Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has traded LGBT allyship for £700,000 a week: what do fans think?
From Rainbow Laces to Saudi Arabia
Dear members — what price is a man’s morals? £700,000 a week might be a decent guess. That’s the fee that lured beloved Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson to Saudi Arabia's Al Ettifaq last week in a controversial transfer. While Henderson is far from the only player to have moved to the Middle East as the Saudi state pumps billions into its football teams, his decision has been branded hypocritical.
After all, Henderson has been one of the faces of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which promotes LGBT inclusion in football — making it all the more jarring that he’s moving to a country where members of the queer community are imprisoned, allegedly tortured or murdered for their sexual or gender orientation. But what does the average Liverpool-fan-on-the-street think about all of this? Jack explores.
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The ever-rising costs of the West Kirby sea wall have risen once again. The first section of the flood alleviation scheme — which aims to protect 70 houses from flooding — was installed in April, but has seen widespread criticism from some locals and councillors. Though an Environment Agency representative previously said that without the wall, “the town would eventually die from flooding too frequently”, the backlash has made it a defining political issue in the town. The scheme was originally projected to cost £9.6 million, but that is now £17.3 million, plus fees for surveys, project supervision, and designs which take the total above £19 million. The council’s contribution, however, has remained the same. Want to read more about the threat of rising sea levels to our coastal communities? Peruse this long-read from Daniel Timms.
Tate Liverpool is partnering up with RIBA in some excellent news from the art world. The RIBA North Gallery on Mann Island will re-open as a temporary base for TATE, and there will be joint programming between the two organisations, while the Tate gallery is closed for a massive refurb. When RIBA made Liverpool its northern HQ it was exciting news for this city, angering those in Manchester who felt they’d missed out on a big coup. But the gallery closed during the pandemic and has remained shuttered despite galleries opening nationally, in part due to the financial issues RIBA was facing. The collaboration will allow the space to re-open and “reanimate RIBA North” with a focus on “art, architecture and ecology”, delivering a programme of temporary exhibitions, family activities, public talks and events. The hope is that it may lead to a longer-term partnership.
We’ve brought you numerous updates on the Bibby Stockholm barge — owned by Liverpool company Bibby Marine — which is being used to house asylum seekers off the coast of Dorset, and now there’s been another significant update. To recap: our story from April reported that the barge, part of the government’s plans to reduce the cost of accommodating migrants, has caused major controversy. This was both from pro-migrant groups who feel it is unsafe and from locals who say they will be made unsafe by the influx. Now, the Fire Brigades Union is writing to the government to warn ministers against accommodating asylum seekers on the barge. The intervention of health and safety officials has already delayed the use of the vessel by a week. “As the only professional voice, firefighters believe the Bibby Stockholm to be a potential deathtrap,” FBU assistant general secretary Ben Selby told the Guardian.
🎶 Camp and Furnace are holding an old-school hip hop summer BBQ, on Saturday — a perfect summer weekend (even if the weather for far has been decidedly un-summery). They’ll have food, seven hours of “hip-hop bangers” and plenty more. Tickets cost £10 on first release.
📽️ The cinematic event of the summer at one of city’s finest venues: book early to watch Oppenheimer at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. The screening is in September but is likely to sell out.
🌄 Have a relaxed weekend walk out to Hilbre Island, one of WirraI’s most beautiful spots, famed for its serenity and natural wonders. Need a harder sell? Revisit Jack Dulhanty’s piece from last year about the island and the remarkable man who watches over it. Tickets here.
By Jack Walton
Back in the noughties, being an English footballer was — well, it was different. The England team of Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney were seen as WAG-chaperoned tabloid-fodder, more likely to be found jeering at Americans grieving 9/11 than mucking in at a food bank. How things change. Nowadays, the England team boasts any number of dream son-in-laws, studious and tuned in; often engaging with pressing social issues. Alongside Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Jordan Henderson is the face of this new wave.
Is — or should it be “was”? Last week, Liverpool’s beloved captain and fearless campaigner for LGBT rights, Henderson, made an unexpected decision. He would transfer to one of the world’s most repressive countries for LGBT people for a weekly salary that’s 21 x the average yearly one in the UK (£700,000 in GDP). Although Henderson is heterosexual, he has been an energetic ally who has fronted up football’s Rainbow Laces campaign and regularly posted on social media about the importance of LGBT inclusion in the sport. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has been deemed a spectacular act of hypocrisy. Many who backed his advocacy feel sold out by his big money move to Saudi Arabian team Al Ettifaq. Those who assumed his advocacy was just cheap PR feel vindicated. ”So, Jordan, was it gesture politics all along?” asked the Telegraph.
But what about closer to home? Liverpool is two things. As a club, it has a proud sense of its own moral core. Foodbank initiatives collect money outside Anfield during home games, fans sing “fuck the Tories” from the terraces. Manager Jurgen Klopp is a socialist. Henderson’s own advocacy had him ranked by the New Statesman as one of the country’s 50 most significant figures on the political left.
But equally, football terraces are not known as bastions of liberalism. In fact, they tend to be quite socially conservative, historically speaking. This feels appropriate, given that many parts of Liverpool are more socially conservative than is often let on too. After all, it’s both the most left-wing city in the country and also the same place that Liberal councillor Steve Radford accused of harbouring “rabid homophobia” in the wake of Michael Causer’s murder in Huyton in 2008 (which his family deemed a hate crime). A lot has changed since 2008, but all of this makes the question of how much the average fan cares about Henderson’s betrayal all the more intriguing.
In an Anfield pub on a blustery Tuesday evening I meet Mike and Ian, two Liverpool fans in their sixties with a lifetime tally of missed home games that can probably be counted on one hand. I tell them I’d like to talk about Henderson’s transfer. “Oh god, all that carry on”. Both Mike and Ian have been watching Liverpool for as far back as they recall. “It’s different now — people expect more from the players, don’t they?” Mike says. “He’s a hypocrite — but they’re all hypocrites. Half of them will be kissing the badge one minute and out the door the next. I wouldn’t expect too much from a footballer — I mean, they don’t half pay them out there”. Ian chimes in: “It's good what he was trying to do, but I think a lot of people would support it more if it was kept away from the football.”
He goes on: “I think most people think it’s a bit hypocritical — but it’s his life. I can see why the gay supporters feel let down like, I don’t think it’s good what he’s done to them, but if I’m totally honest I’m not the biggest fan of footballers sticking up for all of these causes in the first place”. Why? “I don’t think it seems very honest. Seems like they do it for their own benefit anyway. I’d prefer they just stuck to football. It felt like it was just politics.” This quote sticks out to me, because Jürgen Klopp talking about his own leftwing political views isn’t treated with the same scepticism.