In this interview (originally published on A Liverpool Thing) with their new chairman Chris Stirrup, Paul Grech asks a few questions about AFC Liverpool’s progress after a couple of seasons, including the $64,000 question of whether the club has become to close to the club that it was supposed to formed as a reaction to.
It was a tough first season both on and off the pitch. Let’s start from the playing aspect: were you happy with how the team did? People were expecting a promotion from the start.
Last year we had high expectations. We started the season well and probably thought that promotion was certain. Come the winter when pitches where not the best we didn’t adapt well to the conditions. This season we are now better prepared for the challenge ahead.
Off the pitch, was it harder than expected?
The Steering Group learnt very quickly how difficult it was. Nobody then thought it was going to be an easy ride. I don’t think anybody realized just how much work is involved in running a club even at this level. We were all surprised at what’s involved and how many hours are needed to be put in.
Midway through the season Alun Parry, who basically started the whole idea, resigned. How hard was that to take?
Alun’s leaving the club coincided with maybe the most turbulent time in the clubs short history. What Alun has started here is nothing short of remarkable but like any club, no one person is bigger than it so the club had to survive and it did.
There have also been attacks of AFC Liverpool being too close to Liverpool FC which, basically, was because some people expected it to be a protest club. How are you planning to deal with this ‘identity crisis’?
There isn’t very much an identity crisis. Affordable football played on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm. That is what we have. Identities are shaped over time and in time AFC Liverpool will develop its own identity. These things can’t be made or manufactured, look at Chelsea trying to buy and identity on a European night with their plastic flags. Liverpool’s identity was built up over the years, we have one year under our belt.
All of this had an impact on attendances. How disappointing were these? And do you think that they can increase this season?
The two highest attendances we had, where when it was pre season in the Premiership and also when Premiership football was on an international break. The crowds where expected to take a dip when the season resumed. We are competing with every pub that can show every Liverpool game home and away on a Saturday. We have had average crowds of between 250/300 for home games last season. Those crowds are also higher than teams 2 even 3 leagues higher than ourselves. We have also drawn in the best crowds of all teams we visited last season. The game at Bootle at Christmas attracted a crowd of 800 plus. The next week Bootle had an attendance of 57. This suggests that the fan base is there and it is probably due to our location that the crowds aren’t as high every week.
One of the aims of the club was that of having a community feel. How successful do you think you’ve been in that? And what more needs to be done?
This is an area we are looking to improve all the time. We have a number of youth teams all over the city and these, combined with some other initiatives will help us a lot. Another problem, I gather, has been the ground. What is going to be done for next season? We have been in discussions with the city council. They are willing to help us achive our aims. Discussions are on going and it will be a long process. We aim to build a ground within the city of Liverpool. We can not put a time scale on this as yet. Prescot Cables have allowed us to use their ground to play our home games. We signed a two season deal and the deal expires after this season.
What are you hoping for from the coming season?
On the pitch promotion is the number one aim. We will have more experience of what the Vodkat league is all about and that will stand us in good stead. Regaining our Vodkat league trophy will be another of our aims and also a good cup run in the FA Vase, who knows, a day out a Wembley could be on the horizon. Off the pitch we now have an elected board and our main aim will be to take the club forward with in budget as best we can.