Before the Liverpool squad departs for Russia and their Europa League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg, managing director Ian Ayre sat down for an exclusive interview with Liverpoolfc.com on issues surrounding the match.
Read the transcript or watch the video FREE below.
How much communication has LFC had with Zenit and UEFA over the Zenit supporters' manifesto calling for gay and non-white players to be excluded from the team?
It's been a major concern for us, so I wrote to UEFA very recently expressing our concerns to them - and also to Zenit themselves. We await some responses in that regard. The most we can do is make our feelings clear ahead of the game, and hope that we get an adequate response and adequate support on the night. That's about the most we can do at this stage. I'm certainly hopeful that the right people will take the right action to ensure it's a game where we don't have that type of incident.
Has the club spoken to any of the players about this matter, and if so, what was said?
We do plan to speak to the players about it. As with everything, the players have a lot to take on board around such a big game - so we're going to do that just ahead of the game. The most important thing for our players is that they remain professional throughout this. We certainly won't tolerate that type of attitude or any of those types of incidents from our team. So the important thing is that we let them know how we expect them to act if there is an incident. I'd much rather we take the incident off the pitch and we deal with it. Obviously the referee has a role to play within that. But we'll be briefing our players of what's acceptable and what's not.
What would Liverpool FC do if any of the club's players were racially abused?
We'll take the right action. The referee would be at the forefront of that if there's something on the pitch. Anything that happens off the pitch, then we'll work very closely with the authorities. Those authorities will be UEFA, who are sanctioning and hosting the match, and Zenit and ourselves. I'll be there at the game and I'll ensure that we do whatever we need to do to protect anything that happens to any of our players. We'll ensure that happens.
What additional security measures are the club taking for the trip?
Ged Poynton, our stadium manager, and Zoe Ward, our club secretary, both travelled out ahead of the game to inspect the facilities and hold various different conversations with both Zenit and UEFA officials. We'll get a bit closer to that once we get there. We'll ensure our fans are looked after, as we always do, for their safety. We'll issue some directives to our fans to ensure they understand the concerns and the things they should look out for. We just have to take it day-by-day as we arrive and as the game comes together. Writing, making our feelings known, ensuring the fans have the right information and ensuring that UEFA and Zenit are aware of our concerns - that's about as much as we can do ahead of a game.
What is Liverpool Football Club's position on racism?
It has been very widely publicised - we have a very strong social inclusion programme. We don't just work on our own programmes which tackle this issue, we also work with third parties on their programmes. It's an important part of being a right, good, corporate citizen as a football club. In addition to that, we have a member of staff who is solely dedicated to that in Rishi Jain - he's our social inclusion officer. We take it very seriously, it's something we've done a lot of work on over many years but in particular over the last couple of years it has obviously been a point of focus. We're very pleased that we've put so much into it.