Liverpool, Man United fans protest against American owners

Sports

Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp stands ahead of he English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (David Klein, Pool via AP)

Fans of Liverpool and Manchester United called for the removal of their clubs’ American owners during protests outside their stadiums prompted by the ill-fated European Super League project on Saturday.

“£nough is £nough FSG Out” and “Henry, You have blood on your hands,” were the words on some of the banners held up by Liverpool supporters outside Anfield before the team drew with Newcastle 1-1 in the English Premier League.

That’s a reference to Fenway Sports Group and principal owner John Henry, who was one of the instigators of the controversial breakaway league featuring some of Europe’s elite clubs which was aborted on Tuesday — two days after it was launched.

While the protests on Anfield Road were muted — there were an estimated 150 fans there ahead of a match played in an empty stadium because of the pandemic — more than a thousand United fans were estimated to have gathered on the concourse outside the club’s Old Trafford stadium to protest against the Glazer family, which has owned the 20-time English champion since a debt-leveraged buyout in 2005.

“We want Glazers out,” chanted United fans, who had banners and scarves with “Glazers Out” on them. Yellow and green-colored smoke bombs were let off — the colors synonymous with the anti-Glazer protest movement at the start of the ownership’s tenure.

Local newspaper The Manchester Evening News reported there was a limited police presence and that the protest was peaceful.

Six English clubs were among the 12 founding members of the Super League, and their owners are the targets of criticism that has been fierce this week, accusing them of attempting to destroy the structures of the English game.

Several hundred Arsenal fans gathered outside Emirates Stadium on Friday ahead of its Premier League game against Everton to protest against their club’s American ownership.

Chelsea fans have protested against their club’s Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, too.

The Liverpool fans outside Anfield on Saturday greeted the players and management with warm applause as the team bus arrived at the stadium for the Newcastle game.

That highlighted the separation supporters were making between the owners of England’s so-called “Big Six” clubs who were behind the Super League, and the rest of the club.

“The part I have struggled with is seeing this club, a place I love and am now proud to call my home, trashed — and done so in a manner which suggests no redemption is possible. That I can’t take,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said in his notes in the matchday program.

“It was right to take apart the concept and it was fair to criticize it, along with those who came up with it and also how it was presented. All legitimate in my view. The anger and disappointment was justified but there were times when the distinction between ‘club’ and this decision (and yes, those responsible for it) were too quickly blurred into one.”

A statement published late Friday by Chelsea expressed “regret” at members of its hierarchy getting involved in the Super League proposals, though there was no apology.

It promised to involve supporters in any future discussions about “new mechanisms or structures” and to “safeguard fan representation in the club’s work.”

“The club does ask, however, that this dialogue is conducted in a respectful way,” the Chelsea statement said. “The abuse which some club representatives have been the target of over the past few days is not acceptable.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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