Jurgen Klopp has a special relationship with the Liverpool FC fanbase. | Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

This will be a summer of change at Liverpool FC, with manager Jurgen Klopp leaving the Premier League club having delivered eight major trophies in his nine-year stint.

Klopp has also earned a reputation as one of world soccer’s greatest LGBTQ allies, regularly wearing Rainbow Laces on the touchline and engaging effectively with the club’s supporters group, Kop Outs!

The German vocally backed Josh Cavallo when the Adelaide United defender came out publicly as gay, telling reporters that “the problem is the wider thing” (we’re seeing this again right now, with the sudden hype around gay and bi professional male footballers possibly coming out as a group).

Klopp will always hold a special place in the hearts of Reds fans, not least those who are LGBTQ — and on Monday came news of another switch that has significance to that section of supporters within the Anfield faithful.

Since 2011, Paul Amann has had the ear of the Liverpool hierarchy, speaking up on behalf of his community. The six-time European champions are truly pioneers in the inclusion space — in 2012, the club became the first in Premier League history to officially support a Pride parade.

Paul Amann has played a pivotal role in building Liverpool FC’s reputation for LGBTQ inclusion | courtesy of Paul Amann

Liverpool FC endorsed Kop Outs! when Amann founded the group in 2016 and having been previously part of a fans forum, he was named on the inaugural LFC Supporters Board in 2021. 

He has now announced he is stepping down from that role, to be replaced by Cassie Rattray. “This isn’t goodbye,” he stressed in a social media post — but he did want to reflect on over a decade of helping to drive change.

‘Amplification helped’

The Liverpool of 2011 reflected wider football and society. The launch of Rainbow Laces was still a couple of years away, and equal marriage hadn’t yet been introduced in England. Anti-gay chants and jeers were relatively commonplace.

Amann tells Outsports: “Being out as a fan back then was clearly possible, but being your authentic self at the match would be a struggle, to say the least.”

But his first meeting with the club’s then-owners proved productive. “They agreed to change the signage and announcements at Anfield, to make sure the ground regulations to treat homophobia the same as racism were implemented.”

That constituted an early win, but there were struggles ahead, not least in the fallout from Liverpool’s agonizing home defeat by Chelsea in April 2014. The result was pivotal in a failed league title challenge and afterwards, a video of a frustrated fan using the homophobic “rent boys” slur about Chelsea went viral.

That clip lingered on social media for years and when the associated chant was heard being directed at an opposition player who was on loan from Chelsea in a Norwich vs Liverpool game in August 2021, Amann asked the club to take action.

They agreed, and he got to sit down one-on-one with Klopp for a filmed chat about why “that chant” was so hurtful to gay people, whoever they support. Having the boss tell the fans why they should stop singing it had the desired effect, but the message went far beyond Merseyside too.

It’s one of Amann’s proudest achievements.

“Getting to work with fellow fans, educating them, having the chance to speak through fan-led social media and have our messages amplified really helped,” he says.

“Having the chance to meet with Jurgen, to receive his allyship and for that to help activate an allyship in our fans, was priceless.

“They didn’t just choose not to chant nonsense, but they became active in shutting down the chant. Now they are not just not homophobic — they are actively anti-homophobic.”

It hasn’t just been Klopp either. For LGBT+ History Month in the UK last year, the club produced a short film featuring vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold alongside Olivia Graham, an Anfield regular who is part of local LGBTQ arts and culture collective Homotopia.

There has been Pride merchandise with profits going to charity, and players in the Liverpool Women’s team — riding high in fourth spot in the WSL table — have also spoken up in support.

But it’s not been plain sailing either. When Liverpool were sent to Qatar to play in the FIFA Club World Cup five years ago, Amann agreed to travel there in advance of the tournament with his husband, to see what it was like to be in a country that criminalizes homosexuality.

He later described an experience he approached with “trepidation” and which left him feeling “betrayed” during the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf state.

Last summer, Amann was vocal once more when Jordan Henderson, whose active allyship he had valued hugely, made a shock decision to transfer to play in Saudi Arabia.

On behalf of Kop Outs! and LGBTQ football fans more widely, Amann articulated superbly the crushing disappointment of a once beloved captain choosing money over morals.

It is certainly not all about the talking though. Kop Outs! are committed campaigners on a range of good causes, such as raising money in aid of local foodbanks, working to eliminate “tragedy chanting” that causes distress among fans, and combatting other forms of discrimination.

Amann will still be busy with these activations and more, but he is looking forward to having a little more time just to enjoy the football as a fan, with Arne Slot from Feyenoord already confirmed as Liverpool’s next manager.

It’ll be a tall order for the Dutchman following Klopp but Kop Outs! will be among those reminding the new boss he’ll never walk alone, to quote the club’s famous anthem.

It’s a sentiment that’s also summed up in the name of Liverpool’s wider ED&I strategy, Red Together, and one that Amann insists is not just for his own club’s fans.

“I’d wish for our allies in the world to take forward their allyship to a level of activism to make bigots the uncomfortable minority,” he says.