Paul Rice. 1957-2012

When over three hundred of us crammed into the backroom of The Sandon pub four years ago, not many expected us to be where we are today. The future of our football club looked bleak and worry and desperation crept in as we debated and argued about what was best for the football club. In the next few months and years, our worst fears came true, as the problems in the boardroom meant success on the pitch ground to a halt. No cup finals, no trophies. Now, 4 years on from that historic meeting, supporters are back doing what they do best – planning trips to cup finals and talking of silverware again. Sadly though, not all those who have helped us achieve this moment will be there to witness it. Tomorrow, Paul Rice, our Vice Chair, Honorary Vice President and former Chairman, will be laid to rest following his death on 21st January 2012.

Paul was well known throughout the city and further afield, not just for his role with Spirit Of Shankly and the instrumental part he played in our success, but for his roles in local politics, the business community and for being ‘a lad from the match’. It is these ‘other roles’, Paul’s day jobs so to speak, that lead to him becoming active within Spirit Of Shankly. In the 1980’s, Paul was heavily involved in the politics of the time. Left wing politics were at the fore in the city of Liverpool and Paul Rice was there, expressing his firmly held views and sticking to his principles. He chaired the Broadgreen Labour Party whilst Terry Fields was MP. If Paul had known how this would serve as an audition for his role as SOS Chairman, he might have thought twice! He would later be re-united with some of his colleagues from this time on the Spirit Of Shankly Management Committee.

Paul’s love of the city knew no bounds and it is fitting that a man so passionate about how great Liverpool is, was able to help make it better. Paul worked for the city council and later became City Centre Manager before moving to his role as Chief Executive at Liverpool Commercial District Partnership. Paul held this role whilst serving as Spirit Of ShanklyChairman and it was inspiring to listen to a man so passionate about both the city and the football club that bears it’s name. It was during one of our committee meetings, whilst discussing protests and ways to raise awareness of our campaign,  that we talked about leafleting in the City Centre. Paul was quite forceful that it would not be possible. Many of us, not understanding, asked why. It was at this point that Paul confessed that as City Centre Manager a few years earlier he had banned leafleting because it made the city look untidy! Thanks Paul, always knew we could count on you.

As far as Spirit of Shankly is concerned, it is from his days as our Chairman that many of us were able to get to know Paul. Many of us had not met him properly until that Wednesday night four years ago. Yet without him, the growth and success experienced by Spirit of Shankly over the last four years would not have been possible. As individuals and as an organisation we have grown, thanks to Paul Rice. His leadership in the early days and in the heat of the long drawn out battle was decisive. He had only ever planned to chair the first meeting in The Sandon. However, thankfully for us, Paul stayed on. Even when not acting as Chair but Vice Chair, he supported those in the Chairman’s seat, offering them the support and instilling in them the belief that they could lead the Union. Without Paul Rice, we wouldn’t be here now. His leadership, advice, guidance and support was invaluable and helped us achieve the seemingly impossible – giving thousands of ordinary supporters a voice against two powerful ‘billionaires’, one of them a friend of the then most powerful man in the world George Bush. That was Paul Rice though – never fazed, always forward thinking, always planning. Paul knew the time for negotiation and the time for action.

For many of us though who have served on the union Management Committee, we were privileged to know Paul as a friend. All of us will be thankful to Paul and will be forever grateful for his help in other areas, be it advice, guidance or a general chat about our personal lives, football, politics or careers. Some of these stories are shared below. Tomorrow, we have to say our final goodbyes. We will never forget you Paul.

Peter Furmedge

Like Paul, I was heavily involved in the politics of Liverpool in the 1980s. While massively invigorating at the time and something I’ll always be proud to have played a part in, that era left an indelible mark on all of us. In my case this was manifested in always being wary about ever getting so deep into anything of that nature again.  Then came SOS! I was always going to be a member of the Union, I was always going to be active and join in demonstrations, go to meetings and dish out leaflets. But I never had any intention of getting involved on any committees. Then Peter Hooton asked me would I help out with managing the finances. The latent activist in me was tempted, but the wounded warhorse of the 80s was thinking of a way out and I thought I’d cracked it. “Only if Paul Rice does as well” was the answer I gave Peter, thinking “there’s no way Ricey will have the time or the inclination for all this”. Well, “Ricey” did have the time and the inclination and I was duly recruited, first to the Finance Committee and then to the Management Committee. The rest is history, and we helped to write some of it, thanks to Paul Rice.

Peter Hooton

I first came across Paul Rice when he was working for the Liverpool City Council in the 1980s. He was active in the Labour Party and I would always bump into him at meetings and demos where he was always expressing his firmly held views. Over the years I would see him at Liverpool matches and social occasions but only really on a casual basis. However in 2008, when Liverpool Football Club was in crisis under the disastrous leadership of Hicks & Gillett and a meeting was being planned to be held at the Sandon, his name was one of the first on my list to phone, to seek advice and see if he would help out by chairing it. I knew he had chaired the Broadgreen Labour Party constituency during the Terry Fields years so my reasoning was that if he had done that he could literally chair anything.

I have an admission to make. Initially my name was put forward by some fans at a preliminary meeting as a possible chair so I panicked as I didn’t want to do it and thought long and hard about a better person for the job. For me Paul was the obvious choice. He had a way with people and his demeanour commanded respect, authoritative but fair. Some of the people on the internet loop (Liverpool Supporters Network) who were arranging the meeting of all Liverpool factions (to sort out a co-ordinated campaign against the American owners who were loading debt onto the football club) were concerned that the meeting would end in chaos but I assured them that I had asked someone to chair the proceedings who was very capable however volatile it turned out to be.

When I contacted him Paul said he was very busy with his job as he was the CEO of Liverpool Commercial District but he would chair the meeting as a one off for me and also because as he was also very concerned about the future of the club. On 31st January 2008 in the Sandon pub the spiritual home of Liverpool FC a meeting was held and Paul conducted proceedings quite brilliantly. From that night on he led the Spirit of Shankly with a passion and verve that was quite simply inspirational. Far from being a one off Paul put his heart and soul into fighting for his beloved club. He was the glue that kept the SOS together in the early days as disagreements on the way forward and the tactics we should adopt threatened to boil over time and time again.

He also instilled in the younger members of the committee a confidence and fearlessness and you could see them growing in stature week by week. This is because he truly believed in them and was himself inspired by their natural enthusiasm. I think he must’ve seen a bit of the 1980s fighting spirit in them, maybe they reminded him of a younger version of him. With Paul leading the organisation you felt that you could take on anyone and you would go into meetings with confidence knowing that he would stick to his principles for the good of the SOS and therefore the club. Quite simply he couldn’t be bought, he was a man of principle!

He was optimistic and philosophical in the one battle he couldn’t win, his illness, but he would never moan or complain to his hospital visitors and say ‘why me.’ He fought with a dignity and bravery that was quite remarkable and even a week before he passed away he told me that he was planning his own funeral arrangements as he wanted to get them just how he wanted- as a celebration of his life. Paul faced his predicament with humour and courage and he will live forever on in our hearts and minds. YNWA.

Tommy Keiner

For many years, Paul was one of those faces at the match you would always say “Alright mate” to, without knowing his full name, just knowing who he would knock around with on matchdays and the coach he was travelling on to the aways.

When the Union was in its infancy, I got to know Paul at bit better, knowing his name for starters. I had a great chat with him after one of the games and he encouraged me to get involved with the Union, dealing with overseas matters. This coincided with the first ever elections to take place and I stood for a position and as a result got elected.

Through my involvement with the Union, the regular meetings etc, I got to know Paul so much better and talking to him always involved leg-pulling and great banter. Even when he announced the results of the first ever elections in a freezing Olympia, he couldn’t help but to throw some friendly banter my way, pointing to where I was sitting in one of the front rows. That was Paul all over, always a smile on his face, always talking to people, always having great banter with everyone. Through the work the Union was involved with at the time, I also got to know Paul’s professional side and I have utmost respect for what he has achieved and what he has been involved with and especially for just still being the Paul we all knew from the match, just with a professional head on. To me, he was someone I would always look up, to the minute I got to know him so much better. Well that’s an indirect lie really because due to me being slightly taller, I literally had to look down to him all the time, but I think you will get the message.

Every time I met Paul or spoke to him over the phone, be it in a private capacity with Paul giving me excellent valuable career advice as a great friend, or with Union related stuff, again with great advice as a great friend or, as I always liked to call him, the voice of reason during Union meetings, we always had great banter, the type of leg-pulling banter which Scousers are well known and liked for all over the world.

The minute Paul entered my Liverpool supporting life as in getting to know him proper, other than the “alright mate ” at the match, he played a very important part of it and has been inspirational in so many ways. I’m talking about football, life in general and especially the working life. He opened my eyes, he made me think, he was the leader in the battle against the evil forces trying to destroy or beloved club, he always smiled and we laughed and pulled each other’s legs so many times over the last 4 years and for that I will be grateful forever.

I have no shame in admitting to typing this tribute with a tear in the eye and I’m so proud that I was one of the many fortunate ones to get to know Paul so much better than just “a lad who goes the match like me” type of person.

Paul, you have inspired me in so many ways, be it football, work or life in general related and I will be grateful to you for this forever. From just seeing you around at the match, you turned into a proper name to the face and ultimately into a great respected mate, a friend to look up to, who I got to know so much better via the Union work we have been involved in and I will miss our great banter and your smiles mate.

Gute Nacht mein Freund as they would say in the Fatherland – You’ll Never Walk Alone

Roy Bentham

My recollections of Paul will be twofold

Paul as the authoritative and hugely respected Chair of SOS who taught me how to conduct myself at meetings instead of shouting from the rooftops!

Secondly and just as warmly will be the occasional summer afternoons we shared at Liverpool CC watching Lancashire win the league for the first time in 50 odd years!

He’d regale us with tales of the marvellously named  Farokh Engineer, the flamboyant Indian wicketkeeper and the magnificent West Indian captain Clive Lloyd of years gone by playing here in another fabulous arena of our cities rich sporting heritage.

On one such day last summer when a ludicrous 20 or so wickets had fallen we both walked over to the pitch at tea as if we were experts like budding Nassers or Bumbles . Paul then held court on why so many batsmen had tumbled. Of course a lot of it was conjecture but it was none the less very amusing and light-hearted and showed Paul’s capacity for theatre. That’s how I’ll remember Paul , a warm-hearted man who knew which hat to wear every time

Great memories.

God bless.

Fran Stanton

It is almost 4 years to the day that I very first met Paul, at the inaugural meeting of the SOS at The Sandon. That night we could not have been further apart with him on the top table and me sat literally with my back to the wall at the very back of the room. But since that day he has made a massive impact on my life, more than he had ever known and probably more than I would ever have told him.

He held the Union together in its infancy. Not that it was falling apart but there was just so many opinions, egos, friendships and disliking amongst a group of people, that he ironed it out and created a structured committee, building the foundations of everything achieved since. I can’t believe it is only 4 years that I have known him, but looking back we must have spoke 10-20 times a day, non-stop for about 3 of those years because of the passion we had for the cause and the belief in an organisation that his leadership had given a structure to.
Personally, Paul has been so inspiring in my life and had a massive affect on my maturity and development as a person. It was Paul who suggested I should take over the Chairman role and until then I had never thought of myself being able to fill the role but the endorsement and support of Paul made me think “If Paul thinks I’ve got it then there must be something there”. He was a very smart fella and I don’t mean “professor” types, I mean life and business. He’d lived it and done it rather than reading a book about it. Any meeting we had, he always seemed a step ahead. Throughout the last few years, as an organisation, we have sat down in rooms with Owners, Potential Owners, Hangers on, lackeys, Managing Directors, Football Managers, Heads of the Premier League, millionaire business heads, other people with personal agendas and many others; the only thing I can say is that if you were walking in to the room with Paul you always felt you had the stronger side no matter who was on the other side of the table.

Paul you are really going to be missed mate and when the time is right I am sure we will all do something to make sure the impact you had on everyone is put to good use.
Thoughts are with all Paul’s family.

Goodnight Mr Chairman.

James McKenna

I last seen Paul a couple of weeks back and even though his situation was serious, he was still his usual self – chatty, cheery, as if nothing was up. The way he talked about his situation but also how he didn’t let it get him down, has really stood out to me and I won’t forget it. His talk of planning his own funeral and how he had lived a live that someone twice his age would never have experienced. Paul cannot be forgotten. Not because we must not forget but because it will be impossible to.

Like Fran, I hadn’t met Paul before that first Sandon meeting. Nor had I met Fran. But sat at the back of the room that night, next to Fran, I never expected to be sat around a table with Paul and others as part of the newly formed SOS Committee just a couple of weeks later. If it hadn’t have been for Paul, SOS would never have gotten past those first few weeks or months and if it hadn’t been for Paul we certainly wouldn’t have been the organisation we were today. His ability to control meetings and guide us has been invaluable. How he never got up and walked out of those meetings and told us all to do one, I will never know. In fact, I do. He tried loads. He could just never escape. He wanted it to succeed and we needed him. We’ve all seen the work done by Paul and if we shared all the stories, we could fill pages. Pages of not just his passion for the cause but his brilliant ability to apply common sense, his ability to be realistic, his application of business sense or the real world mentality. Graham summed it up when he said Paul knew the time for action or the time for negotiation. When you had Paul sat round your table, you knew you had someone you really needed on your side.

Personally, Paul, like he has for many people, had a massive impact on me. He has probably helped me more than I even realise. When I seen Paul the other week, I wanted to thank him for it all but it just didn’t feel right. I also hoped that I wouldn’t have to, because to have done so I would have to have admitted it I may not speak to him again and I didn’t want to do that. But Paul, I hope you know just how invaluable you have been.

It’s only right and fair for me to say that I have an awful lot to thank SOS for. Without it, I wouldn’t have the job I am about to start, working for the TUC – even the other week Paul was giving me advice on things to look out for. I wouldn’t have imagined it possible that I could do such a job. It’s only possible because people involved in SOS, people like Paul Rice have passed on their knowledge, wisdom, advice and guidance onto me and others. I never would have imagined I would stand in front of the cameras or at the front of marches. Knowing you had someone like Paul Rice at the end of the phone to ask for advice on what line to take, whether to open your mouth or not, or to provide a quote when you just didn’t know what to do, was invaluable. Listening to conversations between him and Peter Furmedge talk about their political backgrounds in the 80’s was brilliant. I’ve learnt a lot from them conversations and I will miss them. It was only the other week whilst listening to them, when we visited Paul, that I told them they should have written a book. It would be a bestseller. I’ll remember the Thursday nights in The Grapes after Finance Committee meetings with Paul Rice and Peter Hooton, listening to stories of days gone by. Paul Rice – a well respected figure but never forgetting he was just a normal, ordinary person.

A few memories stand out for me of Paul.

1. When we had our first protest march before we played Manchester United in 2008. We were walking up towards The Sandon, this mob of thousands behind me whilst Paul and others were walking towards me, having just met Gillett. He had warned Gillett of the protest. However, on seeing it even Paul was surprised. His expression and comment of “What have we started” just made me laugh.

2. His speech on the Independence Day Rally. He spoke from the heart. He had a little pop at some journalists who had stuck the knife into SOS and to the club when they had a chance to and they really shouldn’t have. The journalists got the message relayed within minutes and wanted to know why Paul had done it. He wasn’t interested. He was principled and stood up for what he believed in and was never afraid to upset anyone. A small man in stature but a big man in heart.

3. After my speech at the Independence Day rally, I walked off and went to have a drink back inside. In walked Paul who greeted me with “The next Right Hon. Member of Parliament for Bootle”. It was high praise indeed coming from Paul and made me think that maybe I could do it. Paul, as ever one to keep you grounded soon put me in my place when he questioned how I must have had more going for me, because there was no way I could have attracted my then girlfriend. Thanks Paul, always one to put me in my place.

Anything I go onto do, anything I do now, I will be thankful to SOS. I will be thankful to Paul Rice. For being there. For helping me. For everything.

Thanks Paul. RIP mate.

Paul Gardner

Paul Rice was one of the greatest people I have ever met and it was an honour to have known him and worked with through Spirit of Shankly. Being one of the younger committee members he had a massive influence on me. He always knew what to say (usually with great humour), when to say it and how to do it in a way that was best for everyone. I learnt a lot of Paul and will always be thankful for that. As well as leader, he was a visionary. He showed both these qualities in instigating The Football Quarter. Driving it forwards it in its early days and helping myself and others understand and learn every aspect and be able to help it grow further. It would be a true lasting legacy to Paul for The Football Quarter to become a reality.

Daniel Nicolson

The measure of a man like Paul can be seen in the masses of tributes that have been paid to him since his tragic passing. Paul was an old school friend of my dads who I got to know over the years. He was both inspiring and a leader. Two words that shouldn’t ever be used lightly and are most definitely not in this case.

He was selfless in his desire to help others. Away from SOS, Paul shared time and expertise with me on several occasions when he didn’t have to, something that it seems he did all too often having spoke to people over the past week or so. But for me it was his indirect actions that will live with me most. Paul proved to me, and I’m sure countless others, that an ordinary person, from an ordinary background, with an ordinary accent can go on to perform at an extraordinary level across different sections of society.

I think if there’s any solace that can be taken at this sad time by not only those close to him but the wider circle around him it’s this massive legacy that he leaves. Paul positively impacted countless people, far more than he probably realised. It is because of this and who he was and what he did and how he acted he will be truly missed by all those who knew him or knew of him, but equally missed unknowingly by thousands of people who never knew him.

Neil Atkinson

Paul’s commitment to the people and the city of Liverpool shone through everything he did. He believed passionately in the city, that we can be better, that we can do more. This belief drove him and was inspirational to those who he came into contact with. I remember early morning phone calls, discussing our reaction to events, discussions with a sense of humour where possible and anger where required as we discovered another twist and turn in the Hicks and Gillett saga. I remember him telling me after Tom Hicks’ cosy fireside chat that it was time to really attack these b******s. These b******s were men who moved money around for its own sake, its own end. Paul knew that everything in life came back to people, not to money. Something that has been too easily forgotten and beaten out of people. Paul wanted to fight back at every turn. He was a pleasure to be in the trenches with.

It was Paul who professionalised SOS, him who wanted to create something organised out of us, knowing organisation would pay dividends in the future. He worked tirelessly on this. The conversations I had with him, driving through the city, over tea, over a pint were enlightening. Always something I didn’t know, an aspect I wouldn’t have thought of, all underpinned with fun, energy and a desire to see Liverpool, in every sense, at its best. I missed them when I left the committee and I miss them now. Paul was a great Liverpudlian. He wanted us all be able to be great Liverpudlians.

Kevin Sampson

The first thing that struck me about Paul was his reliability. A sense of calm authority and honesty shone from him – here was a fella you could trust. It’s rare in politics for someone to come through who everyone – absolutely everyone – has time for. But Paul Rice inspired affection and respect across the board. Everyone liked him, but their fondness for Paul came with real respect, too – respect for his intelligence, his wit, his humility, his diplomacy and his sheer passion for the city. He was a politician in the truest sense – a people person, there to serve the people and do his best for their best interest. Hicks and Gillett knew they had come across a formidable foe when they came up against Ricey. He was a classic pocket battleship – small in stature but an absolute giant by force of personality and character. His friends and comrades at S.O.S will miss him hugely, but he’s a loss to the city of Liverpool, too. Rest in peace, Paul.

Andy Heaton

Anger, fury, frustration invariably count for nothing without clarity, calm and the wisdom to channel it in the right direction.

Paul Rice brought that calm to an embryonic Union, gave it guidance when it was lost. Charged with bringing down a pair of American billionaires with little more than raw passion, Paul crystallised the emotions of those that decided to stand up and be counted and directed it into a force that far exceeded the sum of its parts. It goes without saying, without Paul Rice, there would be no SOS.

On a personal note, Paul’s advice, calm head and nous was invaluable to both myself and the others who sat on that stage a lifetime ago in The Sandon trying to rally our support and bring down a regime that would eventually bring the club to its knees. In what little dealings I did have with Paul, I learned lessons that I’ll carry with me the rest of my life but more than anything, if I could take an ounce of his humility and honesty, I won’t go far wrong and I am a better man for having known him, albeit briefly, I’m sure a sentiment that many others share. Paul Rice – A Liverpudlian

Good Night Mr Chairman. May you Rest In Peace.