Conor Thompson explores the efforts being made by fan groups to keep the atmosphere and traditions of Liverpool FC alive.
It doesn’t take a sociology degree to recognise that the typical match goer in 2018 is different to that of 20 or 30 years ago. As society evolves, so too has the matchday experience. Where burger joints once stood, snazzy looking men in suits now queue for gourmet salt and chilli chicken.
Being a fan of one of Britain’s “bigger clubs” has objectively changed drastically.
Whilst Liverpool Football Club may be a bit behind their North-West rivals, in terms of commercial revenue, the club has undoubtedly made a massive (and successful) effort to position LFC as a globally recognised brand.
Whilst it is necessary to keep up with the rest of Europe’s elite clubs from a commercial standpoint, the club also has a responsibility to preserve the culture and heritage of this ever so decorated club: The Spirit of Shankly and all that.
There is a certain degree of understanding from local supporters that the club simply has no choice but to keep up with the rest when it comes to economic success. That said, there is a belief amongst fans that this can be done without sacrificing the Liverpool Way.
Culture and tradition are of utmost importance to local and OOT supporters alike and valiant efforts are being made to keep the soul of the club alive. I recently sat down with regular match goer Daniel Nicolson to have a chat about the efforts being made by supporters’ groups to keep the flame burning.
Daniel lives and works in Liverpool and has been a season ticket holder from a young age. A web developer by day, he devotes a large portion of his free time to the football culture scene. Whether this be through running his casual clothing websites, being an active member of the Spirit of Shankly group or running gigs and events, Dan is a key figure in keeping the football and music culture of the city and club alive.
You’ve probably seen the videos. In fact, you’ve definitely seen the videos. The guy on stage with a guitar adding Liverpool player names to popular songs while a bunch of well-dressed match going lads jump around and sing along with a beer in hand.
BOSS night is a bi-product of BOSS mag, a Liverpool fanzine which gathered all the great stories from the city of Liverpool in one place. The kind of stories which maybe would seem a little out of place in a matchday programme or official Liverpool FC magazine.
Daniel started BOSS nights with a simple goal in mind: To find a venue where passionate, like-minded supporters of LFC could come together to listen to some music, share stories of their travels following the club, have a beer and have a laugh together.
“Music and football go hand in hand and this statement is no truer than in the city of Liverpool.”
Singing at football matches in Britain arguably reached a new level when the Spion Kop of Liverpool began to sing Beatles songs at games. Imagine football without singing? We’d all just stay at home, wouldn’t we?
BOSS nights are becoming bigger and more than just what happens inside the venue. The morning after a BOSS night takes place, Facebook and YouTube are full of clips from the previous night. The new Mo Salah song? Yep, the product of one of the nights Dan runs. The tune of this new chant comes from “Sit Down” by James highlighting that link between music and football and in particular the link between music and Liverpool Football Club.
The official TV channel of Liverpool Football Club recently included some clips from the night in “Sounds of Liverpool”, a documentary which showcased some of the best songs and chants which have been belted out on the Kop and in away ends in recent years. Small gestures such as this from the club are a move in the right direction in terms of giving supporters a voice.
The efforts of people like Dan really go a long way in terms of preserving the tradition of this club. Out of town supporters see the clips of new chants from BOSS Nights and will automatically know the words for the few games they manage to get to per season. A nod to the effect of social media.
Spion Kop 1906
One group which is pivotal to the atmosphere at Anfield and to keeping the traditions of the Kop, is Spion Kop 1906. If you’ve ever been to the ground or ever just watched a Liverpool game on the box, whilst You’ll Never Walk Alone rings out over the tannoy, the camera pans to the magnificent waver style flags on the Kop.
Spion Kop 1906 are the group responsible for a large share of the flags and banners which dress the iconic terrace. While other clubs employ ground staff to wave flags before games and after goals, it’s the fans themselves who look after this in L4. Again, tradition and culture reign supreme in Liverpool.
What is most impressive about the work of this group is the sheer variety of the banners and flags. Some of them pay tribute to past and present players, others are simply the red and white of Liverpool and very importantly some of them remember those affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
The work and preparation which goes into the flags/banners at Anfield is truly monumental. Fans can purchase stickers and other pieces of other merchandise from the group, the proceeds of which go to the upkeep and making of flags. Without merchandise sales and donations, the group would not exist and the Kop simply would not be the worldwide phenomenon which it is.
In recent years, the group have teamed up with supporter’s union Spirit of Shankly to fight for issues such as lower ticket prices. The Spirit of Shankly group are the first ever football supporter’s union in England. Initially set up in protest against the then owners of the club, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the union has become something of a guardian of the rights of fans of Liverpool Football Club.
All Together Now
When it comes to fan culture, there is simply no other fanbase in England who keeps it alive like the fans of LFC do.
If like me, you’re an international fan who can only make it to Anfield a handful of times a year, there are still ways in which you can help improve the atmosphere at the ground. Join the union, donate to Spion Kop and when you do get to the game, don’t spend the 90 minutes on your smartphone. The club is changing. The game of football is changing. The match going experience is changing. If we all make an effort however, the culture of Liverpool FC will live on. All together now.
Images: Instagram @spionkop1906