Gustavsen, Anders: Not welcome here
This thesis examines how local Liverpool fans relate and respond to recent commercial developments in English football. A phenomenological approach is employed in order to understand how they experience these changes. By April 2010, half the English Premier League clubs are owned by foreign investors and businessmen. Several clubs are struggling with large debts. In February 2007, Liverpool Football Club was taken over by the American investors Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The fans believed, in this early stage of what seemed a new era for the club, that the Americans would invest their own money in order to build a new stadium and increase the club’s revenues. This would release funds to spend on new players which would subsequently enhance the club’s chances to once again become the best team in the country. Even though the owners had borrowed money to buy the club, they promised not to transfer the debt on to the club. Regardless of this promise though, they did. Three years after the take-over, the club is struggling with a debt exceeding £200m. No stadium has been built and the club may be forced to sell players to cover the debt. Needless to say, this has caused strong reactions from the fans. Although the fans’ perception of reality differs from the one insisted on by the owners, the fans’ views are nonetheless what they believe to be true regardless of what the owners might think. And if the fans believe that this is what it really is like, then it is also what reality is for them, because people perceive the objects of the world through their experience of it and this experience comes from living in the world. But knowledge about and experience of the world is also passed on to others through narratives. In this way, when stories are told, one learns about the world as well as it indicates what matters for people as members of a certain community. My fieldwork in Liverpool lasted for almost five months. From participating in the fans’ activities, talking with them and listening to their stories, I got a look into how the Liverpool fans experience the situation the club is currently in. So in an attempt to convey how the fans experience the world, and how this is expressed through stories and activities, this thesis examines how and why the fans have turned against the American owners. Further, it looks into what significance the football stadium has for the fans. For the club to be able to compete with other top teams in England and Europe, the fans seem to demand a move to a bigger stadium, even though this means the club will have to leave Anfield, their home ground since the club was established. Finally, the thesis examines what local players mean for the local fans, in a time when only two local players play regularly for the club.