The Anfield Wrap: a connection to a way of life

Any regular reader will know of my deep love for Liverpool Football Club. They will also know that it’s a love which goes way beyond football. It is one that is rooted in the people and city, one that is a way of life and not just a football club. This is something embodied by The Anfield Wrap, the award winning podcast which keeps me connected so deeply with the fan base and city of Liverpool.

Culture and values

As an HR leader, you will hear me preaching that the culture of any workplace is driven by the leadership. Moreover, the minute that the leadership loses sight of the end user, that culture becomes unfit for purpose. As a leader, your goal is to ensure that both your people and your users are connected to your mission.

If you want a great example of that being done very badly in recent months. look no further than the owners of Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Sports Group, not to mention the ownership of every club involved in the breakaway European Super League announced in April 2021.

Taking Liverpool as an example, it is clear that employees (manager and players for a start!) and end user (supporters) were outraged and not in any way considered or consulted.

The tweet below suggests that club captain, Jordan Henderson, is more aligned with the values of the club and of the fan base than the owners by some distance. It’s a problem repeated in workplaces across the country where mid-management are closer to colleagues and customers than those in senior leadership.

And when I talk about my love and way of life being rooted in the people and the city, it is because of those same culture and values that Henderson represents so brilliantly as a leader.

Brought to Life

The great organisations bring their culture to life. They are not just words on a poster but the way that people live, think and work every day. They are embedded in the DNA of the organisation and its people.

The city of Liverpool and the football club is no different. This is a city where people do not walk alone and a club fan base in which the same is true. The people of Liverpool have a DNA of resilience and courage, they are also absolutely vocal in challenging injustice and calling out those who perpetrate it.

All of those qualities have been so visible not only over the last thirty-two years since the Hillsborough disaster, but also in countless other ways. Examples springing to mind are the way that people supported the Liverpool Dockers in the late 1990s and how they have demonstrably campaigned against spiralling ticket prices.

I’m immensely grateful that the DNA of the city and the football club’s fan base has, I think, gone a considerable way towards shaping who I am today. Becoming a mental health campaigner, challenging stigma, embarking on life changing fundraising journeys; all of these qualities are those role modelled by the city I love.

The Anfield Wrap

Where, you ask, does The Anfield Wrap fit into this? Simply, the leaders role model vulnerability, passion and outspokenness and that flows into the content.

They have a real commitment to mental wellbeing and have done so many features around it, again demonstrating that to support this club is much more than watching football, it is about standing up for what matters and for people who need it. I wrote here about how football truly drove my recovery from mental illness, and as an award-winning mental health campaigner, I am in awe of this award-winning podcast for putting itself on that perch.

Their recent three-part series of Hillsborough told through the eyes of survivors is raw, inspiring and a testament to human courage. It’s not afraid to tackle the darkest questions of how survivors could recover any value in life after the disaster.

At a time when my own mental wellbeing has not been good, this has given me perspective and hope. When people can survive unspeakable tragedy and speak with such conviction and courage, I’m able to recall every ounce of strength I have in response to that call to arms. It’s a reminder that I’m not walking alone.

The 'P' Word

I’ve never had a huge interest in politics. Let me rephrase; I never used to have an interest in politics.

I learned in the early days of having my season ticket that you really did need to be politically aware in this city. You have to understand a political system that has constantly neglected and persecuted the city in equal measures.

Again turning to Hillsborough, the city and its people have been victim of a systemic cover-up of epic proportion.

I have always had a true objection to political injustice. It still rankles with me that, as a seven-year old, I was given ‘honorary white’ status in Apartheid South Africa when my dad was part of the unofficial cricket tours to visit the country. I’m not white, honorary or otherwise, and never have been.

However, the early part of my adult life was spent in the depths of mental illness and I could hardly fight to see it through to another day let alone stand up against the injustices to others.

I’m very grateful that this has changed, and this probably underlines my apathy towards the England team in the current Euros. Whilst the team and the manager seem to be a really decent group of human beings, I cannot really engage with Club Eng-er-Land or songs about the IRA and Britain’s ‘glorious imperial past’. When you sing that ‘England never ever shall be slaves,’, you insult every black man in the team, stadium and country.

So to cut a long story short, I am, these days, very politically aware and I’m so grateful to The Anfield Wrap that it goes way beyond football and reconnects me with the city, its socioeconomics and its politics.

Injury Time

I’ve already written far more than I intended. And if you’re not a Liverpool supporter, you may not have reached this far! If you have, thank you; I hope it gives even the smallest insight into the bond that the supporters have with the club and the values which inspire it.

If you are a Red, I’d urge you to subscribe to TAW, it’s something you will thank yourself for and it will add an extra dimension to your love of the club.

Rohan Kallicharan

Rohan is an award-winning mental health campaigner and speaker with lived experience of mental illness. He has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns to raise awareness and break down the stigma around mental ill-health. He is a sub-3 hour marathon runner, HR Director and husband to Claire.