Liverpool have clarified their policy on banners after one dedicated to midfielder Wataru Endo was wrongly confiscated prior to their victory over Nottingham Forest.
Despite displaying a tribute to the Japan international in the upper tier of the Main Stand at previous home games this season, supporter Mark Sweatman was told by stewards that he wouldn’t be allowed to enter Anfield with it.
The banner combines the player’s name with the flag of Japan. Acting on Premier League guidance, Liverpool have banned Israeli and Palestinian flags during the current conflict in Gaza. However, Anfield officials have admitted that it was a mistake to confiscate the Endo one.
The club say their policy is that national flags alone are not allowed, but if they are clearly related to a player or the club then they will be permitted – as long as they meet other requirements such as size and have a fire safety certificate.
Sweatman, 45, is a Birkenhead-based school teacher who also runs his own handmade banner-making business. He has previously been commissioned by the club for a number of projects with his work on display in LFC stores in Liverpool and Thailand.
On Tuesday he was informed by Liverpool that while stewards were wrong to treat him like they did on Sunday, his banners are too big to be displayed in the Main Stand. Liverpool only allow flags and banners over 2m x 1m in the Kop or the visitors’ section. The Endo banner is 2.4m x 1.4m.
“I am absolutely devastated,” Sweatman told The Athletic.
“I’ve displayed my banners in the same place at every home game since the Main Stand opened in 2016. They have not been too big for the last seven years. The club have even done features in the programme and on the club website previously telling fans where they can see my work in the ground.
“I feel like they have decided to punish me for kicking up a fuss about Sunday when I was told that I couldn’t bring in the Endo one as it was a ‘nationalist flag’ and against the rules.
“Firstly, they apologised for the reason I was given but then they said I shouldn’t have ever been given permission to display my banners in the Main Stand in the first place.
“Then they called back to say they wanted to continue working with me but that my banners had to meet size requirements going forward. They have said I can take in smaller versions of my banners, but that Endo one cost me around £200 in materials and about 20 hours of work to produce. Who is going to pay for that? It just doesn’t feel fair.”
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(Photo: James Pearce/The Athletic)