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Jason McAteer backs Liverpool fans' protests but also defends owners

The former Ireland international says he can see both sides of the argument at Anfield.

Jason McAteer made 100 appearances for Liverpool during his playing days.
Jason McAteer made 100 appearances for Liverpool during his playing days.
Image: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Updated at 18.41

FORMER LIVERPOOL PLAYER Jason McAteer says he can understand the fans’ frustration, but has also defended Liverpool’s hierarchy following Saturday’s mass supporter walkout at Anfield.

An estimated 10,000 fans left the 2-2 draw with Sunderland in the 77th minute in protest at escalating ticket prices, though McAteer — who works as an ambassador for the club travelling to places such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai — can understand why the controversial decision was made in the first place.

“Obviously, you’ve got to move with modern football and understand the business sense of it, the partners that are coming into the club have got to generate money and keep up with the influence of Chelsea’s money and the Arab money.

“So you can understand why they’re branching out, the brand as a football club, Liverpool, is stronger than ever, which you might find hard to believe after not winning the title for 25, 26 years. They’ve got to exploit, if that’s the right word, every corner of the globe and they do that fantastically well behind the scenes. They work really, really hard.”

Liverpool v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League - Anfield Fans hold up banners protesting against ticket prices during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield last weekend. Source: Richard Sellers

McAteer points out that only a small portion of tickets have gone up to £77, while noting that tickets in certain areas have been reduced.

Having reportedly decided to review the current prices, however, McAteer is confident the owners will “put it right”. Asked whether he was surprised by the scale of the protest, McAteer added: “I’m surprised they didn’t walk out at half-time, it was that bad,” while suggesting he would have joined them if he had not been working as a commentator at the game.

I was doing the telly and I couldn’t. I would have done though. Do you know what, I’m very much part of the fans, I am a fan, and I probably would have walked out, I probably would have done.

“I just bought a (League) Cup final ticket — and I know it’s not really anything to do with Liverpool — but it’s 72 quid a ticket. I must admit I did baulk at coughing out 144 quid. It’s steep, because when you go to a game, it’s not just the ticket — it’s a programme, it’s travel, it’s the car park. It’s an expensive business now to take your kids to the game. It should be addressed by the Premier League. They should look into it and do something about it.”

McAteer also denied that his ambassadorial role with Liverpool put him in an invidious position when it came to assessing the club.

I wouldn’t say I’m an official ambassador but that’s our role as former players — we’re ambassadors now. Over the last year, more and more of the ex-players are doing stuff for the club.

“I’m not being critical of the club — there’s two sides to it. There’s the business side and I totally understand that but then I am a fan as well. It would be different if Robbie Fowler or (Ian) Rushie were sitting here — you probably wouldn’t be allowed to ask that question (about the ticket prices). I’m not an official ambassador so I can answer that question and I’m telling the truth.”

Former Republic of Ireland International Jason McAteer helped to launch the 2016 SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme. For further information or to register your school please see www.spar.ie or www.faischools.ie.

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Paul Fennessy

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