Regular readers of this blog will know that I do not tend to feel a great deal of sympathy with the 1% of the world who are the Super Rich. However, much to my surprise, yesterday afternoon this is exactly how I felt.
The American guys who own Liverpool Football Club are very rich indeed. Like millions of fans all over the world, I consider Liverpool Football Club to be my football club. I have been a season ticket holder for over forty years. I damn nearly lost my life following the team in April 1989. However I am not completely naïve. I know full well that LFC is NOT my football club. It is THEIR football club, they being the Fenway Sports Group of
. Boston, Massachusetts
The bought the club lock, stock at barrel for £300 million a few years back and at the time I was delighted because they guys they bought the club from had proved to be a pair of utter shysters who were about to send the whole thing down the pan.
At first the new guys seemed to be OK. John Henry and Tom Werner presented themselves as quiet, thoughtful men who were happy to take their time in putting our red Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Then they summoned Kenny Dalglish to
and fired him and I hated them for it.
But like many other dinosaur Reds, I have been more than happy to swallow a
pretty large humble pie over the last year as it has become increasingly clear
that these American guys clearly know what they are doing. Boston
Sure, they are in it for the money but that is how it is when you live in a capitalist society. Is that a bad thing? Not really. Having spent quite a lot of time behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980’s, I have little faith in communism.
When all is said and done, these guys have made Liverpool Football Club feel like Liverpool Football Club again and last year was the proof. For the first time in a long time, the old bond between club, players and fans was back and FSG deserve credit for that.
So they are rich guys, but at least it seems like they are in it for a slow buck rather than a quick one. Getting hold of tickets at Anfield is once again a tough task. They could easily have hiked the seat prices and they haven’t. They deserve credit for that.
Well, yesterday they were kicked in the teeth and it stinks to high heaven. Do I disagree with Luis Suarez being punished for biting an Italian centre half? Of course not. Surely no half way sensible supporter can have any argument about him having the book thrown at him. When we bought him from
hoped it would be a case of once caught biting, twice shy. Then we moved onto hoping
for twice caught biting, thrice shy. And now the bloody idiot has done it
So good old FIFA have made the political decision to throw the book at him and therefore paint themselves as the guys in white hats rather than a bunch of uber-corrupt crooks.
The problem is that he is barely going to be punished at all. He will not kick a football for a while and he will have to shell out two days wages by way of a fine. Apparantly the PFA rules will allow his main employer – Liverpool FC – to fine him a further two weeks wages.
So Luis can get his feet up for four months and feel sorry for himself. No doubt we will hear plenty about how what happened is down to some vast conspiracy against him. All the while he will become an even bigger national hero in his home country and when he eventually runs onto the Anfield pitch in November, the roof will come off. So, didums. Poor, tragic Luis. As if!
Of course he will miss football, but it is hard to feel sorry for him as he enjoys a few months off and gets paid £3 million to regale us all with lots and lots of sulking tweets.
Things are rather different for John Henry and Tom Werner. Last week they had a player who was worth £80 million who had just won a bunch of awards. What is he worth today? That is impossible to say. Maybe £30 million? Basically they have been fined £50 million because that moron decided to bite a fellow player. Had he been wearing a red shirt at the time, then they would have had little to complain about. All businesses have to take responsibility for the actions of their employees. It must be bloody sickening at times, but that is the way it is.
But this was different. FIFA demands that clubs make their employees available to represent their countries and if the clubs tell FIFA to bugger off, then there will be all kinds of consequences. So LFC had no choice in the matter. Send your most important employee to work for someone else for two months, oh and by the way, you keep paying their wages.
So we sent Luis off to represent his country. For two months we had no say whatsoever in his day to day routine. The World Cup has offered ample evidence of just how seriously the South Americans take their football. We know a bit about this kind of thing at Anfield, but even we look kind of quiet and reserved when compared to the red raw passion of these guys. Shanks was half joking when he said that football was more important than life and death. If one of the South American managers were to say the same words, nobody would see it as a joke. These guys will go to almost any lengths to get a win and their fans expect nothing else. So this was the kind of work environment that we were forced to send our most important employee to work in.
It is hard not to warm to the all consuming desire of the Uruguayans to punch above their weight. For a country of three million to do what they do is bloody fantastic. And we would be bloody hypocritical if we didn’t admit that this all consuming win or bust attitude is why we have taken to Luis.
We can only guess at the atmosphere in a
dressing room before a game. Maybe it is a really calm and considered place,
but I very much doubt it. The way they play suggests that they have been fired
up to a state of patriotic fervour where they are semi demented. The team that goes out onto the pitch knows that
they have a whole nation hanging on their every kick, and as the undisputed
star player, Luis know this more than any of them. Uruguay
So they wound him up and then wound him up some more and he lost the plot. Who was to blame? Luis first and foremost, obviously. But the Uruguay FA must also take their share of blame as well. Everything they do is designed to get the eleven guys representing a tiny country of 3 million to out perform nations which are vastly larger and richer. And sometimes they cross the line in order to achieve this. If as an employer you deliberately get your employees fired up to a state where they are semi manic, then you have to accept responsibility when things get out of hand.
In 1972, a civil rights march was organised in
Londonderry. A crowd of 20,000 people was due to walk
down the hill from the Creggan Estate to the Bogside. The odds were that
trouble would break out and some crowd control would be needed. The authorities
had a huge police force and 20,000 British soldiers at their disposal to keep
the peace. In their wisdom, they decided to give the job of crowd control to
the men of the Parachute Regiment. These guys were heavily trained for one
particular role at the time. Had the Russians decided to sent their tanks into ,
the Paras would have been the first guys to take them on. Had such an event
ever unfolded, the average life expectancy of one of the lads in the maroon
berets was calculated to have been about 15 minutes. All of their training was
about using those fifteen minutes to go completely mental and take as many
Russians as they could into the next world with them. West Germany
It takes a very particular training regime to get men into the kind of frame of frame of mind to accept that kind of suicide mission. It means they tend to be pretty highly strung individuals. Trigger happy. And were they ever trigger happy on that cold day back in 1972. They executed 13 completely innocent, unarmed civilians. Obviously they shouldn’t have done it. But they should never have been given the chance. They should never have been deployed that day. They were the wrong guys for that kind of job.
Few people have any doubt that Luis is more highly strung than he should be. If he was an ordinary Joe who had been in court for a second time for biting someone, he would have been referred for some kind of mental health treatment. Of course that is what happened when he bit Branislav Ivanovic. However I very much doubt if all medical options were on the table. I have met many guys who exhibit the same kind of highly strung symptoms as Luis. They are the veterans with PTSD who come in to First Base for some help. Often they find it hard to contain their anger and they need medication in order to keep a lid on things. Unfortunately, this kind of medication almost always has side effects. As a rule of thumb once the meds are set to the right level, the patient will almost always put on a load of weight: two or three stones is pretty much the norm. This is no great problem if it means a guy can break a cycle of endless prison sentences. However I very much doubt that Luis would have been the Footballer of the Year last year if he had put on three stones of weight as a result of being prescribed the correct medication to keep his anger under control.
Sadly Liverpool FC has some previous when it comes to putting the balance sheet and requirements on the pitch before the mental health issues of an employee. The club saw Stan Collymore as an £8.5 million investment rather than a human being. He was only able to have access to the right mental health treatment and medication once he hung up his boots.
I am sure FSG would have dearly loved to carry out a risk assessment before handing Luis over to the care of the Uruguayan FA. Was it the right environment for him? Absolutely not. The best thing for all concerned would have been for the club to say thanks, but no thanks. Sadly it was not an option that was on the table. FIFA will not allow it. Clubs are given no choice in the matter. They have to send their employees to their countries whether they like it or not.
So FSG sent Luis to
and continued to pay his
salary. Luis predictably lost the plot and now Brazil Liverpool
have to pay the price. A fifty million bloody quid price.
LFC has no responsibility whatsoever for what has happened and yet LFC is about to receive the harshest punishment. It is hardest on FSG because they are the ones who have just lost £50 million care of FIFA. But we fans suffer too. We shell out for our season tickets to watch the best players the club can attract do their stuff. Had we sold Luis for £80 million, we could have expected to see some pretty fine replacements. If we sell him for £30 million, the replacements will not be nearly as fine. So we suffer as well.
Maybe it is time for clubs to turn the tables and give FIFA a kick in the teeth. Maybe all clubs should meet up and make an agreement. All clubs could make a demand that before any player joins the payroll they must publically retire from international football. If they don’t, then they don’t play for a club. How would your World Cup look then FIFA? I don’t think you would have much weight to throw around then. And I don’t think you would have so many opportunities to stuff your pockets with all of those cash filled envelopes.
I for one would be delighted if no
player ever played international football again. I’m sick of lads getting
injured or generally knackered or having their confidence shredded.
But this one takes the biscuit. FIFA have no right to screw Liverpool FC to the tune of £50 million. It is high time all of us tell them to take a hike.