How SOS is controlling the forums and “The Kop” and why LFC staff let them

Serious debate on the Liverpool FC forums is being stifled by the fact that there are so many Spirit of Shankly (SOS) members and moderators that are members, that unbiased debate is only possible when what is stated is of no consequence.

Here is the excerpt of an email sent between two forum members about SOS having de facto control over the Liverpool FC forums:

I am currently a member [of SOS] but have been thinking for some time of not renewing. My concerns are that they seem to be becoming more militant than at first and are starting to give me some concerns as a member as they did with you. I do know Mickey [a Moderator, username “MickeyLove”] is heavily involved with SOS as are a few other members and moderators too. I find that if you speak against them on the boards you are battered down quite quickly. Also just to beware that if you talk down SOS on the forums many will go against you it just seems to be the general view on there and you will not get anywhere.

Over March and April, 2011, I, a long-time Liverpool fan, who didn’t post often on the forums, but had become a regular user of “The Kop”, the new social network platform on the official club site, had been blogging about Spirit of Shankly without apparent issue, however, I saw a post on the forums about Spirit of Shankly, I went onto the forums and made some of the points I had blogged about.

The aforementioned moderator kept trying to tell people that I was wrong, and that I was a “crank” – however when this person posted what was supposed to be last post in the thread, after becoming fed-up of Mickey’s abuse and misinformation, as well as pointing out that Mickey was disputing facts that had been obtained from Spirit of Shankly, Mickey’s response was to delete the post as “Spam”, and a subsequent one complaining about the deletion, for “Trolling”.

Mickey’s behaviour had already been reported, but I was amazed when instead of Mickey being dealt with, that I had my user account frozen and was given a life-time ban on the forums!

Why? For calling Mickey a liar, that’s why. According to Matt Owen, the person responsible for both the forums, and the ‘The Kop’ it’s against the rules – even when it was so obviously true, and has been demonstrated as being true.

Also, Matt Owen stated;

Having ignored warnings concerning your use of these platforms your posting rights on each platform are now withdrawn.”

I received no such warnings. I had written and complained about the moderator, Mickey, and initially received an incomplete response, which included the paragraph:

It seems from reviewing your posts that you have a dispute with the Spirit of Shankly supporters organisation. Clearly I cannot speak for them and can only suggest you take any concerns up with them directly. Neither The Kop nor the Official Forums are suitable formats for resolving such a dispute and I therefore respectfully suggest that you use other channels to pursue this matter.

Now would you take that as a warning about being thrown off the forums – let alone as warnings, plural?

Aside from the inherent assumptions that Matt Owen has appeared to make about any supposed “dispute”, the concept that forums and blogs for and about Liverpool supporters should not include any kind of debate or discussion about The Liverpool Supporters Union, seems to be at the very least, incongruous with the very nature of forums and blogs, particularly on the official site for LFC supporters, but this paragraph also appears to constitute the multiple “warnings” that Matt was referring to – in an email he had sent to the user after he had both removed the user’s accounts and further edited the thread.

Oddly, the original accusation of lying, was made in public on the forum thread, but that post was not removed!

If this accusation was the basis for being banned, how come it was left – and how come Matt Owen then claims that Mickey didn’t know what he was supposed to have lied about, and accepted that as true!?

Perhaps the ire of the digital media staff was heightened as I initially managed to get around Mickey’s deletion of my posts by creating a blog about censorship on the forums, and then nipping onto the forums a minute before they closed for the night and posting in the thread comment that linked back to the blog.

The post remained there all night for people to see, so come the next morning, Mickey had a dilemma as to whether or not to remove the post or not. He chose not to.

That evening, Spirit of Shankly officials came onto the blog, posting misleading information, similar to what they have subsequently posted on their web site (and tried to do on The Liverpool Way), and offering me a private meeting. I posted my thoughts about the posts and declined the meeting, stating that SOS could make their case in public, but had constantly failed to do so. This was my last post before my account was removed.

Mickey’s false and inaccurate responses on the forum remain, despite vociferous complaints to Matt Owen, and then Paul Rogers, Matt’s boss, whose name was supplied by Matt to go to – but who apparently can’t be bothered with such things.

I am working tirelessly to improve the content from Club media and my time is best served trying to improve the business for the supporters and the owners, for the overall good of the Club.

(Translation: I swan around the world writing puff pieces.)

I have two young daughters who tend to argue like children a lot so I don’t feel the need to get involved in any other disputes at work so if you have an issue with SOS or Matt, I suggest you continue your discussion directly with them – and not involve me.

What sort of response is that, to a complaint about a member of his staff? Is this supposed to be from a paid, professional member of staff, representing the club?

Does he really think that a complaint should be handled that way? I am too important to be bothered with this and I have a family at home? Who cares – and who pays his wages?

He says he works “tirelessly” for supporters, but can’t be arsed to act on their behalf when it comes to dealing with complaints against his staff.

Paul Rogers apparently feels that he is above this sort of thing, and instead prefers to delegate complaints back to the member of staff being complained about. Brilliant management that: Guaranteed to mean that there are no complaints to speak of.

Spirit of Shankly are of course delighted, and were no doubt responsible for this. These self-important members of staff had happily allowed me to use their forums for some years, and “The Kop” for blogging and commenting, amongst other things, almost since it started, but as soon as there was some serious criticism about Spirit of Shankly on the forums, which are far more active and read than most of the blogs on “The Kop”, then they didn’t want the aggro, and my account was history.

My unblemished history, as well as supportive comments on their blogs from a number of other commentators, were ignored by the Digital Media staff.

Clearly, what has happened here is that the staff couldn’t be bothered with the hassle that Spirit of Shankly were giving them over my criticism, and they’ve come up with an excuse to cut-off one person, just to make their lives easier. The emails and the reasons given by Matt Owen are an absolute travesty, and the response from Paul Rogers is about as arrogant as they come.

Clearly, the Digital Media Staff at Liverpool FC don’t care about doing the right thing, just the most expedient thing for their benefit. This is how the likes of Mickey Love, forum moderator, gets to delete criticism from the LFC forums, as spam, without fear of punishment, and where reports of spamming by SOS, constantly trawling for new members, gets ignored.

Almost as soon as I had my accounts shut-down, SOS got their propaganda machine going and changed their web site and wrote on various forums, with regard to the most recent issue for concern, which is their pushing of a season ticket loan scheme that commits the loan applicant to saving into a Spirit of Shankly takeover of Liverpool FC; or in other words, commit to saving for two things, instead of one.

A person who had checked the small print and thought to tell other LFC supporters, had been gagged from doing so on the official site.

It seems that SOS’s well-documented bully-boy tactics have proven to be fruitful. The club staff would rather let them get on with what they want than deal with them, even if it means falsifying reasons to throw me, a life-long supporter, off their interactive forums and media, without notice, or clear warning; a place where I had made new friends, helping some of them out with their media, and had also spent a lot of time writing, not just about Spirit of Shankly, but about the club’s history and about supporting Japan and Japanese LFC supporters, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

You might find it interesting to note that I had been in contact with the forum staff in the days immediately prior to being banned, in order to help highlight issues in using the social media platform, that the development staff were unaware of. Obviously, I must be a complete shit for doing that.

The day before being banned, I had an email saying:

We’ve now replicated and confirmed the problem and alerted the development team. I’ll let you know when there’s any news on a fix.”

The email was from Matt Owen.

Perhaps unwittingly showing-up the lack of management of the forums, and The Kop, was not the only real reason that I got banned. The site staff are evidently very sensitive to anyone who show them up, whether they intended to or not.

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