Liver­pool ac­cused of fu­elling fan dis­or­der

MP crit­i­cises Klopp and team over their ti­tle cel­e­bra­tions Man­ager writes open let­ter urg­ing sup­port­ers to stay in

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Ben Rumsby

MPs will to­day grill the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Premier League over the scenes that marred Liver­pool’s first Premier League tri­umph – which Jur­gen Klopp and his squad stand ac­cused of fu­elling.

Richard Masters will be asked whether the world’s rich­est league and its mem­bers “ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for what could well be a very, very nasty spike” in coro­n­avirus cases in the city af­ter thou­sands de­fied lock­down rules to cel­e­brate Liver­pool’s first league ti­tle since 1990.

Po­lice were as­saulted and struck by mis­siles in what were ugly scenes on Fri­day night, with mayor Joe Anderson say­ing 300 rev­ellers had fought with of­fi­cers, lead­ing to 15 ar­rests. Klopp yes­ter­day is­sued a fresh ap­peal to sup­port­ers not to par­tic­i­pate in mass gath­er­ings to cel­e­brate Liver­pool’s ti­tle win in an open let­ter in the Liver­pool Echo.

But he and his play­ers were last night con­demned over their own cel­e­bra­tions, which took place on the same day all Premier League clubs were re­minded of the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing dur­ing Pro­ject Restart.

Steve Brine MP, a mem­ber of the Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport se­lect com­mit­tee that Masters will ap­pear be­fore to­day, said: “It’s all very well Klopp say­ing this now. It’s a bit like clos­ing the door af­ter the horse has bolted, isn’t it? Film­ing your­selves on In­sta­gram, hug­ging each other, what do you ex­pect your fans to do? I don’t blame the fans en­tirely. Their foot­ball team won the league. Their play­ers and their man­ager should have shown more lead­er­ship and now to write open let­ters de­cry­ing it, the saintly Klopp doesn’t look so good to­day.”

Sug­gest­ing the Gov­ern­ment should not have al­lowed foot­ball to resume dur­ing the lock­down, Brine re­vealed he planned to ask Masters whether the Premier League and its mem­bers would “ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for what could well be a very, very nasty spike in Liver­pool as a re­sult of this?”

He added: “Peo­ple were al­ways go­ing to be­have this way. So, if you wanted to avoid th­ese scenes, you should have avoided restart­ing the Premier League un­til such time as we could ac­cept those scenes.”

Brine warned of more an­ar­chy to come, par­tic­u­larly if Leeds United sealed a re­turn to the Premier League fol­low­ing a 16-year ex­ile.

He said: “There’s no point in say­ing Leeds fans will be dif­fer­ent. And, frankly, hav­ing seen what’s hap­pened in Liver­pool, they’ll think, ‘Well, why shouldn’t we?’”

That would risk the sea­son be­ing called off al­to­gether, which the coun­try’s most se­nior foot­ball po­lice of­fi­cer, Mark Roberts, warned of in April.

Other clubs who could have rea­son to cel­e­brate this sea­son were yes­ter­day des­per­ate to avoid a re­peat of the scenes in Liver­pool. One told The Daily Tele­graph they were con­sid­er­ing ban­ning play­ers from us­ing so­cial me­dia chan­nels to post pho­to­graphs or footage of them­selves do­ing any­thing that did not com­ply with so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

There were also fears that the un­rest in Liver­pool could res­ur­rect the prospect of matches be­ing switched to neu­tral venues, par­tic­u­larly those in­volv­ing the cham­pi­ons. But Liver­pool City Coun­cil con­firmed yes­ter­day there were no plans for its Safety Ad­vi­sory Group to meet again be­fore the end of the sea­son fol­low­ing its de­ci­sion to clear Klopp’s men to play all their re­main­ing home games at An­field.

All that could change were there to be fur­ther trou­ble, some­thing Klopp sought to head off in his let­ter to sup­port­ers. The Ger­man, who last week de­fended his squad’s own cel­e­bra­tions, wrote: “I love your pas­sion, your songs, your re­fusal to ac­cept de­feat, your com­mit­ment, your un­der­stand­ing of the game and your faith in what we are do­ing.

“What I did not love – and I have to say this – was the scenes that took place at the Pier Head on Fri­day. I am a hu­man be­ing and your pas­sion is also my pas­sion, but right now the most im­por­tant thing is that we do not have th­ese kinds of pub­lic gath­er­ings.

“We owe it to the most vul­ner­a­ble in our com­mu­nity, to the health work­ers who have given so much and whom we have ap­plauded and to the po­lice and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties who help us as a club not to do this. Please, cel­e­brate, but cel­e­brate in a safe way and in pri­vate set­tings, whereby we do not risk spread­ing this aw­ful dis­ease fur­ther in our com­mu­nity.

“When the time is right we will cel­e­brate. But for now, please stay at home as much as pos­si­ble.”

Flare up: Liver­pool show off the cham­pi­ons’ pen­nants (above), but their ti­tle win led to thou­sands of fans gath­er­ing in city cen­tre

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