Liverpool's Spirit Of Shankly: The Noise That Wouldn't Go Away

This exhibition is a timely reminder of what fan power and organised protest can do. Liverpool supporters essentially saved the club from financial ruin...
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When a crisis meeting was held in the Sandon Pub near Anfield in February 2008 no one could foresee that the Liverpool fans present were witnessing history in the making. The Sandon was the spiritual home of Liverpool Football Club founded after a split with Everton FC at a meeting there in 1892. So when internet forums started to go into meltdown calling for action against the American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett for placing the money they borrowed to buy the club on the club itself something they promised they would never do, the Sandon seemed to be the natural place to meet. The meeting was boisterous but well organised and after heated debate the meeting of 300 fans decided to start the first football supporters union and do everything they could to rescue their beloved club from the grip of two unscrupulous businessmen.

Mass meetings were held and it was decided to recruit paid up members (£10 fee) to help finance the campaign against the Americans. Liverpool fans didn’t have a culture of protesting and marching but people were so angry a march attracted 5000 fans before the match against Manchester United in September 2008,

When Tom Hicks claimed that Liverpool supporters “are a noise we are dealing with”, he probably expected it to allay the fears of the Liverpool Board, who were becoming increasingly worried by the campaign to force the exit of Hicks and his partner, George Gillett. Supporters, angry and upset at those running Liverpool Football Club, focused and channelled their anger at those responsible. The noise just grew louder and eventually, it became unbearable. Hicks and Gillett could not deal with it.

When Tom Hicks claimed that Liverpool supporters “are a noise we are dealing with”, he probably expected it to allay the fears of the Liverpool Board

The two and a half year campaign made it virtually impossible for Hicks & Gillett to refinance the debt through the RBS and made it almost impossible to attend games at Anfield. When the new owners Fenway Sports Group took over the club in October 2010 they thanked the Spirit of Shankly and commented that without the actions of the SOS they wouldn’t have become the owners

This photography exhibition is a celebration of that long, uphill but ultimately successful battle. As Spirit of Shankly fought to rid the club of Hicks and Gillett and provide a voice for supporters, John Johnson captured perfectly the essence of what the Spirit of Shankly was all about – ordinary people, making a difference. From protest marches to big digs, megaphones to mosaics, repossessions to rallies, John documents the story in 16 unique photographs showing the rise of Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool Supporters Union.

When the SOS started out, they had a number of goals and aims. They been successful in many of these aims and want to continue to represent their 10,000 members and 40,000 associate members. John’s photographs are a brilliant reminder of the campaign. John, like many others, has made personal sacrifices to support the Spirit of Shankly and his photography skills have given us a permanent visual reminder of how far the SOS has come.

John Johnson” As a photographer and lifelong Liverpool supporter I felt compelled to document those dark days of rule at the hands of Mr Hicks and Gillett and more importantly the subsequent uprising from fellow fans. An uprising which would lead to the formation of the Spirit of Shankly, the first independent football supporters Union in the UK. I hope that this exhibition gives some small insight into that birth, struggle and eventual triumph, as not only did it show the world that Liverpool fans are still a force to be reckoned with but that the Spirit of Shankly truly does still shine on.

Click here for more information on the Spirit Of Shankly or to bid on any of the photographs

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