Up the Reds, erm… Perps!
Apart from the highly successful teams (Liverpool) and the less trophy-laden clubs (Everton, Tranmere Rovers), there’s a pretty active non-league football scene in and around Merseyside. Since the start of this season, there’s a new kid on the block and it’s called City of Liverpool FC (COLFC). To say it started with a bang would be the understatement of the year.
With my beloved Liverpool FC having a home game against West Ham on Sunday afternoon, there’s an excellent opportunity to go and watch “The Perps” at home the day before. That’s why I’ve arranged to meet Andrew P. Baker, Professor in Political Economy at Sheffield University, at 1 pm. From now on, I will call Dr. Baker simply “Andy”, because he’s a good friend of mine for many years, but just for once I want to mention his full title. If only to dispel the myth that only long-haired, work-shy scallywags, reprobates, ner-do wells and criminals go to watch COLFC, as has been touted by some of the North West Counties League establishment (the league in which COLFC play).
Andy has been following the Reds for many long years at home and abroad, but has been watching COLFC this season. We meet in The Globe, one of the best traditional Liverpool pubs and for nearly as long as I can remember the place where we meet before home games. Very often it is also the place where many future plans have gone up in smoke, because tradtionally we leave “after the next pint”.
For a COLFC home game, The Globe is situated ideally: right at the entrance to Central Station. It doesn’t even take 15 minutes on the train to Aintree and once you’re there, it’s only a 10 minutes’ walk to the Delta Taxis Stadium. When you look at the bigger picture, the location of the future home ground of COLFC is very important, Andy confirms whilst supping a pint.
“The aim is to eventually have a purpose built site within the boundaries of the city of Liverpool, as currently there is no non-league semi-professional facility within the city. The Delta Taxis stadium is Bootle F.C.’s ground and is actually just over the boundary in Sefton, where COLFC are only temporary tenants. Within the city of Liverpool itself, it is possible to play only at Anfield or Goodison in the Premiership, or on a local park pitch. For a city that produces more professional footballers per head of population than anywhere else in the UK, this is a glaring gap in the City’s infrastructure, and something COLFC as a community based project aims to put right.”
“City of Liverpool FC is founded as a co-op, for fans by fans. It’s a club that wants to keep close to the essence of football: be anchored in the local community, be accessible for everyone. The contrast with Liverpool FC couldn’t be bigger at the moment. Ever since the Reds have been in American hands, it’s become a product. ‘A franchise’, as the Yanks say. Taken over with the aim of restructuring it and then selling it on to the highest bidder. There’s no longer a connection with the local supporter. Physically, the ground is still in Anfield of course. LFC is in but no longer of Liverpool, or its people.”
My good friend touches a right nerve here. And he adds a little bit more spice, when I ask him if there aren’t many similarities between City of Liverpool FC and AFC Liverpool, and when I make the remark that now there’s an extra rivalry in a city like Liverpool. Apart from Liverpool versus Everton at League level, there’s now also 2 non-league clubs battling for support. For people who don’t know: AFC Liverpool was founded in 2008 by Liverpool supporters who were very much dissatisfied with the previous American owners, and it’s now grown into an alternative for the Reds.
“AFC Liverpool has to be seen in the same light as FC United of Manchester, AFC Wimbledon and other clubs that have been founded as a reaction against the way the mother club was run, but furthermore they have kept links with Liverpool ”, argues Dr. Baker.
“City of Liverpool FC is different. This club wants to be there for ALL citizens of the city of Liverpool, in fact for people from the entire Liverpool City region , never mind whether they are red or blue. And that’s why they play in the colours of the city (red and blue make purple), they use an image of the city in the crest and they have absolutely no links with Liverpool FC or Everton FC.
The aim is to build a club that carries the city’s name, the city’s badge and identity and is open, accessible and affordable for all. It is an inclusive venture and everybody is welcome. We are a club of the city, for the people of the city and its region.”
And it goes without saying that football has to stay affordable for your everyday fan. The ticket for the match against Holker Old Boys, a team I remember (oh the irony) from previous games against AFC Liverpool, costs £5. A program costs just £1. As soon as we enter the ground, we are told “It’s 10 quid for 4 pints of Warsteiner, lads.” That’s another advantage of this type of football: you’re allowed to drink during the game, even along the touchline.
Figuratively speaking, we are miles away from the sanitised version at Anfield or anywhere else in the Premier League. Where you’re allowed to stay in your seat and have an overpriced flat pint at half-time in the concourse and apart from that have to take care about what you say or do, or a steward will come and tell you to behave or threaten you with a ban.
Not so in the Estadio Bootelio, as the fans have baptised their current home. The website of City of Liverpool FC puts it like this:
Please be aware that you may hear swear words at DTS both from other spectators, players and coaching staff and you may also see mildly violent confrontation on the pitch itself. We appreciate that this is not what some people deem appropriate behaviour and if you are offended by bad language or if perhaps you have young children with you, whom you naturally don’t want exposed to swearing, then please make yourself known to a steward or club official and we will escort you to a quieter part of the ground.
After some empirical research, I can tell you that this is absolutely true. The 483 supporters (among them certainly 8 visitors) who witnessed this game, made it into a pleasant and especially noisy spectacle.
It’s mainly the ardent COLFC-home support, known as The Partisans, who provide most of the noise that emanates from the Purple Shed. If they aren’t shouting the name of the home club or home players — accompanied by rhythmically banging the walls of the shed — they turn their attention to one or two opposition players. A young left winger who looks like Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo cartoons can’t come anywhere near the ball without dog whining noise coming from the stand. Why doesn’t it surprise me that he takes it in good spirit and salutes the home crowd quite a few times?
And just in case you wouldn’t know it yet: The Witch is dead. Thatcher, hated more in Liverpool than anywhere else, popped her clogs 3 years ago, and Scousers don’t really regret that, to put it mildly. The heritage of the very dark and raw 1980s, in which Liverpool as a militant city went into battle with the Tory regime, is still there. So it comes as no surprise that a song like Maggy’s in the mud gets an airing quite regularly.
It’s all part of the reason a club like City of Liverpool FC exists. As the website says:
We are a socialist orientated, supporter owned football club that exists to win success on the football field for the people of Liverpool and to provide community outreach to the less fortunate people in our City.
And the match? After a pretty good game of amateur footie which saw the ball being played on the deck quite a lot, City of Liverpool FC went back to the top of the League after a thumping 6–1 victory.
If anyone’s interested in a proper match report, it’s maybe better to check out the COLFC website (http://www.colfc.co.uk/), because to be honest, that is not really my specialty. I mean, give me the chance to drink beer along the touchline, make me laugh and joke with well-known Reds whom I know from European and other trips from years ago … and what happens on the green grass quickly turns into a hazy memory. Good day out though.