Thursday May 8 2008
First there was AFC Wimbledon, formed by fans turning away from the "franchising" of their club to Milton Keynes in 2002, then FC United of Manchester, established three years later by supporters opposed to the Glazer family's Old Trafford takeover. From next season, another grassroots offshoot of a big club will embark on a non-League football adventure: AFC Liverpool.
Begun just nine weeks ago as an idea floated on the internet by lifelong Liverpool fan Alun Parry, AFC Liverpool has formed as a supporter-owned club with 500 members and rising, recruited an experienced non-League manager, Derek Goulding, and held trials on Monday to which 300 hopeful players turned up, eager to be part of the inaugural season.
Parry, 37, a musician and Kop season ticket holder, stresses that the club is not a protest or reaction to the more painful aspects of Tom Hicks and George Gillett's ownership of Liverpool. His key motivation is to form a club which less well-off and younger supporters can afford to watch.
"Many people have been priced out at Anfield," Parry explained. "I do not blame the club, their prices are low compared to other Premier League clubs. They are just too much for a lot of us."
Full ticket prices at Anfield this season were £34 and £32 for category B games; £34 and £36 for category A; season tickets ranged from £650 in the main stand to £600 in the Kop. The demand is there, with a long waiting list for season tickets, but Parry points to an ageing of the Liverpool crowd, as at Premier League grounds generally.
"It came home to me when my brother, John, who can't afford to go, took his son to Anfield just to show him the atmosphere outside a game - he couldn't afford to take them both in. My dad took me on to the Kop as a boy and the ground was teeming with kids. In 1985 a Kop season ticket was £45, now it's £600. Young people can't afford it."
AFC Liverpool ticket prices have been set at £5 for adults and a maximum of £2 for children, and Parry is hoping for crowds of between 1,500 and 2,000.
Goulding, formerly manager of the Blue Square North club Burscough, is enthusiastic: "The club's founding values are spot on," he said. "A lot of Liverpool people are missing out on the football experience which used to be for everyone."
Last Saturday AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester won promotion via their play-offs, to Blue Square South and the UniBond Premier League respectively. AFC Liverpool will be starting next season where FCUM began in 2005, in the Vodkat North West Counties League, Division Two.