Hit Them In the Pocket - Boycott UEFA Sponsors

Posted by RAWK Editor on June 5, 2007, 01:05:04 AM

Liverpool FC and UEFA
In 2007, following regrettable and dangerous scenes at the Champions League Final in Athens, Greece, Uefa's communications director, William Gaillard has branded supporters of Liverpool FC the "worst in Europe", after leaking the summary of a report that UEFA planned to hand over to the British government, adding that: "The incidents involving Liverpool fans have been well known to us before the trouble at the Champions League final which involved Liverpool fans last week. That was just the latest example. What other set of fans steal tickets from their fellow supporters or out of the hands of children? We know what happened in Athens, and Liverpool fans were the cause of most of the trouble there. There have been 25 incidents involving Liverpool fans away from home since 2003 and these are in the report -- most teams' supporters do not cause any trouble at all."

At the time he leaked the report, Gaillard did not provide any details of any of the "25 incidents".

While Liverpool supporters accept without reservation that the behaviour of a minority of ticketless supporters did indeed cause serious crowd safety problems at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, we do not accept the wholescale accusations made by UEFA and believe that they are nothing but a clear and further attempt to divert public scrutiny from UEFA's own failings with regard to venue selection, to the inadequate organisation of a major football event, and to the way in which UEFA allocates and distributes match tickets.

Before the troubles in Athens, Liverpool supporters had tended to be well regarded by UEFA. In 2005,  for example, UEFA praised Liverpool FC following a potentially volatile match with Juventus. Deputy Chief Executive Markus Studer said then that:  “Liverpool must be applauded for the way they handled the arrangements and the fans of both clubs understood the message. There was not a hint of trouble in the stadium, there was a fantastic atmosphere and both clubs must be praised. It was a very successful night for European football.”

UEFA also gave Liverpool fans an award following the 2001 UEFA Cup Final in Dortmund, and heavily praised Liverpool fans after the Champions League Final is Istanbul in 2005.  Indeed, following that match, William Gaillard himself said that “Liverpool fans are wonderful people.” And, further, previewing the Final in Athens, he said that: “The two groups of supporters (Milan and Liverpool) have a tradition of good behaviour and at this point we are expecting that to continue.”

We also wonder how Gaillard can justify his accusations against Liverpool supporters given the following examples of recent football violence in just the last two years:

Milan, April 2005 -  The Champions League quarter-final between Inter Milan and city rivals AC Milan was abandoned after 73 minutes after Milan keeper Dida was struck by one of dozens of flares thrown down from the stands. German referee Markus Merk took the players off the pitch at the San Siro stadium after Inter fans began hurling plastic bottles and then over 30 flares on to the penalty area below them after a header by Esteban Cambiasso was disallowed. The goal frame disappeared in clouds of smoke as flares continued to be rained down and burn on the pitch.

Rome, March 2006 - Three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed before the club's Uefa Cup game against Roma. The attack was blamed on Roma supporters. Five years earlier, Roma supporters were also blamed when five Liverpool fans were stabbed.

Paris, November 2006 - A Paris St-Germain fan was shot dead by police and another seriously injured during fighting between PSG fans and the police, after PSG lost 4-2 to the Israeli club Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Parc des Prince in a Uefa Cup match. Around 100 PSG fans chased a French Hapoel fan, shouting anti-semitic slogans. A police officer who tried to protect the Hapoel supporter, was also attacked. He then fired tear gas, before he drew his gun. One fan was shot dead and another seriously injured.

Nancy, December 2006 - Feyenoord fans fought and smashed windows before ripping out and throwing seats during the Uefa Cup tie against Nancy. Police used tear gas, forcing the referee to halt the match. UEFA themselves banned Feyenoord from the tournament as a consequence.

Italy, February 2007  - Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suspended all play in the country's football leagues after clashes by rampaging fans at a match between Palermo and Catania left a policeman dead and as many as 150 people injured.

Rome, April 2007 - Fighting before during and after a match between Roma and Manchester United.

UEFA Champions League Sponsors
Liverpool supporters believe that a UEFA led by Michel Platini and William Gaillard has a clear bias against both Liverpool FC and English football clubs in general. Consequently, we do not believe we will ever be given a fair hearing by UEFA. Therefore we feel that our best recourse is to target the sponsors that UEFA values much more than it does football supporters, of whatever allegiance or nationality.

The primary sponsors of the UEFA Champions League are Heineken, Sony, Mastercard, Vodafone, and Ford. The supporters of Liverpool FC are now proposing to boycott these sponsors until both William Gaillard is removed from his position at UEFA and UEFA apologises for leaking a perjorative report at a sensitive time with the clear intent of further damaging the reputation of Liverpool FC and its supporters. Additionally, we wish to see significant changes made in the way that events such as the Champions League Final are organised and in particular in the way that match tickets are allocated and distributed.

Liverpool FC and The Sun - A Continuing Boycott
In 1989, the Sun "newspaper" reported that supporters of Liverpool FC were responsible for the tragedy at Hillsborough and claimed that  'Some fans picked pockets of victims'; 'Some fans urinated on the brave cops'; and 'Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life'. The story accompanying these headlines claimed that 'drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims' and 'police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon'. A quote, attributed to an unnamed policeman, claimed that a dead girl had been abused and that Liverpool fans 'were openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead'.

These accusations were widely denounced as lies and Lord Justice Taylor made particular efforts to refute all accusations against Liverpool supporters in his final report on the disaster.

Since 1989, Liverpool supporters (and others) have boycotted the Sun as a matter of principle. This boycott has cost the "newspaper" sales in excess of 200,000 copies per day over the 18 years since Hillsborough. The BBC has equated this to "tens of millions of pounds in lost sales."

An Appeal To UEFA's Sponsors
The supporters of Liverpool FC appeal to Heineken, Sony, Mastercard, Vodafone, and Ford to hear our concerns and publicly to advise UEFA to cease its attacks on the reputation of Liverpool FC, and to address instead the underlying issues at the heart of the problems in Athens: the selection of an inappropriate stadium, poor organisation, inadequate security, and a shameful policy for the distribution of Champions Leage Final tickets.

This is our game. Not Michel Platini's. Not William Gaillard's. And not Heineken's, Sony's, Mastercard's, Vodafone's, or Ford's.

We want changes. And we want them now.

The alternative will be a boycott of sponsor products. This boycott will be led by the supporters of Liverpool FC, but we will be inviting the supporters of other clubs who are sympathetic to our cause to participate as well.

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