Steven Gerrard

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Steven Gerrard Pencil Portrait
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Steven Gerrard’s decision to head for Los Angeles Galaxy in the summerof 2015 was widely anticipated to leave a near impossible hole to fill in the Reds midfield. A one club man, he had spent his entire professional career with Liverpool AFC.

If the suspicion that loyalty counts for very little remains alive and well, then one had only to look at the events in his career leading up to his January 2015 announcement. Perhaps he had the misfortune to be working for a manager more comfortable with fledgling stars then well established names, but whatever the reason, his treatment at the hands of a club he obviously loved, was all rather depressing.

Gerrard, of course, has been amongst the elite group of players over the last 10-15 years to financially benefit from the enormous television revenues now flowing freely into the national game. When the former First Division clubs broke away from the Football League to keep the new satellite TV fortunes and form the Premier League, the game was irredeemably transformed, and the price of watching it.

In 1989-90, the year of Lord Justice Taylor’s report following the Hillsborough disaster, in which he recommended stadiums become all seating, fans watched Manchester United play the very top clubs for a cheapest price of £3.50. By 2011, with cumulative inflation of 77.1%* throughout the intervening period, United supporters who had previously stood on the Stretford End or United Road terraces, would have expected to pay an equivalent £6.20 to watch their team, yet the cheapest ticket at the all-seater Old Trafford was in fact £28, an inflation busting uplift of 700%.

  • Source: Bank of England

The joke of all sporting jokes is that, after the wreckage of Hillsborough, the Football Supporters’ Association argued against all-seat stadiums, principally because it believed clubs would use them as a platform to raise ticket prices. When addressing and rejecting that argument, Taylor famously wrote in his report: “Clubs may well wish to charge somewhat more for seats than for standing but it should be possible to plan a price structure which suits the cheapest seats to the pockets of those presently paying to stand.” In reality, grounds did improve out of all recognition, but the ticket price increases applied were not intrinsically necessary to pay for these refurbishments.; instead the additional revenues went into the arms race of escalating players’ wages. Today, the majority of Premiership grounds are not populated with bourgeois, middle-class citizens, but ordinary people stretching to afford it. In essence, the national game no longer belongs to the working man, but rather a form of corporate hospitality. When Bill Shankly, the Liverpool manager (1962-74), was overheard to say “Football’s not a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that!”, most of us around at the time took his remark with a necessary pinch of salt, if only in humorous recognition of a one dimensional man’s musings for a subject he could never lay to rest. The more worrying aspect of the modern game, and the inordinate amount of time given over to phone-in shows and television punditry, is that we are now, literally, all in danger of believing that soccer truly IS important. If a reality check, however long overdue, is coming, I must confess that I cannot see it on the horizon.