Jürgen Klopp has admitted that Liverpool need to find “a solution” to the growing opposition to the club’s hike in ticket prices following Saturday’s mass walkout of 10,000 fans.
The Liverpool manager missed the 2-2 draw and the protest as he was having his appendix removed at Aintree Hospital. Klopp returned to work on Monday to prepare for tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at West Ham United, while club officials and the owners Fenway Sports Group continued discussions over the fall-out to last week’s ticket structure announcement. A review of the proposed charges is possible.
Klopp has placed great store on bringing the club and supporters together during his time at Anfield and insisted it is in everyone’s interest at Liverpool to resolve the issue, with further protests planned for the next two home league games against Manchester City and Chelsea.
“It is not too easy for me to say too much about it,” he said. “I heard about this problem but I’ve had a lot of things to do in the last few weeks but now I know it is my problem too of course. But everything I could say about this now would make it more complicated because first of all I have to collect a few bits of information.
“What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. It is not what we want, we don’t want the people leaving the stadium before the game is finished. That is all I can say about this, but of course but when I heard it I was disappointed. Clear.”
Klopp was reacting to the incident in the 77th minute of the game against Sunderland at Anfield when supporters registered their unhappiness at tickets in the new Main Stand rising from £59 to £77 next season.
The protest was backed by the club’s iconic former defender Jamie Carragher – a season ticket holder in the Main Stand who, according to the Liverpool Echo, joined the 77th-minute walkout – its former striker John Aldridge and ex-manager Roy Evans .
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup replay at West Ham, Klopp said of the walkout: “It’s not too easy for me. Now I know it’s my problem too. Anything I’d say now would make it more complicated.”
With unfortunate timing, his comments came as the club announced it hadcancelled a question and answer session with its chief executive Ian Ayre over the ticket price rises.
Ayre was scheduled to answer queries sent in by fans via Twitter about the controversial 2016-17 pricing structure on the club’s television station at 6pm on Monday. However, the event was cancelled just over four hours beforehand.
With season tickets in the Main Stand increasing from £869 to £1,029 – despite the Premier League attracting an £8.3bn windfall of television money from next season – the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group held talks with senior management on Sunday, raising the possibility of a review into the tickets hike.
After fans had chanted “You greedy bastards, enough is enough” at the weekend, Evans tweeted: “Liverpool fans have every right to protest today. They’ve always stood up for what they believe in. LFC wouldn’t be what it is without them.”
Liverpool Fans have every right to protest today, they've always stood up for what they believe in. LFC wouldn't be what it is without them.
— ROY EVANS (@Roy_Evo) February 6, 2016
Aldridge joined in, tweeting: “I can understand the walkout! Scousers know how to throw a proper protest. Just horrible when it coincides with a horrible result.”
The exodus appeared to destabilise the players on the pitch, Liverpool throwing away a 2-0 lead against relegation-threatened Sunderland in the absence of Klopp.
In the meantime, John Pugh, MP for Southport and a Liverpool fan, has tabled an early-day motion backing the protesting supporters.
Klopp has made a swift recovery from surgery and will be on the touchline at Upton Park, although has vowed to rein in his demonstrative touchline behaviour against Slaven Bilic’s side. He also admitted the surgeon who removed the appendix was a Liverpool season ticket holder who advised him against watching the final stages of the Sunderland game, when the visitors snatched a point having been two goals down in the 82nd minute.
He said: “I am good. I think I had one not too good night and then you get the surgery and everything is OK again. I feel good and I am back in the race. I figured if I feel bad I should stay at home but I feel good and I am very thankful for our doctor, because he said we should go to hospital – I was not too sure – and the surgeon was great – a season ticket-holder who told me we both didn’t want to see the game. I had the best nurses and everything was OK.
“I feel really good so that is the only reason why I am here. If I am not fit then I cannot help here and I would be at home. “I think I am experienced to know that for me it is not a normal coaching game so I won’t be jumping about. I have a few holes in my body so hopefully the water will stay in! I can’t win the game with my emotions outside, I know this, so I can handle it no worries.”
Liverpool will again field a much-changed team in the FA Cup although Klopp does have Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi back from injury against West Ham. Cameron Brannagan, the 19-year-old midfielder who performed so well in the goalless draw at Anfield, misses out through illness while Dejan Lovren and Joe Allen will be sidelined by hamstring injuries sustained against Sunderland.
Explaining Sturridge’s inclusion as a substitute against Sam Allardyce’s team, Klopp said: “Daniel was fit enough to be on the bench. He was impressive the last session on Friday night so we thought if there was a chance for 10 or 15 minutes we should try it. We spoke to him and he said ‘Yeah’ he’d like to but then the game had a different story and there was no possibility with two early changes.
“Divock and Phil will be training today and hopefully in the squad for tomorrow. Extra-time is possible so it is a little bit complicated with changing and they can’t start all together because you know we will have to change three times because the whole game will be too much in this moment. That is what we have to figure out how we do it best but we will find a solution for sure.”