Before Liverpool’s match with West ham at Anfield at the beginning of the week, the Reds’ put on a public demonstration in support of Liverpool fan Michael Shields, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of the attempted murder of Martin Georgiev in Bulgaria after seeing his side win the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005.
At the demonstration for the 22-year-old, the Kop held up a mosaic spelling out ‘Free Michael Now,’ with several Liverpool players including Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso showing their support for the campaign by wearing T-shirts in the warm-up supporting the student.
With the game being broadcast on television, the FA made it known that they were less than best pleased by the club’s decision to authorise that demonstration. But the FA have since released the statement that “We understand that Michael Shields’s case is a very emotive issue and one that many Liverpool players and fans feel strongly about. Having heard the club’s explanation we will not be taking any formal action, and we are satisfied that they understand the sensitivities around football matches being used as a platform for political messages.”
The major controversy in the Michael Shields case centres on the fact that, despite another man confessing to the attack, Shields, who has always professed his innocence, was nevertheless sent to prison. After initially being locked up in Bulgaria for 12 months, Shields was eventually transferred to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, but at no stage have the UK government been actively seen in trying to overturn the sentence having regard to all the evidence pointing to the accused’s innocence.
The Michael Shields case is not straightforward however, with accusations being levelled at the Bulgarian police for their handling of the case. And for a better understanding of the issues at hand the BBC commissioned an investigation into the case by the ‘Inside Out’ programme.