Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Americanisation of The Liverpool Way

Liverpool FC need to evolve in order to progress. Stating the obvious, for this to happen we need revenue. Without the Champions League or a new stadium, revenues are hard to come by, so new innovative streams of income need to be found. 

It is really important that, as we search for new revenue streams, we stay true to who we are. We must never deviate from the blueprint for success that Bill Shankly set out for the club, an ethos that can be summed up in three very simple statements:
  1. We play “pass and move” attacking football. Our fans always get value for money from the team. 
  2. The only important people are the fans. Everything the club does is for them. 
  3. We do our business behind closed doors. We do not wash our dirty laundry in public. 
These things together will bring success, and success will make the people happy. That, in a nutshell, is The Liverpool Way. 

To the credit of Fenway Sports Group, they have taken the time to understand these guiding principles and the critical importance of them. When asked last year about the Kenny Dalglish contract negotiations, Henry responded “What is going on in that regard is private. It is something called The Liverpool Way.” 

This brings us on to the recent announcement that Liverpool will be the subject of a fly on the wall documentary by Fox. The documentary will give viewers a close look into the inner workings of our club. What will this mean for the blueprint for success fed down to us from Shankly? 

Firstly, we will get to see the pass and move philosophy being bred into players at all levels of the club. The documentary will offer us a unique insight into how we are applying our traditions and ethos to the modern day game. It could offer fans who have doubts about the direction Dalglish is taking the club some reassurance that we are on the right track. Do we really need a documentary to show us this though? Surely the judgement on whether or not we are playing the right brand of football comes from our performances on the pitch.

Secondly, it is opening the gates of Anfield and Melwood to the fans. If the fans are the most important people, why shouldn’t they be allowed to see what goes on inside the club at every level? Fenway Sports Group must have great confidence that the cameras will capture the club in a way that enhances our image around the world and increases our global fan base. We are the only English club to grant our fans this much access. That’s got to be a good thing, right? Well, not necessarily. In opening the doors to our fans, we are also opening it to our fiercest rivals. 

The third element is the most concerning one. By its very nature, a fly on the wall documentary has to be dramatic. Every drama must have highs and lows, and it is how the low points are edited that will be most important.

Having watched the HBO 247 series, there are two key elements that make this type of documentary a success. The first thing they do really well is offer an intimate portrait of the players and staff. Cameras follow them into their homes to give a truly unique insight into their personal lives. They show “hotel hang time” and the banter between the players. Anybody who has seen LFC TV’s Melwood Soccer Skills show will see that we probably have nothing to worry about on this front. The banter is healthy at Melwood. Our team spirit is strong. 

The second element of the show is all about the cameras getting up close and personal with the team during the highs and the lows. In HBO's 247: The Road To The Winter Classic series it is the locker room rant by New York Ranger’s coach John Tortorella that is arguably the best part of the whole series. It is this sort of drama that the producers will be looking for from Liverpool FC. Is that really something we want the world to see?

The recent disclosures by the club, that Fox will not film during the FA Cup Final and that the club has full editorial control, are reassuring for fans but may well cause Fox an issue. If they let Kenny Dalglish loose in the cutting room they may have a very short series indeed. 

It seems inevitable that there will have to be some drama. Without some fireworks, it will be a ratings flop and that defeats the object. They will find it incredibly difficult to get the balance right. How can they paint an intimate portrait of the club without showing us washing our dirty laundry in public?

We now must wait to see how Fox's editors, guided by FSG, portray one of English sport's greatest institutions. If this series is done well, it will market the club in America in a positive fashion. If it is done badly, it will make us a laughing stock.


  1. Personally, I think - we have to think more "Moneyball" dealing. It is no accident that they are doing this during the offseason and linking two seasons. No dirty laundry but I expect to see that we go after a player or two and get out bid or out demanded. May be part of reason for no winter signings so it could be filmed. May also focus on Lucas coming back and Pelosi being there as this is primarily for a US audience from who is filming it.

  2. Great article and I totally get where you are coming from. I think we must see the bigger picture. Football has moved on from the Shankly era and while his philosophy is still applicable much has changed. Liverpool need revenue and need to Market their brand like never before. Companies snuggle up with each other because of what they can offer. Take the Basketball player (LeBron) is be really a fan? Not a chance but when he wears the shirt his followers want a piece if that. We must trust the owners have reservations for sure but be confident that Fox television will show the club in a good light. With full control of the documentary Mr Henry and his Narketing machine are nit going to blow this opportunity.

  3. Great article and a Great opinion. I also think it´s a nice blog you got. I am very inspired.


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