Mighty Red!! Much ado about something

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 15.43.43Mighty Red, the Liverpool mascot, appears the most innocuous thing however he has been the focus of a lot of ire and resentment these last two days. What is causing this? Surely a man in a Pokemon costume is more likely to draw apathy than anger. I took a look at what is driving this annoyance.

On a day when Brendan Rodgers advised Liverpool fans that the club had lost the services of midfielder Emre Can for six weeks, Daniel Sturridge for three weeks and Joe Allen was carrying knee injury one would imagine that Liverpool fans ire would be at International Football and the potential impact it could have on a busy six weeks.

Rodgers also attacked the ability of the England set up in maintaining Sturridge’s fitness and lacking an awareness in the rest periods Sturridge needs given his previous injury record. That in itself is a damning indictment of Roy Hodgson and his back room staff in maintaining players at optimal fitness levels despite his 39 years of translating coaching methods. That’s normally enough to be the topic of the day, but not today.

Liverpool FC is synonymous with the Liverbird. It is an ever-present symbol on the jersey since the club’s formation in 1892. Known to all as the famous old bird, it is the calling card of the club. Front and central the Liverbird has stood through all our triumphs. When one thinks about the jerseys or the crest it is the first reference point. One of the few things Warrior the clubs kit makers have actually succeeded in doing well was reverting to the simple Liverbird Crest standing on LFC. Simple uncluttered and timeless.

Back in 2012 Liverpool decided that the club in its accelerated and improved Corporate presence required a mascot. Something which would scream Liverpool to anyone without eyes. They considered many designs and characters but returned to the famous old bird and delivered some form of Pokemon magic in bringing its version of the Liverbird in Mighty Red to fruition on the fans.

Let me put this on record before I continue: I have no issue with the club having a mascot, I have no issue with the mascot being some form of Nintendo-ised version of the Liverbird, and if they want to send the Liverbird to the Mascot Olympics I’ll cheer whatever loon is in the costume.

This is not the case though for many in the fan base who are mightily unimpressed with this new addition to the matchday LFC Family. The club at the outset reassured fans that Mighty Red wasn’t a pitch-side mascot, he was something to support the actions of the club when dealing with younger fans. This definitely wasn’t LFC’s answer to the legendary Gunnersaurus Rex at Arsenal or the Evertonian version Dixie which was a lump of toffee.

Initially Mighty Red was offered up as a way for the club to interact with the younger fans. Mighty Red started popping up at the coaching events run by the club when on tour. He’d be wheeled out whenever there was PR regarding the younger Reds. Junior Membership for the 4-11 year olds was rebadged as Mighty Red membership. Everything so far was relatively harmless and in line with what the club said his presence would be.

Keeping Mighty Red – Shatwad was the name generated in the Pokemon name generator – away from the ground on match days is actually more representative of attendees than having a mascot present for 250 kids out of 45000 capacity. The price of ticketing ensures those in attendance are rarely under the age of 25 and increasing ticket costs will not change this fact of match day life. This is most definitely something worth getting upset about as it prices new fans out of top level games and continues an ongoing spiral of disenfranchisement.

LFC have now decided its time Mighty Red moves up to the main stage and will for the rest of the 14/15 season be present pitch-side at Anfield. This to many was an inevitability once the mascot was appointed however it has upset a great number of fans and some very vocal social media accounts. To me these complaints are nonsensical. I get that it doesn’t sit with their version of what the club represents. I get that it’s an eyesore for the majority of us.

But it’s not the commencement of the footballing apocalypse. The atmosphere at most English grounds is poor to non-existent outside the big matches. I’ll probably take abuse for saying this but its fact. Away fans are lauded by nearly all fanbases for the noise and pageantry they bring to those games. This pageantry in the main is missing from home games. Why? mainly again due to the demographic of those going to away matches and the clustered nature of those fans when there. Go to any ground in England and it’s not the mascot killing the atmosphere, it is the inability of groups of like-minded (and often intoxicated) fans being able to sit together and basically cause as much noise as they can. Again it’s the fans being disenfranchised and clubs not really interested in addressing these concerns, very little the mascot is to blame for.

Mighty Shatwad is just the totem for a number of strange decisions taken recently by LFC which is upsetting fans. Earlier in the week LFC decided to employ Bart Simpson to tell fans to stop swearing when singing the Stevie G song. This has been backtracked as a joke, a likely and as credible truth as Oscar Pistorius’ testimony. On a day when Mighty Rage was all the red the rumours ran rife that the club had prevented the LFC ultras from carrying out their planned Mural for the first Champions League game in five long years.

Why alienate the noise base of the ground by preventing them doing something which is spectacle, harmless and actually sets the tone for the forthcoming battle on the pitch? Why disenfranchise your own support base which you use to promote the club at a corporate level?

Anfield is renowned for its sense of atmosphere in the ground. Like many grounds in England the clubs appear determined to sanitise and cleanse the atmosphere to attain a replica of the ‘official’ computer game – clean, pure and completely fake. Football is designed to raise passions and draw emotion from fans. It’s what keeps us returning to games.

I accept the need for rules around abuse and racism but there is also a place for swearing. There is a place for fans songs which aren’t clean radio edited versions of what they were intended as. Remove things like non-offensive sweary songs and you will turn fans off when it comes to making noise in the stadium. Mighty Red and the outpouring of disgust at him becoming a pitchside mascot was merely a totemic symbol for a larger sense of disconnect fans are currently feeling.

Match going fans no longer drive the clubs revenue. Clubs are more obsessed with television revenue, they sell the idea of the spectacle but are in the same breadth killing it. The noise around Shatwads promotion is as ridiculous as his eight foot Pokemon costume. The real issue is fan disenfranchisement, the feeling they are irrelevant in the decision making and the future of their club. So next time you see a perfectly logical reasonable man having a near breakdown over another man in a Pokemon costume remind him to please not say f**k or bu**er as he may upset a child who isn’t in attendance due to cost of tickets.

The Author

Philip Casey

LFC Fan, Producer/Editor and co-founder of the LFC Daytrippers podcast and website. Contributor to LFC Fanzine We Are Liverpool. Sometime GK Coach, Husband, Father and ex footballer. Basically no spare time ever.

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