PR firm hired by potential new Liverpool owners

According to the magazine for the Public Relations and advertising world, PR Week, a press relations consultancy has been engaged to brief journalists on behalf of a “bid team considering a takeover approach” for LFC.

The article, which you can also view on the Brand Republic website, says Square1 Consulting is “working with a third party involved in the possible Dubai International Capital” deal.

Square1 Sports Consulting -  screengrabSquare1 are working alongside another agency, Brunswick, who were used in DIC’s first move for the club which they backed out of on January 31st last year after learning of the interest from Hicks and Gillett. Brunswick continue to provide services to DIC.

The PR Week story also says that the “takeover by US duo Tom Hick and George Gillett was seen in many quarters as a huge PR success.” That’s quite true of course, very few fans feeling sufficiently worried about the US duo to actually raise any real concerns. They said the right things, making promises or at least implying actions that Liverpool fans were expecting from any new owners. All that started to go wrong around the time of the Champions League final in Athens in May last year.

That was when Rafa Benítez first hinted at delays in getting transfers under-way, the plan he’d agreed with the owners not being acted upon. Soon came revelations in the Echo in a Chris Bascombe exclusive that Rafa had to lower his sights and instead of having the cash to buy the strongly-linked Samuel Eto’o he’d now have to look at strikers costing in the region of £16m-£18m instead. Diego Milito was mentioned as was Diego Forlan as just two names on a list of striking targets. Rafa was going to have to sell to buy and in the end paid a fee believed to be as low as £18m (certainly not the £26.5m usually quoted) for Fernando Torres.

It was PR that allowed the owners a little more time and trust from the fans, many falling for the £26.5m claims over Torres’ fee, many feeling that Liverpool really did have generous owners, but more and more rumours about this being far from the case continued to be leaked. In November the story came out, again from Bascombe but by now working at the News of the World, that Rafa was about to be sacked. Despite a march by thousands of Reds in support of Rafa the owners continued to be given the benefit of the doubt by many fans.

More rumours were leaking out, selective denials by Tom Hicks and Rick Parry of only some of the claims made against them allowed many of the rumours to grow legs. Then came the Tony Barrett exclusive in the Echo where Tom Hicks admitted having not only spoken to Jurgen Klinsmann about Rafa’s job, but to have also offered it to him. That admission ended any lingering support from all but the tiniest number of fans. We also learned that day thanks to Tony Barrett that DIC had indeed been involved in discussion to buy into the club, something else that had been denied before. The Kop sang “Liverpool Football Club is in the wrong hands” and George Gillett was never seen again.

Tom Hicks kept battling on with his attempts to convince the supporters he had only good intentions, but after mocking Rafa in the wake of the press conference where he was clearly distressed at learning about the Hicks and Gillett plan to sack him, and after claiming the papers had made up the story about him wanting Rafa sacked, nobody really believed him. Especially so when Gillett disappeared from view, no longer having his name included on any statements issued by his partner Hicks, despite claims they got on well with each other, and the admission of DIC interest despite past denials added more weight: Tom Hicks was perceived as a liar by fans, as many banners showed, and he could no longer rely on any support from the fans.

After this he started to use a PR agency for statements relating to the club, no doubt advised that he had to be more careful about what he admitted to.

And it now seems that the latest suitors to the Liverpool name see the importance of handling the supporters properly. We won’t be caught out again, we’re determined not to be, and a PR agency won’t catch us out either. But used properly the PR agency can help to smooth the takeover through, ensuring the truth comes out without any ambiguity or promises that can’t or won’t be kept.

All the indications at the moment are that a takeover is extremely close, although it is still unclear exactly what the details of that takeover will be, with the strong possibility that Hicks would stay on as a minority shareholder still not fully ruled out.

The Square1 agency have experience of dealing with PR for football teams over the years, including work carried out by the Holborn PR company they acquired recently. Their Square1 Sports division is headed by their sports director Paul McGoohan who was once the news editor at Sky Sports News. He said at the time Square1 Sports was set up that they have the skills required to help clubs out with their public relations: “We aim to bring the skill sets of the city to the sports business industry. Clubs with corporate issues, from financial reports to boardroom changes can come to us – and given our links to the city, we can also provide corporate and financial counsel.”

The division’s most recent big name clients have been Randy Lerner who took over at Aston Villa and Thaksin Shinawatra, once linked with a takeover at Anfield but now the owner of a rejuvenated Manchester City. Shinawatra was the subject of much negative press, which Square1 dealt with on his behalf. One example of a statement they had to issue was issued by McGoohan, who said: “Dr Thaksin Shinawatra has not been found guilty of any of the allegations made against him and as such is an innocent man. He has bought a public company in the UK and complied with UK law. In addition, he has complied with Premier League rules. He has shown his commitment to Manchester City by buying the club and investing in new players using his own money.”

McGoohan also had some interesting words on football club takeovers when the sports division was launched: “Purchasing a football club is different to acquiring any other business because of the fans and their emotional attachment to the product. Our role is predominantly about making the fans and the public understand who these guys are and what they want to achieve. Likewise it is important for the owner to understand the central part the clubs play in fans lives.”

Getting the owner to understand the importance of a club to its supporters isn’t difficult to achieve – the trick for the PR company is to make it look like the owner actually cares about this importance. And if the next owner of Liverpool doesn’t care about that importance, no PR company will find it easy to conceal for too long.

20 thoughts on “PR firm hired by potential new Liverpool owners”

  1. That’s enough…

    I’ve been one of his biggest supporters but Benitez has to go. 15 minutes for Gerrard? Not enough. This is a very significant result. Nothing to do with the owners…. Beaten by Barnsley – for God’s sake. Get a grip.

  2. Unfortunately I am Benitez biggest fan but this is terrible and I think its time to go. New ideas needed and a fresh approach

  3. This must be it. If Liverpool don’t beat Inter on Tuesday and end getting beat, Rafa must surely go. Substituting Babel smacked of arrogance. Sorry, you don’t remove your best player and bring on an over-paid, out of form, and over-rated Harry Kewell.

    We’ve become a joke under Rafa. At least under Houllier there was some promise until he fell ill. Now it’s down hill all the way.

    Third rate…that’s how we’ve become. Losing today was humiliating and I can’t see the players recovering for Tuesday’s match.

  4. Could Rafa of done a deal with DIC in the wake of the owners approaching another manager.I dont think Hicks and Gillett can afford the hit of not entering the champions league, so they will have to sell

  5. have to agree, its finally dawned that the ownership did indeed have a bearing on results, but how many more humiliating performances do we all have to sit and watch before rafa is sacked due to FOOTBALLING reasons.Luton,Havant and now Barnsley is more than a disgrace.Scraping past Derby,dropping points to Wigan at home,throwing away i dont know how many leads this season,i really cant find words to describe how im feeling right now. Im dreading work Monday, ive never felt so disapointed in a long long time. Rafa appears over the last few years to be another overated manager who maybe,just maybe was lucky in Istanbul. it was Gerrard who inspired that famous win, not Rafa. Time to go,and he can take as many of our pathetic players as he wants bar Gerrard,Carra,Torres and Reina.

  6. I was also a Rafa fan untill he started to make some realy dumb decisions this season but this one against Barnsley is the last straw. He took off our best player Babbell and put on his best friend Kewell. Lucas was missing in action and Crouch was not even in the game.
    Only for Carra we would have no defence, Finnan and Hypia are so slow they should be in wheelchairs it’s probably one of the most emarrassing performances this season and we have had several
    For Sale
    One Manager, (Rafa the Rotator)
    Crouch, Veronin and Kuyt
    Finnan, Hypia, Riise, Kewell and Lucas

    We need a new face and a fresh start all this time we have been blaming the Ownership when all along it was the Manager who is letting us down.
    I am angry and pissed off

  7. You know the more I think about it Rafa is not a stupid man he probably wants to be sacked so he can Manage the Spanish team, weel Rafa I think you may get the first part of your wish sooner than you think

  8. Absolutely everything is wrong with Liverpool at the moment. The owners have punched well above their weight and can’t really afford the money needed to take us to the next level, Rick Parry is not decisive enough to lead the club in all things financial and Benitez is flawed especially without Paco by his side to tell him where he is going wrong. Some players are totally hit and miss with their performances. I liked Voronin when he first came to the club but now he looks totally inaffective. Kuyt is a brilliant defender but when it comes to scoring goals he’s lacking due to the fact he’s huffing and puffing on the half way line chasing shadows. Lucas is another that I like but he needs far more time to get use to the premier league as he gets lost in the midfield too often. Although Babel played well today, this is few and far between. He seems to be quite clumsy at times and relys too heavily on his right foot which makes him predictable. Our first ever Brazillian at left back lacks pace and composure. To be honest if we were going to sign a Brazilian I’d rather have Mirandinha, even though he’s 50 odd! The only players that put in the effort are Gerrard, Carra, Masch and Torres. Yossi is OK and so is Crouch, but the rest can take a run and jump!

  9. There are two things here –

    1. The owners have not delivered but I doubt any manager would break into being genuine Premiership contenders with this squad of players. They lied and Hick’s crossed that of unprofessionalism in revealing talks with Klinsman – they both should go.
    2. Benitez should be achieving much more than what we have witnessed even with this squad of players. We were never going to seriously contend for the very top but should be a clear 4th in the league and comfortably in the 6th round of FA Cup….with no replays, no headlines of dodgy performances. I have been patient with Benitez so far – having some faith that the rotation would reap rewards come the business end of the season. Clearly this is not the case and in fact we are regressing. Luton, H&W and now Barnsley (even a draw) is unacceptable and for that Benitez must also go.

  10. Yes I agree, it’s time, we need a new manager and new owners!! A fresh start is needed and if Rafa wants to take his pals with him, let him do so but we need to fight for guys like Carra, Skrtel, Gerrard, Babel, Benayoun and Torres. In my 30 years, this must go down as the biggest dissappointment ever……

  11. I’m sorry, but it’s time for a fresh start for everyone. My patience has finally snapped with Benitez and it’s time for him to walk.

    I feel a lot of the fans are still misty-eyed over the Champions League win back in 2005, but since then we’ve been on a steady decline.

    The fact is, Benitez won the Champions League with Houllier’s team. Baros, Cisse, Riise, Hyypia, Traore, Hamann, Smicer, the list goes on.

    Now since then, Rafa has made his own changes to the team and quite frankly, I don’t think he is the “great” that everyone seems to think he is.

    He’s bought countless sub-standard players, his rotation policy is a joke and the signs are now that he has lost the dressing room.

    The Yanks haven’t helped, but all this crap about the Liverpool Way is a load of nonsense. It was the Liverpool Way that left us behind in the first place.

    While the Mancs were busy upgrading their ground ensuring they would earn megabucks what did we do? We plodded along and now look where we are.

    Whatever you say there have been countless bad decisions at board level and in the dugout.

    It now needs a clean sweep in the summer. DIC need to come in as quickly as possible, because the fans’ takeover is just a pipe dream.

    Although great to be taken over by the fans, what happens when you need somebody to dig their hand in their pocket and make a top drawer signing?

    We need big investment meaning DIC are the only real option. But I’m reluctant as I’m not sure about their motives, either. But certainly, the Americans can’t stay, I don’t see how they can after all the protests.

    I’m confident once they get a firm offer, they will walk and I hope Benitez walks too, because at the minute we are suffering on and off the pitch.

  12. dont you think of all the bleating Benitez makes,its actually Rafas own sqaud of players, his signings that are pathetic.i hate to say it but i wonder just what the hell Torres is thinking when he isnt even put on the bench. As for Gerrard, i seriously think if Rafa doesnt go then he will, and i agree with Mark Rodgers on Paco, ever since he left Benitez has been consistently unbeliveable in making poor decisions.Maybe Paco was our manager…. i think when the owners admitted talking to Klinsmann, every Liverpool fan agreed to support Rafa in what was a very bad bit of PR for the club and to unite behind Rafa. Well Rafa, you aint bombproof mate, if the owners had not caused such mayhem,i think maybe you would be sacked by now in much the same way as Mourinho and Jol did.
    I hope Madrid come back for him, cuz im one Liverpool fan joining forces with what appears to be a vast amount of fans wanting him out now. Its gone stale, we will win nothing this season and finish 6th.UEFA Cup football next season is a scary thought. Consider this, we are in the UEFA Cup while Rafa is sitting on Madrids bench,he is the most lucky bloke i think ive ever layed eyes on

  13. benitez should be given at least one more season. you sound like a bunch of moaning children with no sense of perspective or responsibility. liverpool supporters have always been talked about as being mature and knowledgeable about the game, but the more shite i read like that above, the less i buy it.

  14. As i stated and was slated for saying…….he has got to go. Once again Europe takes priority for our manager. How many more games will Kuyt get? Man Utd get closer and closer to our 18 titles and we are expected to keep the faith with a manager who’s sole aim every season seems to be the Champions League. People can put up facts about his spending how in reality he hasn’t had as much as chavski and manure but the fact is its rafa’s team he selects them he rotates them and he is to blame along with some of the players for the absolute complete shite we produce every week.

    We are going backwards.

  15. It’s the Corys of this world that are the problem and this whole Benitez is a “messiah” issue.

    He has hardly covered himself in glory in all of the baiting with the Yanks. I mean that infamous “I’m coaching my team” press conference was a joke.

    Why should we give him one more season? Just what has he done to deserve another season?

    If you can put up with another seven or eight months of rotation, buying sub-standard players and baffling tactics, then you are a braver man than me.

    And I agree with the comments about Gerrard, his body language speaks volumes.

    The players have to take some of the flak, but they are not helped by the constant tinkering.

    We keep on hearing the same old answers from Benitez which says to me that he’s run out of ideas.

    I would love to eat my words, but I can’t see him turning it around. I just can’t.

  16. How about this ………… Rafa is on a retainer from DIC to purposely derail Liverpools season in order to devalue the club so that DIC can purchase at a much reduced price. Poor in league, out of all but one Cup comp now, and I suspect we will fail to progress any further in the Champs league thus dropping the value of LFC further. In swoop DIC to purchase at a better value price… Then pick up from where DIC left of in Jan 2007… Backing Rafa, investing in higher quality playing staff for first team with money they have saved in buying club …. Clearly this is a theory but in the cut throat business of Club takeovers its as likely as anything else… Good conspiracy or complete nonsense?? YNWA

  17. Cory give your head a shake lad the facts speak for them selves I supported Rafa and the players like many other fans when the Yanks started playing games with our club but Rafa’s rotation policy and his crzy substituion of Babell was the final straw. We need som ebig changes on and off the field if Liverpool is become one of the top clubs again. Get on board Cory and open your eyes.

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