Thursday, March 05, 2009

New Sponsorship Plans For Liverpool FC

Ian Ayre, a candidate to be Liverpool’s next chief executive, has revealed new sponsorship plans and a desire to push the club higher in the football world’s rich list.

Ayre, 45, was appointed, primarily, by Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks as the club’s new commercial director 18 months ago.

And with Rick Parry announcing he will be quitting as the Anfield club’s chief executive this summer after 12 years in the job, Ayre is already being touted for the job along with former FA chief Brian Barwick.

Now Ayre has confirmed a new sponsorship with the Bank of America, the prospect of three other sponsorships soon and a summer tour to the Far East for Rafael Benitez’s team.

Liverpool have extended their agreement with the BoA for a further four years, a deal worth £5m to the Anfield club.

BoA is the parent company of Chester-based credit card firm MBNA who supply Liverpool’s credit card for fans, and they announced major redundancies in December for their world-wide operation.

Ayre, in an interview with Bloomberg, the financial news agency, said: “Other transactions are under discussion.” They could involve the consumer electronics, gaming and automotive sectors.

The Far East tour has been set for July 17 to 26, and will involve matches in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

With Liverpool not involved in the newly-formatted Champions League competition next season until, at the earliest, a play-off round scheduled for August 18 or 19 and August 25 or 26 - rather than the current format of a third qualifying round -they will be able to fit in a lucrative trip to the Far East where they have millions of fans.

Liverpool, currently third in the Barclays Premier League, could well benefit from the new UEFA rule that allows the first three clubs in the Premier League to go straight into the group stages, as opposed to the current top two. The fourth finishing club will compete in the play-off stage.

Ayre clearly aims to exploit the world-wide market. According to a Deloitte report released last month, Liverpool is the seventh-richest club in the world with revenues of over £200m (210.9 million euros).

Liverpool had risen one place from the year before and Ayre says sponsorship gains made in the past 12 months mean he “would be shocked if we did not climb further.”

On the decision to tour in the Far East, Ayre said: “If you are going to build a business overseas a key part is to allow people to touch and feel the product on a regular basis.

“What is clear is that there is an opportunity for Liverpool to do much better (financially) than they had in the past.”

Asked about his possible elevation to chief executive, Ayre was non-committal. He said: “At this stage I am just committed to driving forward the commercial operations of this football club.”

Prior to joining Liverpool, Ayre had been chief executive of Total Sports Asia, who advised companies on sports and entertainment campaigns in Asia.

Prior to that he was managing director of Virgin/NTL subsidiary Premium TV having joined from Huddersfield Town where he had been chief executive and chairman for three years.

Outgoing Chief Rick Parry Wants To Stay In Football After Liverpool FC Exit

Outgoing Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry wants to stay in football and maintain his involvement in the European game.

The 54-year-old will leave Anfield at the end of the season after 12 years at the club after a breakdown in his relationship with co-owner Tom Hicks.

Now Parry is considering his future, and cannot imagine it will not be involved in the sport in some way.

Parry said: “Do I think I (still) have something to offer? Yes. I think it is inconceivable I will not have something to do with the game.”

Parry had been linked with the position of Football Association chief executive, although admits he has so far had no offers.

He is also a board member of the European Club Association - a lobby group that was started last year and represents more than 130 teams.

The organisation will next meet on March 17, where Parry’s imminent departure will be discussed.

The ECA also need to find a replacement for former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon, who resigned in January.

Parry would like to stay on until the end of his Liverpool tenure and would be interested in remaining on the ECA board “under the right circumstances”. For that to happen, he would need to be affiliated to another of the group’s 137 member clubs.

He said: “The organisation has real potential. It is fledgling but it is a kind of new beginning towards a better relationship (with football’s authorities).”

Parry confirmed that he has no plans to leave his Liverpool post early.

He said: “I am staying as long as the owners want me and that is until the end of this season. I have got no plans to leave earlier than that.”

Rafael Benitez Did Not Congratulate Liverpool For Real Madrid Victory

Yossi Benayoun has revealed Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez did not even congratulate his team after their famous first-leg Champions League win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last month.

The Israeli international's 82nd-minute header was enough to secure yet another European giantkilling for a Liverpool side who started without captain Steven Gerrard and finished without Fernando Torres after the Spaniard succumbed to an ankle injury.

But even gaining a crucial advantage going into next week's Anfield return leg was not enough to impress Benitez, who did not so much as shake his players' hands as they celebrated in the dressing room.

Benayoun said: "It was madness in our changing rooms and I had to take my mobile phone into the toilets to call my family. It was the only way I could make myself heard. Everyone was screaming and shouting, except for the manager, of course. He was his usual calm self.

"He didn't even congratulate us or shake hands, never mind join in all the hugs and backslapping that was going on. That's just how he is. He is very professional and he wants us to be the same all the time.

"He won't stand for any of us getting carried away or feeling we are superior to anyone else. My wife and young children had been jumping up and down with excitement, watching at home, but he didn't say a word to me about the goal."

Benitez's cold, unemotional approach has not always been universally welcomed by his players, with Gerrard even admitting that "a well done off Rafa" was one of the things he wanted most in his career.

But it is an approach which the Spaniard firmly believes in and Benayoun is growing to appreciate, despite clashes earlier this season when he found his first-team chances limited.

He said: "He likes keeping you on your toes. But I have come to appreciate that at a club like Liverpool you can't take anything for granted. I am learning how things work here.

"You can score a very famous goal, an absolutely crucial one, and it will all be forgotten the following day, as far as the manager is concerned. He only thinks of the next challenge, and that is how it should be."

He added: "It has taught me you can't rest on your laurels, and I am already looking at my goal in Madrid that way. For me, it will only be important if we go all the way and win the Champions League. Otherwise, it will count for nothing."

Benayoun No Longer In A Spin Over Benítez's Squad Rotation

Yossi Benayoun has revised his opinion on leaving Liverpool after finally coming to terms with Rafael Benítez's managerial style at Anfield. The Israel captain appeared destined for the Liverpool exit last summer after a debut season spent mostly on the margins of the squad. Manchester City, before the Abu Dhabi takeover, Spartak Moscow, Roma and Ajax all inquired about signing the 28-year-old before the start of this season and the Russians tried again in January as the midfielder's frustration with life at Anfield continued.

Benayoun spoke to Benítez in December about the prospect of leaving in the last transfer window but, with that inquiry rebuffed, has responded with the most productive spell of his two-year Anfield career. Until December the midfielder started in only seven of 23 games for Liverpool. Since then, however, he has started 11 of 19 and followed his match-winning performance at the Bernabéu with the goal that secured Liverpool's return to winning ways in the Premier League against Sunderland on Tuesday.

"I have come to appreciate that, at a big club like Liverpool, you can't take anything for granted," said Benayoun. "With the number of top players we've got, you accept you are not always going to be playing and that you have to give it everything when your chance comes along. That is fine with me. If I found myself going three or four months without setting foot on the pitch, it might be different. But as things stand, that is not an issue with me.

"I feel settled and I'm happy to be contributing. I am also learning how things work here. You can score a very famous goal, an absolutely crucial one, and it will all be forgotten the following day as far as the manager is concerned. He only thinks of the next challenge and that is how it should be. It has taught me you can't celebrate too long and I am already looking at my goal in Madrid that way. For me it will only be important if we go all the way and win the Champions League. Otherwise it will count for nothing."

It was following his winner against Real Madrid in the Champions League last week that Benayoun experienced the methods that prompted Steven Gerrard to admit one of his remaining ambitions at Liverpool is to receive congratulations from Benítez.

The Liverpool midfielder explained: "It was madness in our changing rooms after we won in Madrid last week and I had to take my mobile phone into the toilets to call my family. It was the only way I could make myself heard. Everyone was screaming and shouting, except for the manager, of course. He was his usual calm self.

"He didn't even congratulate us or shake hands. That's just how he is, and I am beginning to understand why. He is very professional, and he wants us to be the same all the time. He won't stand for any of us getting carried away or feeling we are superior to anyone else. My wife and young children had been jumping up and down with excitement, watching at home, but he didn't say a word to me about the goal. That's how it is with him. He likes keeping you on your toes."

Liverpool FC's Season Not Over Yet, Says Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano believes Liverpool can save their season from collapse over the next three crucial matches.

Liverpool, who brought some respectability to their fading title challenge with Tuesday’s 2-0 home win over Sunderland, now face three of their toughest games of the campaign.

On Tuesday they can reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League if they see off Real Madrid at Anfield, already holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg at the Bernabeu.

Then the following Saturday they have a lunchtime showdown with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League, followed by a home game with fourth-placed Aston Villa on March 22.

Mascherano, who played at right-back against Sunderland as cover for the injured Alvaro Arbeloa, is acutely aware of the importance of all three games, for differing reasons.

“It is important that we do not slip away in the table,” he said. “We must keep concentrating and see if we can get closer.

“We must keep fighting. We are in a competition with Chelsea for second, but we still must not give up on the chase to catch Manchester United.

“We won’t give up. Let’s not talk about the title, let’s make sure we win our matches.

“We have a very important Champions League game with Real Madrid next week and then we go to Manchester United before Aston Villa are at Anfield next.

“We must take it step by step, try to get to the Champions League quarter-finals and then turn our attention to the next two league games. The next three matches are very, very important for us.”

Liverpool needed victory over Sunderland to sweep away the gloom which had descended on Anfield following the defeat at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Boss Rafael Benitez’s own grim demeanour only emphasised how damaging that result had been to confidence around the club.

But Mascherano’s defiance summed up the players’ own determination not to let the season slip away.

He said: “The boss asked me to play at right-back, and I tried to do my best. I don’t know if it was good or not but I just tried to do my best.

“I have played as a right-winger in Argentina, but I am a central midfielder and that is where I am best.

“I knew the new role was just for one game, and I am prepared to do that for the team.

“I always try to think about the team. For this game and with the injuries we knew we had nobody else.”

He added: “We knew we had to win after what happened on Saturday. We are not too close to Manchester United, but we have to keep fighting to see what happens next.

“The supporters were nervous. We have not been taking our chances. But if they see the team playing well they will understand and help us.”

Liverpool were also lifted by the displays of 19-year-old rookie striker David Ngog and Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun, who hit the second-half goals which clinched victory.

Mascherano said: “We were all pleased for David. He is young and will be a very important player, and you can see how hard he works in training.

“It is important for him that when he does get a chance to play, he makes the most of it.”

Benitez said: “I was really pleased with the reaction of the players after the disappointment at the weekend.

“Yossi is playing well, he is a clever player. So when you cannot find space, players with good movement and game intelligence can be crucial, and in the last few games he has been very good for us.

“But I was also pleased with Ngog. I had told him beforehand I knew he would score. Sometimes you say things to give players confidence and on this occasion he was also able to show the quality I know he has.

“He is a very young player in his first season here coming from France – that is not easy for him.

“He has talent and great pace. Maybe now people will see that he can have a great future here.”

Benitez added: “We needed to lift confidence, in particular after the Middlesbrough defeat. It was also important to win at home considering the amount of draws we have had at Anfield.

“We must get three points every single game now, and I can guarantee if we can win our next league match (at Old Trafford), the race will be very, very close.

“Belief is always important.

“As for the title, let’s wait and see. If we can beat them (Manchester United), why not?”

Javier Mascherano Hails David Ngog As New Liverpool FC Star

Javier Mascherano today heaped praise on David Ngog for kick starting Liverpool’s improbable bid to haul themselves back to the forefront of this season’s title race.

The French youngster scored Liverpool’s opener in Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Sunderland and also helped set up the Reds’ second for the in form Yossi Benayoun.

Mascherano hailed Ngog’s impact on the team in what was his first league start and backed the 19-year-old to build on his second goal in a red shirt.

“It was very important for David to score because he is a young player and this goal will give him more confidence,” said Mascherano.

“You can see in every training session that he is working very hard and when he is given his chance in the team he has to try and take it and by scoring a goal and doing a good job for the team he can be happy with his performance.

“It is really good for him and I am very happy for him because he deserved his goal.”

After a goalless first 45 minutes Liverpool struck twice in the second half to ease the tension at Anfield and put themselves within four points of Man United who have two games in hand.

Though Mascherano admits it will be extremely tough to get back into a position to really threaten the league leaders he insists Liverpool will not be giving up on doing just that.

He said: “Obviously, we were really disappointed with the result at Middlesbrough and we knew that we needed to win against Sunderland.

“We are not as close to Man United as we would like to be but we have to carry on fighting to see what happens.

“There is no point in looking at the standings in the league table, all we can do is concentrate on every game, try to win them and then see what happens.

We had some chances in the first half but could not score and maybe the supporters and ourselves were a little bit nervous because in the last game we could not take our chances.

“This made it important that we scored in the second half because we knew this would help the team to play well and allow the people to go home happy.

“It was an important victory for us and we are still fighting. At the time being we are fighting for second place with Chelsea and after that we will see what happens.”

Mascherano played at right back for the first time in his career on Tuesday night as Rafa Benitez sought a new temporary solution to fill that position as the Reds boss again had to make do without injured duo Alvaro Arbeloa and Philipp Degen.

The Argentinian midfielder reckons it was only a one off but insists he is happy to play anywhere required for the good of the team.

“The boss told me that he needed someone to play in that position so I tried to do my best,” he said.

“I don’t know if I was good or not but I tried to give the team as much as possible.

“Everyone knows that I am a central midfielder but sometimes I have played on the right hand side for the national team but never before at right back.

“It was a new experience but I hope that I helped the team because that is the most important thing.

“I always try to think about the team and if the team needs me to play in that position I will try to do my best.

“I know that I am at my best in the centre of midfield but you never know what can happen and if we have some players with injuries – like we did on Tuesday night with Arbeloa and Degen – then I do not have a problem with filling in for them.”

Tommy Smith: Looking Forward To Real Madrid Night Of Cup Glory

If the atmosphere at Anfield was flat last night then it certainly won’t be next week when Real Madrid arrive for their first game ever in Liverpool.

It should be a unique occasion and one which I‘m really looking forward to.

Everyone’s delighted we are in the lead at half way with that away goal, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

It’s clear to me that Rafael Benitez excels in European football, whereas he has yet to master the League.

Part of the problem is that perhaps these days winning the English league doesn’t matter as much as it used to. It’s simply getting into the Champions League which counts and you only have to finish in the top four for that.

Don’t get me wrong – I desperately want to see us winning our own league like everyone else. But the only difference between finishing first and fourth these days is that you get a medal.

All the top sides get Champions League football so maybe that is a factor. But whatever, Tuesday will be a cracking occasion.