When Fenway Sports Group and then Kenny Dalglish took over at Liverpool few would have expected to see the Reds languishing in eighth position, with only six league wins at home. However, there are still some aspects of this season that fans can take solace from, and it is not just the Carling Cup.
The recent unveiling of the new Liverpool 2012-13 kit showed the huge strides Liverpool are making commercially. The deal, announced in January, with American company Warrior Sports will earn the club £25 million per season, the most lucrative in the Premier League.
Considering the club’s previous tie up with Adidas only raked in £12 million per year, it shows that certain aspects of the club are moving forward despite some disappointing performances on the field.
Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer said it was the German sportswear giant that chose to ditch Liverpool as “The gap between their performance on the field and what the number should be is not in balance.”
Liverpool’s yearly replica shirt sales are said to have hit 900,000 – the fourth highest selling football kit in the world. Warrior may just think they’ve done a good bit of business, Liverpool certainly have.
Any worries that the Warrior deal would represent a huge commercialisation of the Liverpool brand and disrespect the club’s traditions have been put to bed. As well as being a kit that looks good on the eye there is also a return of the old Liver bird badge, which is renowned for it’s usage during the successful 70s and 80s. And those worried about the loss of ‘the eternal flames’ representing those who perished at Hillsborough can fear not as a tribute to the 96 is placed on the back of the shirt.
Warrior Sports appear to have ticked all the boxes.
· Smart and stylish, check.
· Honours the club’s traditions, check.
· Red, check.
Although there was still an error made. Whilst the club had met with members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group to discuss changes to the crest, they did not meet with the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. Some reacted angrily to this stating they felt it very poor that the club did not contact all that were affected by the disaster regarding such a significant adjustment to the club crest. Although the actual changes themselves are not being criticised.
For the most part it has been a great debut for the Boston based group.
Reds managing director Ian Ayre deserves a large amount of credit. As well as being a key part of the shirt deal he was also responsible for getting the sponsorship deal with investment bank Standard Chartered, worth £20 million per season. A huge success when compared to the club’s previous £7 million a year deal with Carlsberg.
Ayre is also one of the only members of Liverpool’s executive staff to have survived from the Hicks/Gillett era; clearly principal owner John Henry recognises that in Ayre they have a very skilled businessman who also has a great understanding of the club.
The recent clear out of some of the executives at Liverpool has shown that FSG have a clear intent to create a successfully run club out of Liverpool again, the Suarez case was of no help and seriously mired Liverpool’s global image. The latest casualty being long term director of communications Ian Cotton, who made an absolute mess of the Luis Suarez issue.
Whether there will be any more high profile departures is yet to be seen. Some still suggest Dalglish may be eased out of the dugout and shoved ‘upstairs’. It would be highly disrespectful to dispose of a club great in such a way, if it were to happen it seems more likely that it would be the manager’s decision to take a back seat.
The one move that would certainly do FSG no harm would be an announcement on the stadium situation. Liverpool have longed for a larger capacity stadia for years now, whether it be a completely new stadium or an expanded Anfield, FSG need to act soon. Everybody knows what started to develop when Hicks and Gillett stalled on their promises of a “shovel in the ground in 60 days”.
Liverpool are a global brand and it is shocking that it has taken this long for this position to finally be taken advantage of. Manchester United even struck a sponsorship deal with DHL for their training kit worth £40 million over the next four years. Many may complain about the Glazier’s regime but they have at least used their club’s worldwide fan base to aid the club’s progression. Admittedly the Hicks/Gillett era ended up setting the club back massively and even poor management by David Moores and Rick Parry beforehand meant the club remained dormant in the ‘field of gold’ they had access to.
Whilst performances this season may not have lived up to expectations, the position of the football club is healthy. To have been turning in seasons like this without any investment in the squad or new lucrative deals being struck would had been a sign for the worse.
Liverpool fans can now feel confident that those running their club know what they are doing. They managed to deliver the Boston Red Sox their first World Series in 86 years, and with the right moves they could end up bankrolling Liverpool’s first title since 1990.