You cannot be Syrias?

George Gillett claims firm interest from a potential buyer – but all, as ever, is not as it seems.

As the clock ticks ever closer to the end of another deflating transfer window for Liverpool Football Club, Anfield Road has learned that George Gillett has informed Royal Bank of Scotland and chairman Martin Broughton that he has found a serious investor who is interested in buying the club.

Time to rejoice?

Maybe not.

Anfield Road understands that George Gillett and LFC’s mystery saviour is ex-Syrian international footballer and millionaire businessman Yahya Kirdi.

Gillett and Kirdi (pic: greatrednorth.wordpress.com)First linked with the club shortly after Martin Broughton’s appointment back in April it was intimated that the Syrian, who was using ex-Celtic player Andy Lynch as a spokesperson for the bid, had the support of “mystery billionaire backers from the Middle East”, a line which should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who’s kept an eye on either Portsmouth or Notts County under the stewardship of Sulaiman Al Fahim and Qadbak/Munto Finance respectively over the last 18 months.
Continue reading You cannot be Syrias?

Expert Analysis: Liverpool’s finances

EXCLUSIVE

By David Bick, Chairman, Square1 Consulting

Once again, the accounts for the main operating company of Liverpool FC, namely Kop Football (Holdings) Limited, do not make attractive reading.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett, owners, Liverpool Football ClubThe net loss of £53m is up on the loss of £42m for 2008 and the bulk of this is accounted for by interest charges of £40m (actually £43m when capitalised interest is taken into account – which doesn’t get shown on the profit and loss account). Over two years, the company has racked up losses of £95m of which interest charges make up a whopping £76m. These substantial losses seem at odds with a recent statement by the club that profitability had been improved since 2007. The interest charges are a combination of those paid to RBS and those due to Kop Football (Cayman) Limited, a company controlled by George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

There is a negative net worth on the balance sheet of £128m, a further decline from a minus £75m in the previous year.

Net borrowings have climbed substantially and stood at £351m, up 17% on the previous year. Included in these outstanding debts is £144m owed to Kop Football (Cayman) Limited and this figure has climbed £86m in one year alone, although no explanation is given as to why.

The borrowing agreement with RBS was only renewed for 6 months last July through to 24 January this year and then, again for reasons not explained, for less than 6 weeks to 3 March. It is also not explained how and to when the borrowing facility has been extended since that date.

The auditors again write a going concern paragraph and make clear that the business is dependent on short term bank facility extensions.

If the interest charges are at similar levels for the year which will end this 31 July, and estimated operating profit turns out to be as has been reported, further losses are going to be difficult to avoid.

Within the stated income, it is not clarified how much was contributed from the participation in the European Champions League, which is income that will clearly be missing next season.

All in all, these numbers – and the auditor’s observations – speak for themselves.

Financial expert David Bick has been a City PR and takeover adviser for over 25 years and has handled a number of football assignments. He has in depth experience of both the financial markets and the football industry and is a respected contributor to Sky Sports News.
 

LFC chairman must deal with those causing the damage

By Tom Wilson and Jim Boardman

On Saturday a senior Liverpool official made it perfectly clear that there was absolutely nothing to read from the fact that Reds boss Rafa Benítez was yet to meet new chairman Martin Broughton. He claimed it was all part of some plot to paint a false picture of disharmony at Anfield. He got on great with Rafa and Rafa was happy.

Even now it’s difficult to work out how he thought anyone would fall for that. Or why he seems to tell different stories to different people. People compare notes, compare what he’s told them, then shake their heads.

On Saturday the senior official said that there had been one meeting planned. It would have been ahead of the first-leg of the Europa League semi against Atlético Madrid, but volcanic ash put paid to that idea.  When the call came out for the squad to meet up at Runcorn station, the meeting was unsurprisingly called off.

Obviously the new chairman is quite different to the last man to have the job all to himself. David Moores used to travel on the team bus with the squad; Martin Broughton doesn’t come across as someone who would feel comfortable slumming it across Europe in first class with the players.

According to the senior Liverpool official on Saturday, no other meeting had been scheduled so far. The first opportunity following the journey to Madrid would probably have been tied in with the return leg a week later, but with Rafa unavailable until after midnight it was decided, the senior official said, that there was no time for the chairman to meet the manager. Presumably the chairman – who of course has other responsibilities away from Liverpool FC – was unable to pop round to Melwood the following morning.

That following morning, the Friday, had been the day before the senior official was explaining why there hadn’t yet been a meeting. And at almost the exact time as the senior Liverpool official was explaining why there hadn’t been a meeting so far, the club’s official site was making it clear that the next opportunity for a meeting was also going to be missed.

Liverpool’s last home game of the season was the following day, the Sunday, against the team Martin Broughton has supported all his life, Chelsea. Broughton had presumably set off home early on Friday morning after watching the Atlético game, and he told the official site he wouldn’t be coming back up for that Chelsea match. He wasn’t even going to be in the city for the game, he didn’t want to be seen to celebrate any Chelsea goals. “The only sensible thing is for me to stay at home and watch it on the television,” he said.

So he wasn’t exactly making himself available for a meeting with Rafa, which in itself isn’t really a major issue. He’d cleared off before Rafa was available on the Thursday night, he didn’t stick around on Friday to meet then and he didn’t come back up on Saturday in preparation for the Sunday match, so no chance of squeezing a meeting in there.

Rafa did want to talk to him, but there clearly hadn’t been time. It was frustrating but understandable. Surely a meeting would be held before the week was out, with no game for Liverpool Rafa would have more room in his own diary to match up with Broughton’s no-doubt hectic schedule.

But then came the story on the BBC website, and other BBC outlets, soon to spread like wildfire around the rest of the media.

“Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has cancelled two scheduled face-to-face meetings with the club’s new chairman, Martin Broughton,” wrote David Bond, the BBC’s replacement for Mihir Bose as Sports Editor.

Bond had the same title at the Telegraph before joining the BBC, but will be best remembered by Liverpool fans from his time as the paper’s Chief Sports Reporter. From knowing full details of Gillett and Hick’s refinancing deal with RBS before it was announced, to publishing emails DIC and Amanda Staveley had been sent by Hicks, Bond was clearly getting information from people inside and outside the club during that very turbulent period.

So who would be talking to him now? Whoever it was wanted to add more weight to the campaign to see Rafa hounded out of the club. “It is understood that he [Benítez] pulled out of talks with Broughton last week and another the week before,” wrote Bond.

As has just been explained, Rafa did not cancel any meetings with Broughton, and whatever any fan thinks of Benítez, or where his future should be, the fact that someone from Liverpool is trying to smear the manager should set alarm bells ringing loud and clear.

This is about far more than Rafael Benítez. This is just the latest in a long line of examples of the press being briefed about Rafa in a way that certainly wasn’t designed to be supportive of the manager. What other lies are being peddled?

Even Bond seemed to be unsure of exactly what the story was, writing: “It is not clear why Benitez cancelled the meetings with Broughton, although the last two weeks have been affected by preparations for Liverpool’s Europa League semi-final meetings with Atletico Madrid. The first week in particular was heavily disrupted as Benitez’s team were forced to make the long journey to the Spanish capital by road and rail after flights were grounded by ash from the Icelandic volcano.”

LFC chairman Martin Broughton. With Christian Purslow.Benítez didn’t cancel the meetings, but if he had it was probably slightly more important he got on that train at Runcorn than staying back to meet Broughton. Even Rafa can’t be blamed for the volcanic ash. So why would someone at Anfield feed the BBC this “story”?

There aren’t too many candidates for the source of this latest leak. Bond said it came from a Liverpool board member: “There is some surprise inside the Anfield boardroom at the timing of Benitez’s call on Tuesday for an urgent meeting with Broughton to discuss the future.”

Bond was one of the first reporters to interview Martin Broughton after his appointment, so perhaps he is a candidate for this story being fed to the press. But Broughton wasn’t at the club when the earliest briefings against Rafa began, to other members of the press. Of course it’s always possible that somebody else told Broughton that Rafa had cancelled the meetings. Someone wary of Rafa actually getting to meet the chairman, and telling the chairman exactly what has been going on.

One subtle hint that somebody was talking out of turn came in one of the infamous Henry Winter columns. In November he wrote: “The impressive managing director, Christian Purslow, is not the type for knee-jerk reactions. But it is known around Anfield that Purslow has talked to Benítez about his style of management, notably his cold detachment from the players.”

So back in November someone from the club was telling Henry Winter that Benítez had been given a dressing-down by Purslow, that Benítez was being told how to manage his players, essentially being told how to do his job. And it’s as obvious as it looks exactly who it was that impressed this information on Winter.

That wasn’t all that Winter learned from his new source: “Liverpool can afford to sack Benítez,” wrote Winter. “Compensation would be less than £5 million under the ‘mitigating the loss’ principle if he found employment.”  Which perhaps should now have Winter scratching his head as to why impressive people would be on the phone to him angrily criticising the manager instead of just sacking him.

And it’s not as if Winter wasn’t afforded the opportunity to ask that question. No prizes for guessing which senior Liverpool official spent a good part of the bank holiday weekend frantically phoning around trying to get his side, or one of his sides, of the story over. It was almost as if he was frightened that the truth might come out. And Winter had a chance to challenge this particular Liverpool board member on where his stories didn’t really add up. But some reporters would rather just take the information they’re fed and repeat it, hoping there’s plenty more where that came from, than question what they are being told.

Having managed to get so many column inches out of the politicking of a certain LFC board member, Winter completely missed the irony of his opening paragraph: “If Rafael Benítez truly respects Liverpool Football Club he’ll leave Anfield today. The players have lost the faith, the boardroom is unimpressed with the politicking and the supporters are suffering, albeit in silence.”

When the truth does come out about a certain LFC board member and his efforts to keep the truth from the supporters, perhaps that silence will be broken. And maybe that silence needs to be broken. Maybe the efforts to keep the attention on Benítez to take it away from the failings of the Managing Director and the owners he worked for need to be emphasised a little more. And that might just be a bit messy – but what’s new? That’s how it’s been at Anfield for some time. “If he stays, the inevitable long goodbye becomes indescribably messy, distressing for all concerned and demeaning to a club of Liverpool’s great history. This is not a warning for Benítez, this is a fact,” wrote Winter. The same fact applies, but much more strongly, to the club’s temporary MD.

Bill Shankly was the man who made Liverpool great, the man who brought so much of that “great history” to the club. Nobody knows what he would have made of Benitez; chances are he would have seen good and bad in him and he could well have been saying Rafa’s time was up by now. But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out what he would have thought of the club’s owners. And it takes even less imagination to work out what he would have thought of Christian Purslow. And less still what he would have thought of the tactics employed by the club’s current custodian to force Rafa out.

Shanks would also have torn a strip off Henry Winter had he ever been unfortunate enough to cross his path. Winter wrote of Rafa: “He’s got a centre-back at left-back and a holding midfielder at right-back.” With the only two left-backs at the club injured, what else was Rafa meant to do? One thing Rafa tried was putting the right-back at left-back, which was why the holding midfielder played at right-back on the Thursday. By the Sunday the right-back was injured too, which is why the centre-back went to left-back, and the holding midfielder stayed at right-back. This isn’t a string of excuses; it’s just some simple facts. Liverpool have to make do and mend.

Christian Purlsow’s arrival coincided with spending on transfers that, going off the fees available in public, went from being “net spend” to “net profit”. Liverpool brought more in than went out last year. That’s the calendar year 2009.

When Winter used the phrase “How embarrassing,” in his article it surely should have been to describe his own willingness to stick up so transparently for his source in the Liverpool boardroom. And really his article didn’t deserve much more time than that, as went into some kind of rant out of sympathy to his new friend on the board at Anfield.

That new friend should have the balls to stand up in public and say what he’s saying privately to the press, if he truly believes it and feels it would stand up to scrutiny. But he knows that, despite claims to the contrary, most Liverpool fans either want Benítez to stay or only want him to leave because they feel he’s been worn down by the unnecessary pressures of the past few years. The vast majority of fans will always consider Benítez a hero, whatever happens.

And that is what frightens the board member. He knows that sooner or later the manager will blow him up for what he’s done. He knows that more and more people are starting to see through him. And he knows that if he sacks the manager he’ll never be forgiven.

Liverpool’s new chairman was appointed in a non-executive role. The senior Liverpool official constantly points out that the new chairman was appointed in that way, and that he has no control over the actual running of the club, that he’s merely there to sell the club.

But the senior Liverpool official fails to mention something very important about the role of a non-executive director. According to the government-commissioned Higgs report, non-executive directors “are responsible for… where necessary removing, senior management.”

Surely a senior Liverpool official briefing the press against the club’s manager, over such a sustained period, is grounds for his removal. His decision to bad-mouth the club’s owners, however accurate it might be, is hardly the best way to attract £100m of investment. And that was his major objective when appointed. Perhaps he wanted to delay the partial sale to prolong his own career as Mr Liverpool, to help build up that empire. Is this not also grounds for removal? To discuss transfer targets – even if they are his own, not the manager’s – with the press is also grounds for removal. The list goes on.

And that, Martin Broughton, is where you come in. You need to get to the bottom of this mess and you need to get to the bottom of it fast.

It’s not just your reputation that depends on it.

Tom Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Tom_Wilson

Jim Boardman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JimBoardman

Anfield Road on Twitter: http://twitter.com/anfieldroad

 

Rescuing Liverpool

Anfield, the director's box
By David Bick, Chairman, Square1 Consulting

Liverpool has potentially reached its most important historic point. The Club has now gone 20 years without winning the English League title. It has never won the Premier League. It was drummed out earlier than expected from this year’s Champions League and now, as one of the world’s biggest clubs, faces the ignominy and reality of failing to qualify for next season’s premier European competition. This is the barely believable backdrop to a club with a footballing history to die for and what Liverpool legend Alan Hansen describes as the best fans in the world.

Why has it come to this? What is to be done?

Anfield main standWe live in a litigious world, so it is difficult to call a spade a shovel. But, to my mind, the people running the club over the last two decades must bear the bulk of the responsibility and the brunt of the criticism. On a recent visit to Anfield to watch my team, West Ham, play like a pub team with a Force 10 hangover, one had only to look at the stadium to see the years of dreadful neglect at first hand. Unbelievably, there are still pillars holding up one roof!

Whether it comes down to incompetence or thoughtless arrogance at Liverpool, we have seen the club left behind by the other great clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs. They have rebuilt their stadia to high standards and, largely speaking, to capacities that accommodate their substantial fan bases. Yet all Liverpool fans have heard is talk and a string of broken promises. The other clubs have built their revenue streams or attracted owners that have given them the wherewithal to compete effectively at the top of the modern game. It seems to me that the Liverpool fans are being treated to a ‘product’ that is rooted in the 1970s.

Sadly, in very recent times, Liverpool has also been owned by people who have said much and delivered little of the stated vision. Replacing them is a very urgent imperative.

Liverpool claimed in a recent statement that it has “…overseen a significant improvement in the financial performance of the club since 2007.” Well, that’s difficult to assess. The management has not published accounts for Kop Football (Holdings) Limited – the main trading company – since the filing for the year to 31 July 2008 and, in that year, the business showed net losses of over £42m and net interest payments on debt of £35m not covered at all (let alone adequately) by operating profit – pre-player amortisation and trading – of £25m. Debt remains stubbornly near a reported £240m, so what profits are produced do not leave much, if anything, for the manager to work with, even if we believe rumours of a £35m profit for the year that will end this 31 July. In short, Liverpool’s financial structure can’t work in my opinion and, since the sale of the club in 2007, it was never going to.

If the manager cannot operate competitively in the transfer market, he has no chance of competing regularly in the Top Four. We have now seen the first concrete sign of this with the failure to even stay in the Top Four. Manchester United, a club manfully trying to cope with a similarly onerous financial structure will also, I believe, start to experience similar problems, although their state of decline is nowhere near as advanced as Liverpool’s.

What about the role of RBS in all this? One of Liverpool’s principal lenders nearly brought the entire banking system down. Previously run by a man of monumental arrogance, this bank nearly had us all wiped out and in penury. The immediate collapse of our economy was only arrested in the nick of time just under two years ago. The bankers at RBS who are responsible for the debt exposure to Liverpool can’t be blamed for that. But they can be held to account for propping up a club regime that has signally failed to deliver new investment so far. They should think very carefully before renewing a facility to a corporate customer when other comparably struggling businesses find it almost impossible to raise working capital from banks at anything other than punitive rates of interest. RBS should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Charging another fee – this time rumoured to be around £10m – won’t help the club for the sake of a six month extension to its banking facilities.

It seems axiomatic to me that Liverpool needs new, responsible owners and new top flight, football-experienced executive management.

It will not be beyond the wit of man, the new well regarded Chairman included, to find such a new owner. But first of all, Liverpool needs to stop spinning silly numbers. Rumours abound of a price being asked from £500m up to an incredible £800m, the lower of which is, in my view, way over the top for a club in its current condition and by any sensible comparison with Arsenal or Manchester United. Financially at least, Liverpool must have a new stadium if it is to have any hope of restoring past glories. But the finance for that, and any subsequent financial benefit to owners, must accrue to those who put up the money. In any case, this will not be a conventional acquisition of a football asset – it is more likely now to be a rescue.

The new owners will need to be people of high calibre. They will need to have access to very large sums of money to build the new stadium, revitalise the management and allow for a well thought through strengthening of the playing squad. They will need to have a vision and a clear understanding of what this great football club stands for. They will need to embrace and listen to the fans. Liverpool fans have a deep understanding of football and they have an unquenchable thirst for success based on a game played to its finest traditions. They are a real 12th man. The new owner will also ‘inherit’ a truly global fan base, so will have an immense platform to build on.

Right now, Liverpool is at risk of losing its manager and some of its best players, demoralised by a recent Europa Cup semi-final defeat and a poor season. While no-one is irreplaceable, such an exodus will leave a new owner with an even more difficult task. Therefore, the new Chairman of Liverpool needs to act with some swiftness. Once decline becomes precipitous, even money may not prevent the decline spiralling into permanency.

Published with full permission of the author.

Owners own, managers manage – what about the MD?

By Tom Wilson

Purslow - crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed?
“At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques”

Having failed in his mandate to deliver investment to Liverpool Football Club, a nonfulfillment that resulted in him having his remit reduced and lead to the appointment of Martin Broughton and Barclays Capital, it appears that Christian Purslow is filling the gaps in his increasingly sparse schedule by meddling in areas that don’t concern him.

Despite being a lifelong supporter and long time season ticket holder, the Liverpool managing director has, on occasion, paid scant regard to Shankly’s famous “Holy Trinity” mantra.

To all intents and purposes, it appears that the Liverpool MD, when not desperately seeking the approval of certain senior members of the first team squad, is trying to desperately compensate for his demotion of sorts by both securing his position, satisfying his ego by painting himself as some kind of “Mr Liverpool” figure, whilst at the same time undermining the manager at every turn in a childish, narcissistic fit of pique.

Not happy with just having an unhealthy influence over big hitter and Daily Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter, Christian is reputedly bending the collective ears of anyone with an outlet who’ll listen to his propaganda.

Propaganda which resulted in this piece by Sam Wallace and Mark Fleming in The Independent.

As if the seemingly deliberate timing of the article wasn’t bad enough – on the eve of Liverpool’s biggest game of the season – it also illustrates perfectly the delusions of grandeur of the former middle market equity boss, who it is believed was the source of the story. Continue reading Owners own, managers manage – what about the MD?

How was Broughton brought in?

By Tom Wilson

Liverpool have a new chairman, Martin Broughton, a highly-respected businessman with a reputation that suggests he’s not going to make a mess of his new role at Anfield. Which begs the question – how did Liverpool’s current owners – Tom Hicks and George Gillett – persuade him to take the job?

It’s just a matter of weeks since Spirit of Shankly posters went up around Liverpool describing Hicks and Gillett as cowboys, around the same time as meeting notes were being released that suggested Christian Purslow and Royal Bank of Scotland shared similar views of the much-despised duo. Although Purslow wouldn’t approve the original version of the minutes, he never denied anything attributed to him in that version.

And in that version was the claim that RBS were tired of Hicks and Gillett, tired of how they’d run the club since they arrived in 2007.

They were demanding an investment of at least £100m to reduce the debt the club and its owners had got into, and although details were never really released as to what would happen if the investment wasn’t forthcoming, the suggestion was that it wouldn’t be nice for the owners.

The only serious offer reported was from the Rhone Group, a bid of little over £100m for a larger percentage of the club than either owner wanted to give them. But with the messages being sent out by RBS, through Purslow, it didn’t seem like the owners had much choice really.

But the Rhone offer was allowed to expire, and an Easter deadline from RBS became a summer deadline.

And then the whole situation changed.

The owners found help in the shape of a very highly-respected name from Wall Street. Michael Klein, former vice-chairman of Citi Group and advisor to Barclays Capital on their takeover of Lehman Brothers. Michael Klein, formerly of Citi GroupThe Rhone Group offer was knocked back, the owners were no longer worried about the banks. Not in terms of their Liverpool FC interests anyway. And Purslow went very quiet indeed; has he had his wings clipped?

Suggestions were made that Barclays had refinanced the LFC debts, giving the owners a package worth £300m to replace the £237m already in place. Later on came suggestions that RBS had offered to extend the finance on terms the owners were very happy with because of the risk they’d lose that business to Barclays.

As it was the Barclays’ involvement was officially announced on Friday – their investment arm Barclays Capital were to find the club new owners, with Martin Broughton appointed chairman to oversee that process, and the existing bankers providing finance on terms that would ensure that sale process wouldn’t be hindered.

Klein had introduced Hicks and Gillett to Broughton. The owners were extremely impressed with what they saw, and Broughton was very much willing to do the job he’d been offered. He feels sure he’ll find a buyer for the club, and although he won’t confirm the price publicly it’s believed to be in the region of £300m (excluding debt), a significant rise on the purchase price paid of £175m (excluding the club’s debt at that time). This does seem to contradict comments by Hicks published earlier today where he suggested he’d get four times his investment back. Perhaps the issue is just how big his investment actually was.

But what about the new stadium? The whole reason the club was sold in the first place was so that Anfield could be replaced by something far larger that would bring in far larger revenues from each match.

Is it possible that Klein has agreed £300m worth of finance for the club with Barclays after all? Not in the sense of a straight loan for £300m, but as part of a deal to sell the naming rights for the new stadium.

The two largest deals ever struck in the US for stadium naming rights featured companies linked to Klein.

His former bosses Citi Group paid $400m to sponsor the new home of the MLB’s New York Mets. Now known as “Citi Field”, the stadium opened last year.

And Barclays paid a reported $400m to become the named sponsors of the new stadium in Brooklyn for the New Jersey Nets basketball outfit. To be called the Barclays Center, construction is still under way. The first shovels were in the ground last month.

The Liverpool announcement on Friday made it clear that efforts were to be made to get the stadium project back underway. Is that going to come about through finance made available independently of any sale?

As always with the soap-opera surrounding the governance of Liverpool, nothing should ever be taken at face value.

CL Teams: Liverpool v Debrecen

Liverpool get their Champions League campaign underway for the season with the visit of Hungarian champions Debrecen to Anfield.

Manager Rafael Benitez has decided to stick with the same starting line-up that beat Burnley 4-0 on Saturday.

That means Fernando Torres will be getting his support from Dirk Kuyt, Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun again. Kuyt and Benayoun (with a hat-trick) got all four of Liverpool’s goals at the weekend.

Captain Steven Gerrard plays again in the role alongside Lucas in the centre of midfield.

Mascherano missed Saturday’s match after staying in Argentina to get an injury assessed, he’s back in the squad tonight but is kept back on the bench. Fellow South American Fabio Aurelio makes a return to the squad from a much longer-term injury, like Mascherano he’s on the bench.

Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Benayoun, Riera, Kuyt, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Mascherano, Babel, Voronin.

Debrecen: Poleksic, Bodnar, Komlosi, Meszaros, Fodor, Kiss, Ramos, Czvitkovics, Leandro, Szakaly, Coulibaly.
Subs: Pantic, Szucs, Feczesin, Bernath, Olah, Katona, Laczko.

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Kick-off: 7:45pm BST

Reds confirm Standard Chartered deal

Liverpool FC’s new main sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank was announced officially overnight with a joint statement issued by the two organisations.

Standard Chartered Bank - new Liverpool FC sponsorThe deal will run for four years starting in July 2010 and was described as “the largest commercial agreement in Liverpool’s history”. The deal is believed to be worth at least as much as the one between Manchester United and Aon, which was the most lucrative in football history. This would give Liverpool £20m per season, a total of £80m per season, and a massive increase on the £7.5m per season that was negotiated with Carlsberg.

Standard Chartered are based in the UK, but the vast majority of their business is done in its “core markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East”. The bank sees the tie-up with Liverpool as a “platform to significantly step up the Bank’s brand awareness” in those regions.

The bank’s logo will be seen on Liverpool’s shirts from next summer until summer 2014.

The statement also points out that Standard Chartered “ranks among the top 25 companies in the FTSE-100 by market capitalisation” and that it has “more than doubled its revenue and profits over the last five years and has performed consistently well, delivering record results throughout the recent financial crisis”.

Christian Purslow, the Reds new MD said: “This partnership brings together two highly successful organisations with a really strong cultural and strategic fit. The sponsorship opportunity attracted a huge level of interest from a wide array of globally recognised brands and in Standard Chartered we believe we have the ideal partner to move forward and help develop our global ambitions for the club. It is a real sign of the progress we have made at Liverpool that we have been able to secure the largest ever commercial deal in our history.”

Standard Chartered’s Group Chief Executive, Peter Sands, said: “This is a great partnership. We are excited to be working with such a famous global brand as Liverpool Football Club for the next four years. This is an outstanding opportunity for Standard Chartered, our customers and shareholders, and for Liverpool, its players and fans.

“We see many opportunities to continue growing our business, particularly as Asia, Africa and the Middle East are emerging from the global downturn more quickly than the West. This sponsorship will drive a step change in brand recognition in our key markets and will provide an additional catalyst for our business growth.”

Liverpool’s association with Carlsberg began at the start of the 1992-93 season and was last extended in summer 2007 with the current three-year deal. In recent years the use of sport to advertise alcohol has been increasingly discouraged, with a number of countries banning it completely. Liverpool supply their replica kits for children without the logo and adult shirts can be bought without a logo too.

As well as Carlsberg, Standard Life will follow Candy, Crown Paints and Hitachi as Liverpool shirt sponsors.

Teams: Liverpool v Burnley

Javier Mascherano hasn’t made the squad for today’s visit of Burnley after returning from international duty with Argentina carrying an injury.

Jay Spearing doesn’t get the nod to start in his place, instead Rafa has opted to drop Steven Gerrard into a deeper role alongside Lucas, with Benayoun starting just behind Torres.

The game came to soon for Fabio Aurelio, who isn’t on the bench either; Emiliano Insua starts at left-back. Martin Skrtel makes a return to the starting line-up, with Kyrgiakos dropping to the bench, Carrager and Johnson making up the rest of the back-four.

Dirk Kuyt starts on the right, but there’s no place in the squad for his compatriot Ryan Babel who isn’t in the 18. Albert Riera gets a chance to impress on the left-hand side.

Premier League newcomers Burnley have already shown this season that they mustn’t be understimated, something Rafa already knew from his first season in the Reds hotseat.

Michael Shields is set to attend a match for the first time since he was in Istanbul for the Champions League victory of 2005. He was pardoned and freed earlier in the week having spent four-and-a-half years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in Bulgaria a few days after that final. Liverpool have rolled out the red carpet to the 22 year old on what will be a very special day for him.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Riera, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres
Subs: Cavalieri, Degen, Dossena, Spearing, Ngog, Voronin, Kyrgiakos.

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Mears, Bikey, Jordan, Elliott, McCann, Fletcher, Paterson, Blake
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Eagles, Nugent, Thompson

Referee: Lee Mason

CL Teams: Liverpool v Chelsea

UEFA Champions League, QF 1st leg, Kick-off 7.45pm BST

Yet another Champions League tie for the Reds against Chelsea kicks off with tonight’s first leg at Anfield. This will be the ninth time that the two sides have met in this competition since Rafael Benitez became Liverpool boss. And Chelsea are now on their fourth manager since Rafa arrived.

Rafa has picked what is almost his first-choice side, as much as Rafa has a first-choice side, with Torres and Gerrard part of the front four with Riera and Kuyt.

One choice he would have made differently is as to who lines up alongside Xabi Alonso in midfield. The suspended Mascherano is replaced by Lucas.

Carragher and Skrtel are at the back with Arbeloa and Aurelio as tonight’s full-backs. Yossi Benayoun is on the bench again if needed – as is Andrea Dossena, another of Liverpool’s recent scoring subs.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Lucas, Alonso, Riera, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger, Benayoun, Babel, Ngog.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole, Kalou, Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba.
Subs: Hilario, Carvalho, Belletti, Mancienne, Mikel, Deco, Anelka.