The pressure on Liverpool to explain their meeting with the creator of the fictional "Duncan Jenkins" Twitter character escalated yesterday after he received personal threats on an internet forum which posted an image of him and his son.
Sean Cummins, the 35-year-old copywriter who created the Twitter character, declined to discuss the matter publicly yesterday, in order not to draw attention from the latest developments in the campaign to establish justice for the 96 fans who died at Hillsborough. But the forum abuse, seen by The Independent, came four days after Cummins claimed the club's communications director, Jen Chang, had told him he would come under personal attack if he failed to make public the fact that @duncanjenkinsFC had no inside track on transfers at Anfield.
Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre will meet Cummins at some point after Saturday's home game with Reading, when the writer may discover more about whether the club intend to investigate his own allegations that Chang threatened him when the two men met for a lunch lasting one hour and 45 minutes at Manchester's Evuna restaurant on 22 August.
The club said yesterday that there was no evidence of threats. Asked why a director of the club would spend such a length of time with the creator of a Twitter character, a spokesman said that "Duncan Jenkins" had a substantial social media following, including a number of national newspaper journalists, which authenticated him. He also said that the "Duncan Jenkins" account provided no evidence that "he" was a Liverpool supporter. There is no taped recording of the meeting, Ayre confirmed that he had been in contact with the writer but could not discuss the issue at this stage.
There was substantial support for Cummins on mainstream social media yesterday, with minority criticism from some observers on Twitter who feel the story is "one-sided." But no detailed picture of the meeting or the reasons for it has been forthcoming from the Liverpool end, to challenge the immensely detailed log of emails and Twitter messages to and from Chang, which Cummins has preserved. There are no signs that Liverpool intend to sue over the claims.
Some observers maintain the view that Cummins is an attention-seeker, though this seems to stem from the "Duncan" comedy character, who as a fantasist aspiring journalist liked to say he was right, being confused with a real individual. "If I had wanted attention I would have dropped the cover and revealed it was me," Cummins said on Monday.
The Twitter feed of the sporting intelligence website – @sportingintel – yesterday published one of two images Cummins has secured from Evuna, which demonstrate that he and Chang met at 1.03pm on 22 August and parted company on 2.49pm that day. The respected Anfield Wrap website also has evidence that Chang did threaten to remove the Liverpool season ticket Cummins shares. Ayre told the Associated Press at the Leaders in Football conference last week that "in our 10-year plan, digital media is at the forefront of what we do" and the club have started holding dedicated press conferences for writers from beyond the mainstream media.