Jürgen Klopp has said English football must be allowed to trial the safe return of fans to stadiums next month as it plays a crucial role in bringing joy to people’s lives.
The Premier League has expressed concern at the potential delay to supporters returning from 1 October in a letter to the government, outlining that 100,000 jobs are dependant on match-day activities and every month without fans costs the industry £100m. The Liverpool manager believes there is also an important psychological factor in favour of reintroducing crowds, and football should be given every opportunity to test it can be done as scheduled.
Klopp, whose team lifted the Premier League trophy behind closed doors at Anfield in July, said: “I really hope that this will not be a season without supporters. I hope we can stick to the plans for October-November that some people can come back in a stadium. I really hope that because we have to give these things a try as well.
“First and foremost we had to bring people back to work so that the economy can start getting healthy again in all countries. But now, after all the necessary stuff is in a better place than before, we are all human beings and human beings want to have some joy as well, to do the important work they have to do. I think we are part of that – giving joy to the people. If we can create a safe environment in the stadiums for people, and only then, then there should be opportunity for them.
“I can not decide if we are able to do that or not. I am pretty sure we can and we should have a close look at what other countries try and what the impact is, because if France and Germany bring people back and nothing happens then it should be possible for us as well. It’s not the most important thing in the world but it’s important that between all the worries and uncertainties we have we give people the opportunity to go back in a football stadium. It is part of our life. I hope it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Liverpool start their title defence at home to newly promoted Leeds on Saturday with Klopp vowing there will be no let-up in the intensity that has underpinned his team’s success in recent seasons. He warned the Leeds manager, Marcelo Bielsa, that even an empty Anfield will be a tougher assignment than anything faced in the Championship last season, providing there is no complacency among the champions.
“I respect a lot what Leeds do but there is an important point,” said Klopp. “I know Marcelo said Anfield is not Anfield without supporters and he is right, in one way. But it is still Anfield. It is our home and we are Liverpool. That should not sound like a threat, but they did not play us very often before and it should feel different for them as well. We are ready to work hard and make life more uncomfortable for them than any team last year could against them. If we do not we will suffer. That is what we have to know.
“It is the first game of the season and it sounds like it is a big advantage for Leeds because they waited so long for the Premier League, everything is new, they are fighting for everything and we are the champions, leaning back and looking at what Leeds are doing. We have never done this and for as long as I breathe we will not be like this. That is the thing we have to make sure of in this game. It must be the most intense game Leeds ever had, otherwise we will have more problems than I want to have.”
The Liverpool manager, meanwhile, has issued a light-hearted apology to Sir Alex Ferguson for waking the 78-year-old in the early hours after winning the title. Ferguson revealed in a video announcing Klopp as the LMA’s manager of the year that he had received a message from the jubilant German on the night of Liverpool’s title triumph.
Klopp explained: “The problem was that I came back late in my room that night, obviously, and I couldn’t sleep immediately so I went through the messages I got and one of them was from Alex Ferguson. I just replied in a very polite way I think. It was about 3.30am-4am and I didn’t expect him to have his phone next to his bed. I didn’t want to wake him up. If that happened then sorry Alex! But since then we have not been in contact. He is still the former Man United manager and I don’t think he wants to talk to me too much about the success of Liverpool. He respects it but it’s not his favourite thing to watch on television.”