Saturday, 26 May 2007

Cheeky Scousers No More

Ever since their heyday of the mid 70s Liverpool have been my third favourite team (for some strange reason Stenhousemuir are my second). This week they missed out on a chance of a 6th European Cup win. But the bigger, and much sadder, news story was the hundreds of fans with genuine tickets locked out of the stadium.

Reminiscent of our own FA Cup final days earlier the allocation of tickets given to the clubs involved in the match was totally inadequate. In this case Liverpool had 17000 out of a 63000 capacity. Surprisingly, of these only 11000 were available for "proper" fans, the club giving 6000 to corporate sponsors. It was never going to be enough.

An estimated 50,ooo travelled to Athens, the vast majority without tickets. Many of those made it to the game. Some paid extortionate black market prices, some bought fake tickets and some simply walked into the ground unchecked. It soon became apparent that the process for checking tickets couldn't handle hundreds turning up en-masse, and fans were admitted unchecked. No doubt word of this spread like wildfire adding further to the confusion. Eventually the stadium was full, with aisles blocked by the extra fans who had gained admittance, and UEFA (responsible for the allocation figures in the first place) decided to close the stadium for safety reasons. If you were still outside with a genuine ticket it was tough, and people complaining were met with intransigence, batons and pepper sprays.

Whilst the issue of allocation numbers needs reviewing in future no-one can be blamed for this chaos except Liverpool "fans" themselves. The only people they deprived of seats were their own genuine fans. And of all the fans in the world surely Liverpool's should be the most aware of the dangers of overcrowding in stadiums, with the death of 96 of their fans and another 766 injured in the Hillsborough disaster a memory that never will (nor should) go away. Yet still many were ready to put selfish greed ahead of their own and others safety with no care for the consequences.

For far too long Liverpool fans have got away with being "cheeky Scousers" for things that Leeds or ManUre fans would be condemned for. This week I think they may have lost that tag forever.

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