An article in the business section of the Independent today tried to show that Liverpool were going to be in a crisis soon due to a failure to find a sponsor.
The article was headlined "Liverpool faces replica relegation" and was written by Abigail Townsend. A careful read of the content shows that it may be making something out of nothing.
The article, in summary, says that Liverpool are unable to secure a sponsor for next season, and that in turn they’ll not be able to produce replica kits for next season, meaning they’ll have to pay Reebok a penalty charge as they’ll not be able to make kits to sell to fans.
Nobody has actually made public the current status of negotiations – the deal with Carlsberg ends at the end of this season. Liverpool have been with Carlsberg for 12 years, but the stories go that they don’t have any intentions to renew this again. The Independent reports this with a slightly different spin, saying the "12-year deal with the brewer is understood to be on the verge of collapse". It also says that Liverpool have, "so far failed to secure a replacement.
Liverpool have certainly not announced a new sponsor for next season – but that’s not necessarily a sign that the deal hasn’t already been signed. According to the Independent though, Liverpool now face problems.
The article goes on to quote "an insider at a rival Premiership club", who says that deals need to be signed by the end of March to get shirts ready in time for the new season. It then says that this deadline could actually be extended by a month to the end of April. This insider says,
"They can’t push it much longer. It’s going to be difficult to get it out for the start of the season at this stage. It really is cutting it fine."
Which Premiership club are they from? Chelsea and Everton both have reason to upset the apple-cart for Liverpool right now if they can. If the insider was from one of those clubs then we hope that the journalist checked with some other clubs for information.
Liverpool brought out a special shirt for the Champions League a few years back – an exercise they’ve not repeated since. Liverpool didn’t have a lot of time from playing their qualifier to playing their first group game. They obviously wouldn’t have been using their new shirt had they failed to win in the qualifier – so the time-frame then was really short. Chelsea only announced their new deal two weeks ago – so they were "cutting it fine" too then.
Next up, the article starts to throw more worry the way of Liverpool fans. Or tries to. With no kits to sell, Liverpool "may have to compensate kit supplier Reebok." Who says so? A "sponsorship expert". We’ve not worked out what a sponsorship expert might be, but they know that, "If the team is wearing something that isn’t available in the shops, it’s a massive negative for Reebok. It could result in some sort of payment to Reebok and that would be a pill Liverpool would have to swallow."
Obviously any compensation along those lines would already be written into the contract Liverpool have with Reebok. In fact if anything, if Liverpool went to Adidas or Umbro and asked them if they thought they could get a new kit out before next season I’m sure they’d say they could. The onus would be on Reebok to produce a kit at short notice – if not then Liverpool would probably be able to cancel the contract with Reebok.
The paper then says it knows who Liverpool will be signing up with. It says the Reds are "expected to eventually sign Korean electronics group LG." Various names have been mentioned elsewhere – including Orange – but LG have already joined Liverpool as a co-sponsor.
To put one more piece of doom alongside the gloom of the article, there comes a quick mention of a sharp drop in income from the new sponsorship deal. According to the deal, the Carlsberg deal is worth "around £6m a year". The new deal, according to "sources" will be much lower, with figures being discussed of "between £2.5m and £4m a year".
The final line in the article tells us about how Liverpool’s semi-final result on Tuesday is going to make a big difference to negotiations.
When Liverpool changed sponsors in the past, the home shirt remained unchanged apart from the sponsors name. The actual design of the shirt was the same. The way that football kits are produced, the sponsors name is added to the shirt as pretty much the final part of manufacture. The current red shirt still has another season to run. There’s every chance that Liverpool shirts without sponsors names on have already been produced – and the new name is all that needs to be added.
The away kits are generally released annually, but where they coincide with a new home kit they are released very late in the day. In fact it’s not at all unusual for Liverpool to be playing in away kits in pre-season that aren’t yet on sale to the public.
Overall, we feel that the journalist may have been fed a little mis-information in order to get a story into the papers. The journalist is not a sports reporter as far as we can tell. There are many reasons why a deal may not have been announced already – and a club like Liverpool will have a deal lined up – that’s certain.