mother to reluctantly let me travel to Liverpool for a week’s trial. After playing in a trio of games for the clubs “C” team against Blackpool, Everton and Preston I was invited to Anfield to sign for the club as an apprentice professional.

My grandmother asked Bill Shankly “Where exactly is Liverpool?” Shankly’s reply was instant: “We’re in the second division now but we’ll be in the first division next year make no mistake about that.” Such wit and confidence made an instant impression on me. My mind was made up, I was only going to one club.

Bill Shankly was born in the mining village of Glenbuck in South West Scotland, 103 years ago. It is now almost 60 years since he arrived on Merseyside to take over the manager’s job at Liverpool FC.

He was a fantastic character who was full of charisma, passion, drive, enthusiasm and humour. Bill possessed an undefinable God given charisma that rubbed off on everyone who crossed his path.

He had a tremendous passion in his voice. He loved boxing and gangster movies. I always thought he seemed to model his harsh staccato style of speaking on one of his great cinema idols Jimmy Cagney (with a Scottish Accent of course).

In January 1960, at 15 years of age, I was waved off to Liverpool at Aberdeen Station by my Granddad, with nothing more than a small suitcase, £20 in my pocket and a head full of dreams. Sadly the next time I came home was to attend his funeral as he passed away a few months later.

This still saddens me greatly today. I was 350 miles from home and about to become one of Bill Shankly’s first signings at Anfield. I arrived at Lime Street Station along with Bobby Graham and Gordon Wallace, where we were met by Joe Fagan and Rueben Bennett. Rueben was an amazing character who used to tell some wonderful stories of his days playing as a goalkeeper in Scotland.

We drove along Scotland Road with Joe and Rueben and Joe said “this is the famous Scotland Road, and there is a pub on every corner and woe betide you boys if we find you in any of them”.

We arrived shortly at 258 Anfield Road. This was to be my lodgings for the next few years. The large house was only a stone’s throw from the Kop.

George’s first home in Liverpool, 258 Anfield Road

My first wage as an apprentice professional was £7.50 per week, of which I gave £3.50 to my landlady for my lodgings and sent £2.00 per week home to my Mum in an envelope to help the family out. I was left with £2.00 per week, which was enough in those days for a young man to have a great time for a week in Liverpool. That included being able to watch The Beatles start their career playing live in the Cavern in Mathew Street.

In May 1961, outside the secretary’s office, I found a complete record of the week’s wages to be paid into Barclays Bank in Walton Vale for every player and member of staff at Anfield. Unbelievably the total wage bill for every player and all of the coaching and managerial staff at Liverpool Football Club was five hundred and thirteen pounds, thirteen shillings, and two pence.

The following day we were taken up to Anfield and introduced to two young lads. One of them had a face like a map of the Andes and looked much older than his age, which was only fifteen like us. He had a fairly gruff Scouse accent. The other lad was tall and dark haired and seemed a little shy. Bill said “I want you to meet Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler, boys”. We all signed as apprentices the same week. 

After two years as an apprentice professional, I signed full time professional forms for Liverpool on my 17th birthday, 25th October 1961.

We reached the FA Youth Cup final v West Ham United in 1962/3, losing 6-5 over the two legged final. We won 3-1 at Anfield and lost 5-2 after extra time, at Upton Park. The winner was a highly disputed late goal, where we were robbed by the referee, Jack Taylor. He later went on to referee the World Cup final in 1970, in Mexico City. 

Finally Shankly put all of us, Bobby Graham, Alf Arrowsmith, Tommy Lawrence Gordon Wallace, Phil Tinney, Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler in for our reserve team debuts at Old Trafford, in the semi-final of the Lancashire Senior Cup against Manchester United, in 1962/3. And, we won 5-2. Bill was ecstatic.

We were like his version of the Busby Babes, and we had beaten a very experienced Manchester United team on their own turf.  We lost the final 2.1 against Burnley at Turf Moor, who fielded virtually their entire first team. We also had to play with ten men for most of the match, after Tommy Lawrence had to go off injured. I did score our only goal though.

The 1960s was a period where there were only black and white television pictures; there were no mobile phones, no computers, no sky television and no action replays, no all seating stadiums. The player’s shirts had no names on them and were numbered from 1 to 11 and there were no substitutes allowed.

There were no agents, foreign managers or foreign players. The players played for the love of the game. It was a different era. The pitches were muddy and you could get away with murder when the referees back was turned. They never had fifteen cameras following every move and incident like they have now.

One of my first memories of Bill was not long after my arrival at Liverpool when we were standing in the centre circle at Anfield, while he was showing my stepfather and myself around what was a rather dilapidated stadium at the time. Bill said:

“Your boy is lucky to be here Mr Scott. This place will become a bastion of invincibility and they will all come here and be beaten.”

My father worked at the time as a gardener for the Aberdeen City Council, and during the conversation Bill asked him the question “Who are you with Mr Scott?” My Dad replied “I work for the City Mr Shankly,” whereupon Bill responded by saying in his best James Cagney voice, “What league do they play in?”

As Apprentice professionals, after cleaning the first team’s boots, painting the stands and clearing the rubbish from the Kop we used to play 5-a-sides in the car park behind the main stand every Monday morning. The opposition in these games was usually Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ronnie Moran and Reuben Bennett. Our side was Bobby Graham Gordon Wallace, Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler, and me. We never ever won those games because Shanks and company would have played until dark to make sure they got the result.

The first team won the league in 1964. I had made the most appearances for the reserves, and I was top scorer by some way. The week before the celebration dinner Peter Thompson encouraged me to ask for a wage rise, so I nervously went in to see Shanks to plead my case.

Bill said it was not normal practice to award increases in the playing season but in my case he would make an exception. He gave me an envelope, which he asked me not to open it till I got home. When I opened the envelope it contained a £15.00 voucher for a mohair suit from a men’s outfitters in London Road.

The next day I asked Joe Fagan about it and Joe said Bill had told him I had been in to see him and that he wanted me to look as smart as the first team at the celebration dinner at the Adelphi Hotel at the end of the month. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

During the three years 1963, 1964, and 1965 I went on to make 138 appearances in the reserve team at Anfield, scoring 34 goals.  I had the most appearances and scored the most goals in the reserve team over that period. I was then included in Shankly’s first team squad for the 1964 preseason tour of North America and was sure I’d get a chance to play because there were so many matches. 

George in his US Tour suit

Unfortunately I sustained an injury and the club signed Phil Chisnall from Manchester United. Phil went instead of myself. I was gutted as it was my big chance to break through at last. But it was not to be. I’d even got my club suit, bag and all the equipment for the trip. Shanks let me keep the suit, said it would be a collector’s item someday. I gave it to my mother to mind and she accidentally gave it to the Salvation Army.

George Scott – Centre row to the right of Ronnie Moran

It was so different then from the Liverpool of the modern era. When reporters asked Bill Shankly what the team was he used to reply “Same as last season” In the 1964/65 season I ended the season at Liverpool as leading goal scorer in the second team at Anfield for the third successive season, but still could not break in to the first team. I was with the squad for the cup final when we won the FA Cup at Wembley and this was the first time that Liverpool had ever won the Cup.

It was a fabulous occasion, the greatest day in the clubs history at that time. I remember walking on the Wembley pitch with Bill Shankly Bob Paisley and Peter Thompson an hour and a half before the game. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck when Bill looked at the Liverpool fans behind the goal and said to Bob Paisley. “Bob we can’t lose for these fans, it is not an option”

I remember that wonderful reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, and trip home on the train where we drank champagne from the FA Cup, and once we passed Crewe you could not see the buildings for flags and bunting. When we arrived at Lime Street station there must have been over 500,000 people in the streets as we made our way to the town hall for the official reception. I stood behind Shankly on the town hall balcony and it was absolutely electrifying.

George bottom right

At the time I was in digs with the great Liverpool winger Peter Thompson. When we eventually got home to our digs later, I found a letter from the club waiting for me from Mr Shankly.

I opened it thinking that I had been permanently promoted to the first team squad, and that 1966 would be my big breakthrough year. However, I was brought right back to reality when I saw that the letter stated that, at a board meeting of the Directors of Liverpool FC, it had been decided to accept an offer from Aberdeen for me for £12,000. It was a good sum in those days and it ensured that I received £1,200 signing on fee. I used it to purchased a brand new Mini for £535 (God knows how much the same car would cost today).

On the Monday morning, I went in to see the great man as I was very upset. I asked him why he was letting me go as, having been top scorer in the reserves for three seasons, I thought I could break in to the first team. He then proceeded to make the most wonderful sacking any manager has ever implemented.

He said to me “George son, there are five good reasons why you should leave Anfield now.” I was puzzled and asked what they were.

“Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, and Thompson” he replied “The first team forward line, they are all internationals son”.

I was in tears and it was then that he showed his motivational powers, humanity and his greatness when he said the words I will never forget.  “George son always remember at this moment in history you are the twelfth best player in the world.”

When I asked what he meant by this outrageous statement, he replied. “The first team here at Anfield son is going to be the greatest team in the world and you are the leading goal scorer in the reserves, I have sold you to Aberdeen go back home and prove me right.”

He could see how upset I was and came round from his desk put his arms round my shoulder and said to me. “Son you have been here with me since the start but it’s time for you to move on. Think of yourself as the foundation stone of the Liverpool cathedral. No one sees it but without that stone the cathedral doesn’t get built.”

I don’t know how he came up with these statements that inspired people. He was just a working class ex miner from that little village in South West Scotland Glenbuck. It was amazing.  He told me I was the best player ever to play for his reserve team. He also gave me a written reference that day, which is my proudest possession to this day. This is what it said:

Dear People

“George Scott played for my football club for five years from 1960 to 1965 and during that time he never caused anybody any trouble.

I would stake my life on his character.

Bill Shankly

This reference has helped me more than I can say throughout my life.

George Scott, 2019

Coming soon, on Tales of Anfield Road, George’s time at Aberdeen and more Anfield memories.

This week in the city

Shanks educates his troops, as supporters listen

It’s not been a great week for the Reds in terms of their relationship with the local community. Following controversy surrounding their plans for Anfield to host gigs in the close-season, they have now been embroiled in a row over attempts to trademark the word Liverpool in a football context. This has been followed up with the news this week that Melwood will be sold to housing charity, Torus.

While Everton are busy building their social capital in the city, it seems Liverpool have much to learn from their neighbours in this regard. Liverpool do a lot in the community, but these recent rows emphasise that they need to up their game, in my view.

Ensuring that the club services the needs of its out-of-town and overseas support is essential, and I fully support this. However, care must be taken to maintain and nurture the relationship the club has with its local support.

Here are a few pieces I have written this week about the trademarking controversy, the sale of Melwood and and the campaign in West Derby to retain a lasting legacy after the move to Kirkby. I feel strongly that Liverpool Football Club must do more to engage with its local community. I also argue that they must not wash their hands of their iconic former training base or the area that has supported it since the 1950s.

Tell me what you think in the comments section below.

The Charity Shield: the ‘meaningless’ friendly all clubs want to play

This Sunday, tens of thousands of Liverpool supporters will once again descend on the country’s capital in joyous football celebration. A trip to Wembley is always the finest way to end or begin a season. This time it’s for the Charity Shield, and I’m loving it. Here’s why.

Preseason games barely get my pulse racing. They never have. In my formative years as a Liverpool supporter, I wouldn’t even know they were taking place, much less what the results were. That is, with the exception of one – the Charity Shield.

For any youngsters reading this, I’m sorry, but it is the Charity Shield. Not the ‘Community Shield,’ and it always will be for me. The modern day penchant for rebranding stuff and then pretending it’s something different has always baffled me.

Anyway. Liverpool have competed for the big shiny shield 21 times. They’ve won it outright ten times, and shared it on five occasions. In the old days, they couldn’t be arsed with penalty shoot-outs and, if the game wasn’t settled after 90 minutes, both captains would simply parade it around the pitch. It would then spend six months in each club’s trophy room.

In the 70s and 80s, the Reds competed for no fewer than 12 Charity Shields, in twenty years. That mattered, because it meant they were winning English football’s big prizes. To be in that ‘curtain raiser’ for the new season, you had to have won the FA Cup or the League title.

So it’s always been the one preseason friendly that really matters to me. Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s the UEFA Super Cup too. If you’re in that, then you’ve either won either ‘old big ears’ or the UEFA Cup. Funnily enough, we’re in both of them this year, such is the club’s revival under Jurgen Klopp.

The competition was founded in 1911, and Liverpool’s first foray came in 1922. Then, the famous ‘untouchables’ side, who won back-to-back league titles between 1921 and 1923, contested the shield against FA Cup winners Huddersfield Town. Sadly they lost the game 1-0.

The game took place on the 10th May at Old Trafford, the first time it had been played outside of London and the first time the fixture took place at the end of a football season. Liverpool were presented with the league trophy on the pitch and, despite their defeat, there were joyous celebrations on the team’s return to Merseyside.

Imagine the scenes at Liverpool Central Station, as captain Donald Mackinlay is hoisted aloft by teammates and possibly a few supporters and carried into the street outside. Back then the shield wasn’t contested under the same rules as today though. Those competing for it hadn’t necessarily won anything.

So, despite winning the league again in 1923 and 1947, the Reds would wait 42 years before contesting another Charity Shield. That came in 1964 when, after a 2-2 draw with West Ham at Anfield, Liverpool claimed their first success. It meant Shankly’s men would share the shield with The Hammers.

They would repeat that feat in 1965, with another 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Liverpool’s first ever success in the competition came courtesy of a 1-0 over Everton at Goodison Park in 1966. It was the first of three Charity Shield encounters against the Blues, with the Reds winning one, drawing one and losing the other.

The game in 66, though, became more famous as a celebration of Merseyside supremacy in English football than anything else. The Reds had won the league and the Blues had won the FA Cup and both teams had contributed players to the England World Cup winning squad. Supporters packed into the old stadium watched in awe as all three trophies were paraded around the pitch before kick off.

It was the first and only time that has ever happened. And, it happened on Merseyside.

In 1974, after the Reds had vanquished Newcastle in the FA Cup final, they would meet league champions Leeds United on the 10th of August. It was the first Charity Shield to be played at Wembley and to be televised – but the game was anything but charitable.

It would also be the last time Shankly ever led Liverpool out at Wembley. The Scot had sensationally resigned earlier. The stage was set for an incredible battle.

So tempestuous was the match, that at one point Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner became embroiled in a fist fight. Both men saw red, and received lengthy bans from the FA. The country had never seen anything like it, and there were even calls for the clubs to face punishment. Fortunately that didn’t happen.

Phil Boersma scored for the Reds in the 19th minute, but Leeds levelled in the 70th through the brilliantly named, Trevor Cherry. That meant that for the first time in the history of the fixture, the game would be settled on penalties.

The Reds won the shootout 6-5, after David Harvey missed his spot kick. It had been a memorable game all round and the one question on everybody’s lips as they left Wembley was, how were only two players sent off? 

After the largess of the previous three decades, the 1990s brought relative austerity in trophy terms for Liverpool. That meant only two Charity Shield matches, in 1990 and 1992. The Reds would share it with arch rivals, United, at the start of the decade. But they lost 3-4 to Leeds in 92.

However, thanks to Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez, the new millennium brought three shots at the newly named ‘Community Shield.’ Those games would be contested outside of England, at Cardiff. The Reds beat United 2-1 in 2001 to cap a memorable season and also followed that up with the UEFA Super Cup.

They lost 1-0 to Arsenal in 2002 and then won the last of their shield victories in 2006. That year, Rafa took his FA Cup winners to Cardiff and they beat Chelsea 2-1. It was a game played in glorious sunshine and memorable for trademark thunderbolt from distance, courtesy of Jon Arne Riise.

So, it’s been 13 long years since we tasted the sweet smell of Charity Shield success. That’s the longest gap since we first tasted success in 1964.

Now Jurgen has a chance to add his name to the long list of winning managers by claiming our 11th outright win. Admittedly, we’re not there courtesy of a Premier League or FA Cup victory this time. However, we came within a hares breath of claiming the league title, and we’ll all settle for the Champions League over the FA Cup. And, let’s face it, the shield would look really nice sat next to ‘old big ears’ in that trophy cabinet, wouldn’t it?

So, while there may not be a banner for our ‘la decima’ of Charity Shields and the Kop may not sing ‘we won it ten times,’ that gleaming silver trophy will always mean something to me. That’s because, just as it always has in my lifetime, it’s a symbol that the Reds are at the top of the game, competing for the big prizes.

I can’t wait. Up the Reds.

Calls for Reds to withdraw ‘Liverpool’ trademark application, as ‘dialogue continues’ between club and ‘interested parties’

As discussed on these pages last week, Liverpool Football Club’s application to claim the word ‘Liverpool’ as their intellectual property, when used in a football context, has sparked a great deal of controversy. Such was the reaction to the news, that club CEO Peter Moore took to the airwaves on BBC Radio Merseyside to explain the club’s position.

Mr Moore was keen to point out that Liverpool FC were not seeking to penalise local vendors, but rather prevent those who would seek to mislead customers with fake products purporting to be official merchandise. However, he had to concede that even a t-shirt which simply contained the word ‘Liverpool’ on it, surrounded by images of footballs could be in breach of the club’s intellectual property, should the club’s application be successful.

While some supporters have suggested that the club is perfectly within its rights to protect its products from cheap counterfeits, pointing out that these damage the reputation of Liverpool FC and deprive it of potential income, others are deeply troubled. They argue that the club are seeking to monopolise something that does not belong to them, the name of the city itself.

I contacted Liverpool Football Club for comment, and a spokesperson told me:

‘We are applying to register ‘Liverpool’ as a trademark but only in the context of football products and services. We are not and wouldn’t ever, seek to register ‘Liverpool’ across the board. This application is strictly to protect the club and supporters from those benefiting from inauthentic products. The benefits to the club to have this protection in place are to ensure all revenues from official products and services are channelled back into the club and this is reinvested into the team and supporting infrastructure.’

They were also keen to make clear that, only if the club felt an organisation was benefiting from inauthentic products or services which were being sold to supporters, would it consider taking action.

Liverpool FC already hold the intellectual property rights to a number of other words, phrases and symbols. For example, they have trademarked ‘This is Anfield,’ ‘YNWA,’ and the Liverbird image, in the context of football. In relation to the latter, the club was refused the right to trademark the emblem of the city, in the UK. However, they went on to make a successful application to the EU.

Many argue that club has already done enough to protect its interests, and that attempting to trademark the name of the city is a step too far. Ian Maloney, the Liverpool born founder of Love Follow Conquer, an independent clothing label, argues that if the club are successful in their application, it will give them the right to police who is allowed to produce football related clothing with the word ‘Liverpool’ on it.

He points out that the club’s application includes reference to classes ranging from apparel to podcasts, broadcasting, education and catering, and argues:

‘If LFC are successful in their application trademark law states the holder of a trademark must enforce their trademark. They won’t be able to pick and choose when to enforce it otherwise the trademark could be challenged by others.’

This potentially challenges the argument put forward by the club, that they will be able to pick and choose which independent producers they pursue. I don’t possess the legal expertise to comment on the above, but a cursory internet search suggests that an organisation is at risk of losing its trademark, if it fails to use it after it is granted.

However, for Ian, there is a deeper issue at stake. And, his concern is one shared by many of the people who responded to my original post. That is, an objection to the club attempting to have ownership and control of something they didn’t create or invent – the word ‘Liverpool.’ For many of us, it is simply unfathomable as to why trademarking ‘Liverpool FC’ wouldn’t be enough to protect the club’s brand. Why seek monopoly over the name of a city?

Ian Maloney picks up the point, suggesting that unless the application is withdrawn, it could drive a wedge between the club’s owners, the city and its supporters. He argues,

‘The City of Liverpool is a community and has been a cultural centre for over 800 years. Liverpool FC wants to be part of that community and because of this it can’t own the community it wants to belong to. Liverpool FC shouldn’t have the right to trademark the word ‘Liverpool’ in the same way any other business shouldn’t. The word ‘Liverpool’ belongs to the people of Liverpool, not to any corporate business.’

Liverpool City Councillor, and leading figure in the Fans Supporting Food-banks charity, which the club supports, Ian Byrne, feels that the move jeopardises the futures of independent traders, and adds his voice to calls for the club to withdraw its application, saying:

‘The importance of the independents who do so much to add to our fan culture cannot be over-estimated. They are fundamental to our current success on and off the pitch, and the club have previously embraced their role. This plan will place them in danger. FSG should cease with the trademark idea, which also endangers the huge bank of goodwill and optimism built up last season.’

Of course, the independent producers and traders aren’t the only stakeholders concerned by the potential trademark. A number of local amateur football teams, such as AFC Liverpool and City of Liverpool FC (COLFC) also use the name of the city. One of the directors of COLFC, Peter Furmedge, told me:

‘City of Liverpool FC has a number of concerns about this trademark application, particularly as it would give LFC effective ownership over the word “Liverpool” in every conceivable football related context.’

Peter explains that his club is committed to the principles of common ownership and community wealth building. Central to this, is the fact that ‘Liverpool’ is part of a shared identity, an identity that represents significant social capital that has been built up over many generations. He continues:

‘Such a shared asset, and the social capital it has accrued, belongs to all of us within the “Liverpool” community. We contribute to its value daily, just as previous generations have done, and future generations will do. A shared community asset, like “Liverpool”, should never be appropriated into private ownership. At “fair value”, nobody could ever afford to buy it!’

To Peter, the value of the name ‘Liverpool’ has been created by the activities, efforts and sacrifices of countless generations. All of us, as citizens of this great city, continue to contribute to this ‘social capital’ daily. Liverpool FC are just one component of that community, as are Tranmere, Everton and others. Sure, they have also contributed, quite considerably in fact, but does that entitle them to monopolise it in any context?

While there is no suggestion that Peter Moore is acting in bad faith, when he states that the club would never seek to act against City of Liverpool FC or others, there is an objection to being placed in a subordinate position to the club, if the trademark is granted. And, there is a concern that organisations, like COLFC, would be required to ‘get the nod’ from Liverpool FC, in order to continue to use their own name.

In addition, others have argued that, even if we accept the club’s assurances today, there is no guarantee that FSG’s intentions won’t change in the future. And, there is a real fear that potential future owners could use the power of the trademark to shut down all competition. As Peter points out,

‘This is something that could occur in any number of realistic scenarios. For whatever reason, future owners of the club may not be willing to accept the presence of other football related activity taking place with the word “Liverpool” involved. Liverpool supporters will remember the antics of Hicks and Gillett, and the infamous “sons of strikers” dossier on supporter activists. Imagine that lot, and Christian Purslow, with these trademark rights to play with!

‘Unfortunately, rogue football club owners and executives are not uncommon. In my 30 years involvement in the football supporters’ movement, I have met many supporters’ groups at clubs with ownership regimes that would not hesitate to use the trademark rights that LFC has applied for as a weapon against perceived local rivals.

‘Regardless of the expressed best intentions of the current LFC ownership, they cannot guarantee that somewhere down the line the club will not have owners that will use these trademark rights in ways that LFC currently assures us they won’t, but the wording of the trademark application clearly allows.

‘A further concern of ours is that LFC may sell, or transfer, the trademark rights to a third party, such as a commercial partner. LFC has previously done this, when the Moores and Parry regime transferred rights to Adidas. That severely restricted LFC’s ability to develop its own brand. As things stand, if the trademark is granted, there is nothing to prevent a third part from using the rights as leverage in raising their brand awareness – this being the whole point of commercial partnerships after all.’

Another independent trader shares his concerns. Hat Scarf or a Badge have been producing Liverpool FC related apparel close to Anfield for many years. Their products have been worn by supporters and ex-players alike. Indeed, their designs are inspired by and continue to inspire supporter culture. I contacted them for comment, and found they share many of the concerns raised above. A spokesperson told me,

‘We are concerned about how these trademark rights may be used by future owners.’

Transalpino, who take their name from the epic trans-Alpine trek taken by Liverpool supporters on their way to Rome in 1977 have similar concerns. A spokesperson told me,

‘The main concern is that ‘Liverpool’ belongs to the city, I totally get that they are a business and they have to protect their brand. I can accept them trademarking ‘Liverpool FC.’

‘Peter Moore said on BBC 5 LIVE that it wasn’t the small local vendors they were after. but he then went on to say that a red shirt with ‘Liverpool’ on surrounded by footballs would be viewed as alluding to be official merchandise.

‘The club will do what they want, once they have the trademark. They’re a US multi-national who want to take ownership of the name of our city, what happens once they sell to unscrupulous owners?

‘When I learned of this, in protest, I made an application to trademark ‘Manchester’ in a couple of classes, I will be monitoring it to see if we succeed. I will make a big song and dance about it if we lose, especially if Liverpool win.’

Another group of creators and innovators, who could potentially be affected by this move, are the various fanzines, websites, podcasts and other online content producers. It is via these mediums that fan culture is often propagated.

Indeed, there is something of a symbiotic relationship at work, in which the club latches onto supporter content and vice-versa. In my view there is nothing wrong with this, and it should be encouraged. However, the attempt to monopolise words associated with the club dangerously shifts the balance of power in the direction of the club.

I discussed this with Dave Usher, founder and editor of The Liverpool Way, a popular fanzine and website, and Chris Pajak, co-founder and presenter of The Redmen TV, a supporter generated show that broadcasts daily on YouTube. Both are concerned about the club’s attempts to trademark the city’s name.

Dave told me that, while he felt the club would eventually back away from the idea, he has been angered by the move. He’s even more irritated, though, by supporters who he believes are supportive of the club’s application. He told me,

‘Frankly it’s appalling that some suit in a marketing department thinks they have the right to monopolise the word. But, what bothers me even more than that are the fans who are attempting to justify it.

”The same thing happened when they wanted to put the ticket prices up. There were fans out there saying it’s ok because it means more money in the transfer kitty. I mean really? The hundreds of millions they get from sponsorship deals and the unprecedented revenue from TV isn’t enough?

‘Worse than that though are those fans who can’t seem to differentiate between FSG and the club. As far as owners go, we could do a lot worse, but let’s not forget who they are and why they got into this. They are a group of rich American fellas who made a shrewd overseas investment.

‘They aren’t ‘the club.’ They just currently own it. Yet some think it’s ok for them to prevent anyone else from using the word ‘Liverpool’ in a football context? It baffles me, to be honest. It’s actually scary how some people see the world.’

Meanwhile, Chris Pajak doubts whether anyone, anywhere in the world, who purchases unofficial merchandise, outside of an official club store, does so believing it to be the real deal. He explains,

‘It’s a bit of a stretch to say they are protecting people from buying inauthentic products. To me, it looks like a land grab. Liverpool FC want all the money that’s spent on Liverpool FC. With no unofficial merch [sic] on offer, then revenues go up. Simple as.

‘As far as independent retailers go, I can see it affecting their livelihoods. 90% percent of the scarves sold outside the ground will have the word Liverpool on them. What does the club expect them to say – Merseyside Reds? Give over. The word Liverpool does not belong to a football club, it belongs to the people. And, that’s that.

‘This is a foot through the door and, once they own it, there’s no going back. If they own it, they’ll want to protect it. Otherwise why do it in the first place. Even if FSGs intentions are pure, who’s to say the next owners will feel the same. This needs to end before it reaches a point of no return.’

In my conversations with many of the stakeholders affected by this move, it is clear to me that the club’s reassurances have done little to assuage anxieties. Irrespective of the legalities many are sceptical of the club’s intentions, and even those who are willing to believe they are acting in good faith, fear the repercussions under future ownership structures, if this trademark is granted.

With all of that, I remain astonished that Liverpool FC have embarked on this path. It is one that risks reputational damage and could undo much of the goodwill earned in recent years.

There is hope, however. Both City of Liverpool FC and Spirit of Shankly have told me that there is continuing dialogue between the club and interested parties. Peter Moore has described those discussions as ‘congenial and intelligent.’ While Peter Furmedge described them as ‘friendly and constructive.’

It is hoped that the owners will now reconsider and continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with a view to reaching a compromise. There is certainly a willingness on the part of the directors of COLFC to find a sensible solution, with Peter Furmedge telling me:

Notwithstanding our concerns, COLFC recognises the genuine issues that LFC wishes to address. We are looking forward to meeting with LFC at some point in order to negotiate a solution that addresses the concerns of all parties, a solution that respects community shared ownership of “Liverpool” while affording LFC the brand protection they seek. However, the trademark application as it stands must be withdrawn by LFC or, failing that, stopped through public objections.

It seems that the ball is now in Liverpool FCs court. They have the power to step back from this move. I hope they take the opportunity to negotiate on the basis of the shared interests of all involved.

Monetising the word ‘Liverpool’: A spectacular own goal

Liverpool Football club have made what The Independent refers to as a ‘bold move’ at the Intellectual Property Office. They are seeking to trademark the word ‘Liverpool.’ Sounds absurd doesn’t it? It is.

However, the club are not alone. Southampton and Chelsea have also successfully monetised – or monopolised – a word that predated their existence. To be fair, Liverpool FC have claimed that the move has been made to protect the club’s profits and supporters wallets, as no longer will we be ripped off by ‘inauthentic products,’ they say.

You know the ones they’re talking about, right? The ones that are cheaper than those on offer at the official club store. So, the club is seeking to protect us from having access to cheaper and independently designed products from places like Hat, Scarf or a Badge, and instead we will be free to pay much higher prices for official merchandise.

There is so much that is wrong with this idea, I barely know where to start. The response to it from supporters groups, like Spirit of Shankly, echoes the views of many grassroots followers of the club and mine. They have issued a statement saying:

‘After a magnificent summer of optimism and celebration for LFC – it is hard to contemplate such an ill-thought out move by FSG. It is one that will alienate the entire fan base.’

With the club’s owners about to enter their tenth year in charge at Anfield, hopes were high that they had overcome their earlier mistakes. The most notable of which was a ticket price hike that provoked a mass walk out during a Premier League game, against Sunderland in 2015.

FSG hardly need the cash either. In recent weeks, the newly crowned champions of Europe have entered the top 50 in a list of the most affluent sporting organisations in the world, having been valued at $2.5 billion. A string of lucrative new sponsorship deals have been announced and the club has earned vast sums of prize money from both UEFA and the Premier League.

FSG are investing heavily in training facilities at Kirkby. And, just this week, there has been talk of an improved and enlarged planning application to the city council, for the expansion of the Anfield Road end of the stadium. This will undoubtedly drive up revenues further.

In short, the club is in rude health. So, you may ask, with so much revenue flowing into the club, why do FSG need to embark on such a highly controversial course of action?

It has always struck me that for all its talk of free trade and apparent love of competition, business does love a monopoly. Football is no different. Consider our club’s history. For that matter, consider any club’s history. Once a community sport, played by people on a park and watched for free, the game has now grown into a multi-national operation fine-tuned to extract as much profit as possible.

From the moment local businessmen enclosed those pitches, erected stands and began charging admittance, they had succeeded in monopolising a community pass-time. Of course that has brought benefits, such as modern stadiums and, for some, the chance to see world-class talent playing live each week.

However, it has also brought sky-high prices, exorbitant merchandising and the gouging of supporters by travel operators and hoteliers during away trips. Those handing over sponsorship cash to clubs then mop up tickets that could easily go to ordinary supporters, which creates scarcity and drives up the price of tickets made available through unofficial sources.

I’m reminded of Robert Noonan’s book, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The book is over a century old, and is a critique of capitalism and something of a bible to socialists everywhere. In it, the author, writing under the name Robert Tressell, describes how the owners of capital are driven to monopolise everything in order to maximise profit. One line in particular comes to mind,

‘The only reason they have not monopolized the daylight and the air is that it is not possible to do it. If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, ‘

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Noonan

Well, we haven’t quite reached those extremes yet. But, we are now presented with the the monopolisation of words. The club’s attempts to portray this as being about protecting supporters from unscrupulous traders aside, who really benefits from this move?

It’s certainly not the independent traders who have been the lifeblood of the streets around the ground, or their customers. It is not yet clear what impact this will have on amateur football teams, like City of Liverpool FC.

What we can be absolutely certain of, is the fact that the club will benefit from this massively. Some supporters may well argue that it is in our interests for Liverpool FC to maximise revenue. It will allow them to invest in the playing side and the club’s infrastructure, they might say.

That’s true, of course. But I come back to my earlier point, do they really need this. Is it so necessary to bleed yet more money from the ‘brand’ that the owners are prepared to alienate current and future supporters by attempting to claim the word ‘Liverpool’ as their intellectual property?

I’d argue that it simply isn’t. It’s a foolhardy and completely unnecessary move. It’s one that stems from businesses misunderstanding of the nature of football and its connection with the people.

The owners may well want us to win. I’m willing to accept that. And, I can see that they have done a lot of good at the club. But, their problem continues to be that they cannot see that Liverpool FC is a community asset.

Clearly, it is possible to monopolise it. That is self evidently true. FSG have managed this to great effect at two sporting clubs either side of the Atlantic. However, in the process, they risk killing the goose and depriving themselves of future golden eggs – to torture a metaphor.

It is the community of independent thinkers, creators and, yes, entrepreneurs, who gravitate to Liverpool FC, who generate the unique vibe around the club. ‘This means more,‘ the club says, and it is true. It does.

Liverpool FC, in fact the word ‘Liverpool’ itself, means far more to its people than pounds, shillings and pence. We don’t sing our songs or create our banners in order to increase the power of the brand. We do all of that because we believe the club is something special, different – exceptional even.

Think of Jamie Webster and the Boss Night movement. Consider the wonderful songs containing the word Liverpool and recorded onto CDs by supporters, the edgy designs on t-shirts created by unofficial outlets and loved by supporters. Will all of that now fall under the intellectual property of Liverpool Football Club?

If the efforts of supporters to be different and always authentic become just another revenue stream for the club’s commercial department, then FSG risks killing the originality and creativity that has become synonymous with our supporters. ‘Liverpool’ is the intellectual property of its people. The owners must rethink.

After our historic win against Barcelona, at Anfield last season, Arsene Wenger described Liverpool as ‘the city of music, the working class and football.’ He continued, ‘That is why they keep creating miracles.’ It is an astute and insightful observation. And, it is one our club needs to take to heart.

Many supporters share these concerns. So it is a shame that the club didn’t engage with them more before embarking on this scheme. If they had we could have saved them from scoring what is a quite spectacular own goal.

An hour or two with Redmen TV

How boss is this, Red Odyssey has a regular slot on the multi-award winning Redmen TV

Everyone loves a day off work. It’s a chance to recharge, catch up on jobs around the house, get some writing done or, as I did today, while away an hour or two in the company of some great Liverpool fans and award winning vloggers. So, it was an absolute pleasure for me to join Chris Pajak, Ross and the team from Redmen TV to review last season, Liverpool’s plans for the summer, and also discuss the website and my upcoming book, We Conquered all of Europe. There was also a discussion about what the Sing Fong chippy and the Albert Pub would say, if they could talk. Confused? You will be.

That show will be out soon, but if you can’t wait that long, here’s are some clips of me in conversation with Chris about Red Odyssey and Stanley Park Story form earlier.

My debut on Redmen TV
More from my debut on Redmen TV
Jeff and Chris discuss Stanley Park Story

Oh, I am a Liverpudlian

I was born in 1967, so I am kinda old now. I’ve seen the Reds win everything. Nevertheless, I missed Shankly’s first great side and that incredible first FA Cup win. By the time I became consciously aware of football, Shanks was in the process of rebuilding his second great team. The Reds were not winning things – Liverpool went six years without a trophy, between 1967 and 1973.

As a kid growing up in Liverpool in the 1970s, I faced a very simple choice; was I Red or Blue? Obviously, I chose Liverpool. My mum and dad were massive Reds, as were my grandparents, aunts and uncles, but I had lots of Blue mates. If I’m honest, I can’t really say it was parental influence, I’d have chosen Liverpool anyway. And it was because of one man.

If I was going to pick the best side on Merseyside at the time, I might have decided to support Everton. But Everton didn’t have Bill Shankly.

Shankly was like a God to my family. His influence was pervasive, like the unofficial Prime Minister of Liverpool to us. The people who mattered to me, my family and mates, just believed in him. And, I believed in him. If he said we would be winning things again soon, then that was it. Enough said.

The first big game I remember was the 74 FA Cup final against Newcastle. I watched that at home on the telly and I’ve written about this before, but the reactions of the people I loved, to that game and that win, will live with me forever. I would say my all-consuming love of the club can be traced back to that day.

By the time I was starting to go to games on my own, Liverpool were the undisputed Kings of Europe. In 1978 they retained the European Cup and I thought they were magicians. They were something akin to the the Harlem Globetrotters of football. Or maybe the Harlem Globetrotters were the Liverpool of basketball.

Of course, they could be beaten and did lose from time to time, but in my childish mind they could do no wrong. I was so convinced of their infallibility, that a defeat would be met with bemusement more than anger.

Anfield was a magical place, where miracles happened far more regularly than in the the other two cathedrals at either end of Hope Street, Liverpool. There was nothing special about the bricks, mortar, steel and concrete of course. The Kop was austere and the atmosphere was raw, gritty and working class. The Anfield Road end was just as raucous and the people who frequented that part of the ground were as proud and loud as Kopites, who they often referred to as ‘gobshites,’ long before Evertonians did.

For all its primitive trappings. I loved the place. I still do. Especially during a night game, when the grass looks so green and the lights so bright. The feeling of being in a crowd that feels more like a community and being swept up in song and draped in banners is second to none.

Anfield has changed, of course it has. The ground has been evolving for more than a century, along with the team and the people they represent. Yet, somehow the ghosts of those heady days of my childhood and adolescence still linger, whenever I take my seat.

There are countless stories and memories burnt into the fabric of that football ground, and in the streets around it. Some are deliriously happy tales, others are sad, even tragic. Anfield Road has been trodden by countless Reds down the years. Everyone of them carried hope in their hearts and had dreams and songs to sing.

We are Anfield, and Anfield is us. It’s more than a football stadium. Liverpool is more than a football club and this city is more than a place to stay, to me anyway. My city, its people and the team I follow have helped shape my politics, my writing and ultimately they have come to define who I am.

That’s why I care so much. For me, there’s no other way to explain my obsession with the fortunes of 11 men I don’t know, kicking a ball around a field, unless I accept that being a Liverpudlian is about being part of something bigger than myself. I am not religious at all, but perhaps my affinity with Liverpool, the club and the city, is as close to a religious experience as I will ever get.

It is irrational, joyous, despairing and often life affirming. But, it makes no sense when you sit down and try to analyse it. Is that religion? Maybe. All I know is it’s my life and I will be a Liverpudlian until I die.

My politics is the socialism of Shankly. I believe in collective effort and communal reward. I am unapologetically left wing. I don’t subscribe to the notion that politics and football should be kept separate. Heysel and Hillsborough, Thatcher and the doctrine of managed decline have taught me that politics is life and life is political.

So, I write about all of that. My team, my loves and my passions. I hope you stick around on these pages, read, enjoy and join in the conversation. And, if you fancy it, pick up one of my books or all of them, if you like.

You’ll never walk alone.