Thursday, March 5, 2009

Liverpool announce sponsorship deal

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.

Before 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.

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