Saturday, May 08, 2010

New Liverpool FC Kit Is The Star Of Adidas Advert

Liverpool supporters got their hands on the club’s new shirt on Friday – for free!

To mark the launch of the club’s new Standard Chartered sponsored strip, a specially arranged film shoot saw a mass shirt swap culminate with tops given away to lucky onlookers.

The idea was the brainchild of Liverpool FC kit manufacturers Adidas who were in the city to capture footage for an advertising campaign to promote the new kit.

Williamson Square was awash with red and white as 100 Liverpool supporters and extras took their positions for a series of shots throughout the day.

The shoot soon attracted interest from passers by who gathered as the action unfolded.

The chaotic shirt swap scene was followed by more controlled filming. Edited versions will be included on various websites such as Liverpool’s official site and the Adidas platform.

One shot involves a Liverpool fan swapping his shirt with an unsuspecting old man while another saw a girl run through the Williamson Square fountain wearing her new Reds shirt.

A local fruit and vegetable vendor got in on the act, kindly giving up his stall to the film crew for an impromptu scene.

The shirt swap idea is based on a similar project that was first trialled in Amsterdam 18 months ago to launch a new Ajax kit.

A spokesperson for Adidas said: “The shirt swap is a fresh and innovative idea.

“We thought it would work well in Liverpool and it’s been really well received

“We used a split of 50 extras but also 50 genuine Liverpool fans, who the club contacted.

“Getting fans involved generates a real sense of enthusiasm.”

Liverpool FC Pleased With Progress Of Rafael Benitez Talks

Liverpool on Friday night claimed that Thursday’s meeting between Rafael Benitez, chairman Martin Broughton and managing director Christian Purslow was “constructive”.

The Spaniard was hoping to be given an idea of what transfer budget is likely to await him in the summer, although it is unlikely Broughton – as a non-executive director – has the authority to give definite assurances.

Benitez was hoping to get a better idea about what the future holds both for the club and himself personally at the meeting, although unless a buyer is found it seems improbable co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett will invest any more money.

A Liverpool spokesman on Friday night said: “We are pleased that the first of what is intended to be a series of meetings took place today between the chairman, managing director and the manager. The meeting was constructive and cordial. The chairman shared his views about plans for the future of the club. There was an exchange of views on issues of concern to both the board and the manager which were either addressed or to be picked up in forthcoming meetings.”

Hicks Angry At Two-Year Sale Claim

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks is angry at the publication of comments from him which suggested it will take another two years to sell the club.

Reports on Thursday quoted the Texan as saying he and fellow American George Gillett had been owners for three years but would not be in charge for a total of five.

That was interpreted as him claiming it would take two years to sell the club he and Gillett bought back in 2007.

However, it is understood Hicks has reacted angrily to the publication of the remarks, which he does not deny making but which were part of an interview with American magazine Sports Business Journal in late March.

The Texan has pointed out the comments were made before he and Gillett officially put the club up for sale last month.

He also clarified a quote in which he said he had paid a "terrible price" for ownership of the club - he claims that referred to his American-based sports interests in the form of Texas Rangers baseball team and Dallas Stars ice hockey franchise.

His request for balance and perspective is, however, unlikely to cut much ice with the majority of supporters who are keen to see the Americans' reign come to a swift end.

That still seems some way off with the sale ongoing, with newly-appointed chairman Martin Broughton overseeing the process.

Liverpool FC Accounts Show £54.9million Loss

The extent of Liverpool FC boss Rafa Benitez’s difficulties in terms of rebuilding his squad next season were laid bare by the publication of the club’s financial accounts.

Although the figures are only dated to July 31 last year, they showed the club itself made an operating loss before tax of £16million, down from a £10.2million profit the previous year.

Kop Holdings, the company set up by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to buy Liverpool FC in 2007, continued to run up more debt as annual interest repayments on loans taken out to finance the purchase rose by £3.6million to £40.1million.

That resulted in the group making a loss before tax of £54.9million, an increase of £14million from 2008, which in turn contributed to Kop Holdings’ debt rising from £299.8million in 2008 to £351.4million last year.

Benitez, who cancelled his usual pre-match press conference on Friday in order to avoid a drawn-out grilling on why Liverpool FC’s season had been such a failure, has made it clear four or five new high-quality players, which he valued around £15million apiece, are needed to inject life into his squad.

Even a conservative estimate puts his requested transfer kitty at £50million - almost as much as the company lost last year.

The Spaniard’s only hope is for a takeover to come sooner rather than later after the American co-owners put the club up for sale last month having admitted they could not - or possibly would not - take Liverpool FC any further.

But with debts mounting every year the likelihood of a swift resolution to the financial restraints at Anfield seems remote.

In addition to the current £351.4million debt and Benitez’s transfer requirements, funding also has to be provided for the new stadium which is currently mothballed in Stanley Park.

According to the directors’ report accompanying the accounts, Anfield only has a "useful economic life" of five years - and that assessment was made 12 months ago.

With the finances in such dire straits Europe’s richest clubs may sense an opportunity to cherry-pick Liverpool FC’s top stars.

Chelsea have already been linked with a £70million bid for striker Fernando Torres, while speculation has suggested Real Madrid may be prepared to pay £35million for Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard.

And while those sales, as unpalatable as they would be to Liverpool FC fans, would generate over £100million there is no guarantee the manager would be allowed to re-invest all of the cash in new players.

The subject of transfer funding was no doubt one of the topics of conversation on Thursday when Benitez held his first long-awaited meeting with chairman Martin Broughton, brought in by the owners to oversee the sale of the club.

It was described as "constructive and cordial" but the promise of further get-togethers scheduled for the future suggests there are still plenty of issues which need addressing.

With Benitez’s escape route to Juventus seemingly being closed now the Serie A club are looking at other managerial options the Spaniard may have no choice but to sit tight and hope investment arrives in time.

But having missed out on the Champions League this season, Liverpool FC cannot afford an extended absence from Europe’s elite competition as participation alone is worth in the region of £25million a year.

As the season reaches its conclusion this weekend Benitez’s squad is looking distinctly threadbare and even five new players may not be enough to keep pace with big-spending Manchester City, who are certain to invest heavily in the summer having just missed out on fourth place.

A closer examination of Liverpool FC’s accounts shows just how much money has been wasted.

Glen Johnson Aiming For Triumphant Campaign Next Season After Recent Woes

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson is looking forward to an injury-free season in 2010-11 after a frustrating campaign in which he has struggled to find full fitness.

The England international admits that he is unlikely to be fit enough to make the Reds' concluding fixture of the season against Hull City, but is determined that there will not be a repeat next year.

"I'm pushing to be fit for the weekend but it's a bit doubtful at the moment," Johnson told his club's official website.

"You get a run in the team and start doing well and then you get an injury.

"You are then in the gym for a month or so trying hard to get over the injury, and then it just keeps repeating. I have had so many injuries this season it has been frightening but next season can't be as bad, surely."

Johnson is optimistic that he will manage to shake off his injury concerns in time to be fit to take his place in Fabio Capello's England squad for this summer's World Cup finals.

The Three Lions are expected to do well in South Africa, but Johnson is taking nothing for granted.

"You can never be too confident," he added.

"It's going to be a massive tournament with a lot of good players and a lot of good teams so you can't go there expecting too much.

"We have just got to prepare ourselves and make sure we are at the best of our ability in each game and take it from there."

Real Madrid Make £30million Move For Unhappy Steven Gerrard

Real Madrid are ready to exploit the uncertainty at Anfield with a move for Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard.

The Spanish club have already made discreet enquiries about the England midfielder, and are prepared to follow up with a £30million bid to take him to the Bernabeu.

Gerrard must decide whether now is the right time to quit Anfield

Madrid have tried before to prise Gerrard away from his home-town club but that was turned down flat three years ago. He has rejected Chelsea twice too despite getting to the brink of a move to the London club. But this time his loyalty to Liverpool will be tested to the limit.

Like Fernando Torres, the Anfield superstar is worried about the future of the club and the direction it has taken over the past season.

He has been visibly and verbally at odds with manager Rafa Benitez in the latter stages of the season, and is closely monitoring the situation over the manager’s position at the club.

Benitez held a meeting on Thursday with new chairman Martin Broughton and MD Christian Purslow, which ended in stalemate after talks over the Spaniard’s future.

Benitez looks certain to be in charge for Liverpool’s final game of the season at Hull on Sunday.

But beyond that his position is uncertain, after he failed to secure all the conditions he demanded to remain.

A statement issued afterwards suggested that further meetings will take place. But ominously it added “there was an exchange of views on issues of concern to both the board and manager” – suggesting that the unhappiness Benitez has expressed in recent weeks is mutual.

There is a suspicion that, should Benitez remain, senior figures like Gerrard, Torres and Jamie Carragher will leave Anfield. And Madrid are clearly determined to exploit that.

What is certain is that Gerrard and Torres will keep their options open as the end of the season approaches.

Neither will rule out a departure if they feel there are not sufficient resources to mount a serious rebuilding program at the club.

Even if Benitez leaves then there is no certainty either will stay, and representatives of the players are aware of interest from various clubs, including Madrid.

Manchester City and Chelsea are admirers of both players too.

Rick Parry Received Huge Liverpool FC Pay-Off

Liverpool dipped further into the red last year as their interest payments rose from £36.5m to £40.1m – as it emerged ex chief executive Rick Parry received a severance deal of more than £4m.

The annual financial results for Kop Football (Holdings) Limited were published today and revealed that the club made £4.33m in termination payments to “the former chief executive and coaching staff following a restructure of the Academy”.

It is understood to be one of the biggest pay-offs ever to a sports administrator, dwarfing the £1.2m Liverpool-born Brian Barwick received when he left the Football Association in 2008 and Keith Edelman’s £1.5m pay-off from Arsenal in the same year.

Parry, who became Liverpool’s chief executive in July 1998, announced he was quitting Liverpool in February 2009 after enduring difficulties in his relationships with both Rafa Benitez and co-owner Tom Hicks.

Dallas based Hicks at one stage publicly humiliated the Ellesmere Port born Anfield supremo, labelling him “a disaster.”

Liverpool made a pre-tax loss of £54.9m in the year to July 31, 2009, up £14m from 2008, a significant chunk of that figure being the crippling interest payments.

Turnover increased over the 12 months by more than £20m to £184.8m, a total largely attributed to increases in television revenue.

Meanwhile, operating profit – nothing to do with player sales, tax and interest – has increased by 10 per cent to £27.4m.

The information is a season old and does not include any of the figures from the record-breaking sponsorship deal that was struck with Standard Chartered.

One significant revelation, however, is the fact the club’s commercial and administrative team increased by nearly half to 275 full-time employees.

Commercial revenues, which include merchandise and sponsorship, grew by £13.5m to £67.7m. Included in this is a trebling in overseas revenues and highlights the work of Commercial Director Ian Ayre, who was made a director of the club last December.

As last year, the auditors – KPMG – have said that Kop Football (Holdings “is dependent upon short term facility extensions.

“These conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the group’s and parent company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

This once again highlights the need for significant investment or a full sale that would see Hicks and George Gillett finally leave Anfield.

Reserves Suffer Friendly Loss

Liverpool Reserves suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Badajoz in Northern Spain on Thursday night.

The Barclays Premier Northern Division season may have ended but John McMahon's side are playing in a string of friendlies across Europe before the end of May.

Spanish starlet Suso made his debut as a substitute and showed some silky touches.

The only goal of the game came from a direct free-kick which Martin Hansen couldn't keep out.

"It was a good test for the lads in a different environment and we did okay," McMahon told

"John Flanagan did really well again at right-back and it was good to give Conor Coady some more minutes in the second half.

"It was a poor goal to concede and Martin will be disappointed with it."

McMahon's side will play in Belgium next week when they take on Gent on Thursday night.

Sammy: Let's Put It Right

Sammy Lee today insisted Liverpool will do all they can to 'put things right' next season and rejoin the fight for major honours.

Sunday's defeat to Chelsea brought the Reds' hopes of a top-four finish to an end, and the assistant boss admits there has been an air of disappointment around Melwood as a campaign, in which he accepts the side has underperformed at times, draws to a close.

However, Lee is adamant players and staff alike are united with the fans' desire to see Rafael Benitez's troops bounce back strongly in 2010-11.

"It's been subdued (at Melwood) to be frank because of the realisation we haven't got where we wanted to be in this league," Anfield's No.2 told

"We don't like losing and we've lost 19 times in all competitions this season, which is unacceptable here."

He continued: "We're very confident we can bounce back next season. We have to be. Liverpool is all about success and everybody demands success at this football club - rightly so.

"We'll be doing all we can in the close season to make sure we do bounce back. Staff, players and supporters, we've just got to make sure we put it right for next season."

Chelsea's 2-0 victory over Liverpool sparked wild celebrations in the away section of Anfield as Carlo Ancelotti's side moved to within touching distance of the Barclays Premier League title.

However, Lee insists those scenes will not serve as added motivation for the Reds next term as the players already hold a burning desire to achieve glory.

"We don't need anybody's celebrations to fuel our hunger for success," he said.

"We know what we've got to do, what this club demands and what our supporters demand, expect and deserve.

"Although it is disappointing to see other teams enjoying success, we certainly don't need anything to fuel our hunger.

"We've got that hunger deep inside and we have to channel that hunger into making sure we achieve what we want - and what this football club deserves - in future."

Liverpool will wrap up the 2009-10 season against already-relegated Hull City at the KC Stadium on Sunday.

Victory over the Tigers could see the Reds claim a sixth-place finish in the Barclays Premier League, should Aston Villa fail to beat Blackburn Rovers at home.

Lee added: "At the start of the competition, we aim to finish as high as we can and if sixth is as high as we can finish, then we have to aim for that. That is what we will be doing."

Hull's demotion to the Championship was confirmed by a 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic on Monday - though Lee is well aware Iain Dowie's side will still pose a threat to Liverpool.

"They're a dangerous proposition," he said. "They've got a number of players who can be a threat to us. Although they're relegated, they'll be a danger to us.

"It's been difficult for Iain. Everybody is aware of the situation he came into, but he's worked very, very hard there. But we're just concerned with our own job rather than anybody else's.

"We've got to make sure we try to do what we have to do, which, as always, is to gain maximum points from each and every game."

Why Anfield Has Become The Hung Parliament Of Football

Whilst the rest of Britain wakes up to the prospect of a hung parliament today, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for issuing a contemptuous laugh and wondering what all the fuss is about. They have, after all, been operating in that way for the best part of three years.

The candidates for power at Anfield may have been more subtle in their respective campaigns; there were no televised debates (bafflingly held in High-Definition, as if it were needed), no leaflets through doors and no insults for Rochdale-based women. But the battle has been just as fierce; for Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, read Rafael Benitez, Martin Broughton and Christian Purslow.

The latest news out of Anfield is that the meeting between Benitez, the manager, and Broughton, the chairman he was yet to meet, HAS now taken place. After the furore over who cancelled on who, the pair - along with Purslow, who was also present - were able to agree on a suitable time to meet in London yesterday.

And, predictably, nothing was sorted out. Britain's government will take some working out over the next few days, but Liverpool's board-room is a blueprint for uncertainty.

The future of just about everyone is up in the air. Benitez is said to have been given a deadline of Monday to accept an offer from Italian giants Juventus. The Serie A outfit are prepared to offer the kind of financial freedom that Liverpool simply cannot, and the Spaniard has, smartly, refused to distance himself from such reports. He may baulk at the internal politics which operate at Anfield, but Benitez plays a pretty good game himself.

What he wants from Liverpool are assurances, and lots of them. He has a five-year contract, signed last spring, so his motives are not about personal finances. He, like just about every supporter, wants to know that the club will be sold sooner rather than later, and that co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks - the 'Margaret Thatcher' of this political analogy, if you like - will not be looming over L4 like a black cloud for very much longer.

He also wants to know how much money he will have to spend this summer - a summer in which most have accepted Liverpool require at least five quality new signings.

Of course, this being Liverpool, such assurances have not been forthcoming. How can they be when nobody really knows who is in charge at the club?

Broughton was brought in - pardon the pun - on April 16, with the instruction to oversee the smooth sale of the club. However, it has since emerged that his non-executive role means he has little or no involvement in the day-to-day running of the club.

That particular task falls to Purslow, the managing director drafted in by Gillett and Hicks to find £100 million-worth of investment, and help drive down the oppressive levels of debt at the club. He has so far failed in that particular task.

And therein lies the key issue. Whilst players from Fernando Torres to Yossi Benayoun to Alberto Aquilani have their futures in the air, whilst Benitez plays a high-risk game of cat and mouse with his superiors, and whilst the likes of Purslow and the owners attempt damage limitation and to deflect the critical glare away from themselves, the club simply cannot function with any great efficiency.

Tony Barrett in The Times this week stated that, though Benitez must shoulder a certain amount of blame for poor on-field performances, the true problem at Liverpool lies in the board-room - and in particular with Gillett and Hicks. The Mirror's David Maddock believes that Liverpool fans face a dilemma over whether they would prefer Benitez or Torres to stay at the club, such is the precarious financial situation at Anfield - one which Torres is purported to be increasingly alarmed about.

Others, such as The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel and Des Kelly, and The Telegraph's Henry Winter, see the political situation as a convenient smokescreen, there to disguise Benitez's obvious shortcomings, or enable the Spaniard to leave without fear of reproach.

The truth lies somewhere in between. Everyone at Liverpool, just like in the British government, is playing their own game, with their own agenda.

And, as is traditional with government fractures, the main sufferers are the ordinary people - in this case the Liverpool supporters. The longer Anfield remains a hung parliament, the more they will suffer.

There will be no press conference from Benitez ahead of his side's final Premier League clash with Hull City on Sunday but, like the British parliament, it is up to someone, anyone, to let the public know what is what. And fast.