Liverpool escape punishment over Shields campaign

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The Independent Football

The Football Association will not take any formal action against Liverpool after their players wore T-shirts carrying a message of support for a fan who was jailed for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter in 2005.

Liverpool players wore the T-shirts in the warm-up for the Barclays Premier League match against West Ham on Monday.

Michael Shields was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of the attempted murder of Martin Georgiev in Bulgaria on a holiday taken after seeing his side win the Champions League final in Istanbul.

Liverpool's players were seen wearing 'Free Michael now' T-shirts while warming up ahead of Monday's televised 0-0 draw with West Ham at Anfield.

Despite another man confessing to the attack, Shields was locked up and his sentence was reduced to 10 years on appeal. He was transferred to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, but his supporters have never halted their campaign to prove his innocence.

An FA spokesman said: "We have spoken to Liverpool Football Club today about this matter. We understand that Michael Shields' 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."

A judge at London's High Court decided last month that Shields' case should be heard in full by three judges and a judicial review hearing is due to begin tomorrow.

Shields insists he did not commit the crime and still remains behind bars despite the best efforts of his family and various local politicians, who have campaigned for his release.

Earlier this year Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov refused to pardon Shields and Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said that he had no power either to pardon or grant Shields an early release.

A FIFA spokesman confirmed the organisation had been liaising with the FA over the matter and said the decision to not discipline the club was down to the host authority.

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