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Monday, June 17, 2024

Liverpool fans close to ‘ground-breaking’ FSG deal that could change football

Any future involvement of Liverpool in another version of the European Super League would have to have the agreement of supporters after a ‘ground-breaking’ deal was reached with club owners Fenway Sports Group.

Spirit of Shankly, the recognised Liverpool supporters union, had a motion passed at their AGM on Saturday morning that recommended the approval of a proposal that would make it a legal requirement for FSG to gain consent from fans should they ever wish to embark on another ESL plot or make moves to take the club away from Anfield.

SOS met with FSG local representatives including Liverpool CEO Billy Hogan in May, weeks after the Reds had played a significant role in the failed attempt to launch a breakaway league with 11 other of Europe’s biggest clubs, a move that mobilised fans to display their opposition to the proposals.

The ESL launch crashed and burned within 48 hours and FSG supremo and Liverpool principal owner John Henry recorded a video apology to fans over the move, shouldering the blame for the idea.

Since then there has been a concerted effort to bring about new levels of fan engagement to put in place safeguards around similar things happening in the future.

Conservative MP Tracey Crouch produced her fan-led review into the future of English football earlier this week where a number of recommendations, such as the introduction of a ‘golden share’, fan veto and shadow boards were proposed to hand fans more power over decision making on certain matters at club level. The proposals are expected to receive ministerial support.

SOS’s own plan, which has been co-ordinated alongside FSG, is seen by the supporters group as being ahead of the curve and providing a workable blueprint for other clubs to follow when it comes to fan engagement.

The motion was passed at the AGM, with another motion to go before online members this week, with the next step being to progress through the legal framework to bring about the new engagement as soon as possible.

A new supporters board would be created under the plans, made up of members from across the spectrum of Liverpool fan groups.

Consent would be needed on matters such as Liverpool attempting to join a breakaway league or leave Anfield, and would be legally binding. It would exist in the club’s articles of association meaning that even in the event of a transition of power at Liverpool should FSG sell the club, the framework would remain through a transfer of undertakings.

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Addressing the AGM, SOS chairman Joe Blott said: “Our proposals are that there would be 16 members of that board. They would be democratically elected to that board.

“There would be 10 representatives from the Spirit of Shankly and also representatives from the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, from Kop Outs, from Spion Kop 1906, from the official Liverpool Supporters Committee, from the Liverpool Womens Supporters Committee and from faith and ethnic groups.

“The main thing is that they will have specific terms of reference in terms of issues to take forward to the club, and that is where we will get our consent for things that will happen with the club, any existential issues that the club bring forward. That is where we get our mandate from, as part of a wider, broader fan base.

“We will have a monthly meeting with the local FSG board members, and we will have an annual meeting with the full FSG/LFC management board. We will have early access to accounts, strategic plan or anything that affects our football club or the L4 community.

“We think that we are in a strong position and think that we have got a more than mirror image of the Tracey Crouch review. We think it is important we get this mobilised and get this underway as soon as possible.”

SOS had recommended the proposal for approval, with members pointing to the journey that they had been on since the days of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s ownership of the club when they were concerned over the potential of being banned from Anfield itself.

FSG will have to alter its own internal rules in order to facilitate the new supporters board into the decision making process on certain matters that relate to traditions and anything that could impact legacy at the football club. Matters such as transfer policy, commercial performance or management decisions will remain at the discretion of FSG.

“From the embers of the European Super League debacle we saw it as an opportunity for ground-breaking, fan-led engagement with football clubs,” said Blott.

“We think we have achieved that.

“You need somebody on the other side to want to do that, and to be fair the club have done that.”

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