Sorry, it’s not the hardest word as Liverpool and FSG reverse the final decision – Ian Doyle

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There was to be no mass walkout this time around, no staccato soundtrack from plastic chairs hitting vertically as disgruntled Liverpool fans headed for the exit.

The noise this time was rather the collective slap of the hands on the forehead and the audible moans of disbelief as the world champions revealed their latest epidemic of coronavirus.

The permission of the vast majority of non-player staff was understandable in these difficult times. Committing to ensuring that said staff continue to 100% of their salary was highly commendable.

But to do so, by taking advantage of the government’s job retention program to pay 80% of the salary, it was a bad, bad decision.

What was Liverpool’s hierarchy thinking of?

The game was instant.

ECHO, in its immediate reaction to the news, described it as a monumental public relations goal, but maintained that there was still time for Fenway Sports Group to take stock and reconsider its decision.

So it turned out.

Similar to their U-turn following the furious increase in ticket prices in 2016, when Anfield fans voted with their feet in an unprecedented display of disgust, the club took a step back, considered the impact of their approach and chose to change.

If Liverpool and FSG deserved the criticism leveled at them after Saturday’s announcement, they deserve the respect of being tall and honest enough to admit that they were wrong.

Yes, there were the usual tellers always ready to plunge into the knife.

But what affected the club the most deeply was the reaction of the fans, both social and traditional media being disappointed with those who felt abandoned at a disturbing step from the ideals on which modern Liverpool so often market themselves. It didn’t mean much at all.

You are wondering what Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson, both praised for their words and actions in response to the pandemic, made of this decision. Likewise, Liverpool players who, despite what absurd health secretary Matt Hancock continues to say, have always wanted to help local communities and beyond.

Then it got worse. Manchester City, rarely able to pass an open target, announced shortly after that it had no plans to use the government program. Manchester United quickly followed suit.

Now Liverpool has been left in a camp containing Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United and the villains of Tottenham Hotspur pantomime. Reds fans have become even more unstable.


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And it may be for good reason that there is a word that stands out a mile from the open letter from Reds CEO Peter Moore to supporters.

Sorry.

A reversal is one thing. But apologizing to the supporters was also an admission from Liverpool and the FSG had, even for a few days, damaged the club’s reputation and shattered the goodwill that had been encouraged in recent times.

Liverpool are not alone in making mistakes in these unprecedented times. However, not everyone will recognize their mistake. The damage, if not immediately repaired, has certainly been reduced.

From a business point of view, the use of the government system made sense. Much larger companies than Liverpool will and already do.

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And as Moore will point out later, the central question remains the same. Liverpool has significant costs and very little revenue right now, like many businesses. This shortfall will not simply go away.

Alternative avenues are being explored, and there are likely to be more difficult – and equally controversial – decisions to make in the weeks and months to come.

In this case, however, Liverpool was mistaken and had enough humility to say so. Not for the first time, the strength of Anfield – although from inside locked houses – forced FSG to change.

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