According to a report in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday, Liverpool’s 12-year affiliation with Carlsberg is about to come to and end.
The longest-running shirt deal in the Premiership is up for renewal at the end of the season, and so far talks have stuttered, and are now said to have collapsed.
Liverpool were the first British team with shirt sponsors, when they signed up with Hitachi, in 1979. In 1982 they changed to Crown Paints, before moving to Candy in 1988. In the early days of sponsorship the clubs had less power than they do now. Back then the TV companies decided that they wouldn’t allow shirt sponsors on kits if a game was televised – even highlights on Match of The Day. Later this was relaxed slightly, to allow sponsors names to appear, at a smaller size than allowed by the football league.
Liverpool’s sponsorship by Carlsberg coincided with Liverpool’s fall from dominance in English football. All of the previous sponsors had seen major honours lifted by Liverpool, meaning their brand names got excellent coverage. Carlsberg have not been so lucky for Liverpool – the club that has won the most league titles in English football has not finished top since Carlsberg came on board.
The contract is reputed to be worth £6million per year, but Carlsberg are now doubting whether they are getting the return they would like on their sponsorship. The newspaper quotes an "industry insider" as saying: "It’s a difficult club. It’s still an expensive brand but they have not won anything." They quote another "insider" as saying: "I think there are only a few Premiership clubs that can cut it on a global basis, but Liverpool is now on the fringe of that. If you look at what they won in the 20 years before Carlsberg took over as sponsor, you would have thought they would have won a lot more in the subsequent years."
Liverpool have recently teamed up with LG Mobile as "official Liverpool Football Club mobile handset partner". The Independent believe that LG may become the new shirt sponsors and claims that LG have "even been considered as a possible sponsor for the new stadium that the club is about to build."
Liverpool currently have various tie-ins with sponsors at different levels. For example, as well as their tie-in with LG, and shirt-manufacturing deal with Reebok, they also have a deal with mobile operator Orange, who are "official Communications Partner of Liverpool FC". O2 and Vodaphone currently sponsor Arsenal and Manchester United respectively, so Orange may look to Liverpool to bring themselves into the football market.
Rick Parry of Liverpool has said that Liverpool are in talks with various parties concerning the financing of Liverpool FC. Recent takeover bids have failed, yet David Moores, currently the major shareholder, has admitted that changes are needed. Sponsorship is just a part of these changes, and stadium sponsorship may be vital for Liverpool.
Just to add more problems to Liverpool’s attempts to attract a shirt sponsor – Chelsea are also looking for a new name for the front of their shirts.