Liverpool accused of fuelling fan disorder
MP criticises Klopp and team over their title celebrations Manager writes open letter urging supporters to stay in
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