Reds sponsor wants Asian players at club

The bank that sponsors Liverpool wants the club to bring in

high-profile Asian players to capitalize on their marketability on

the continent, and hopes Kenny Dalglish will stay on as permanent

manager.

Standard Chartered executive Gavin Laws outlined his hopes for

Liverpool in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday,

saying the bank sees great potential for the club to increase its

exposure in the Asian market – where it does most of its

business.

”The real power for what Liverpool could do for us, and I think

for the English Premier League, is if there was a way they could

nurture foreign players from Asia … a great Asian player – you

see what Park Ji-sung does for Manchester United,” Laws, the

bank’s head of corporate affairs, said at the SoccerEx

conference.

”The markets in Asia and the Middle East are so nationalistic,

they are very proud about their countries. (Matches) become huge

events. One appearance from a player, say from Dubai in the Premier

League, and you’d have the whole of Dubai watching it.”

The first season of the bank’s deal as Liverpool’s shirt sponsor

has coincided with disappointing form on the pitch and a bitter

struggle for the ownership of the club.

Laws said the turmoil led to some positive publicity and that

the lack of Champions League action doesn’t hurt the sponsor

because matches are played when the bank’s target audience in Asia

is asleep.

The bank committed to investing 80 million pounds ($134 million)

over the next four years to replace beer brand Carlsberg as the

principal commercial backer of the club, which was bought by the

Boston Red Sox ownership group in October.

”If Liverpool were winning the league and were keeping at the

top of everybody’s minds then it’s fantastic for a sponsor,” Laws

said. ”But I would have thought that Liverpool have had more

exposure around the world this season than anybody else … without

the turmoil at the club there wouldn’t have been (the publicity).

They are a mid-table team, who have an outside chance of getting

into the Europa League again.”

Dalglish has been credited with turning around the team’s

performances since he was brought back for a second stint in charge

to replace Roy Hodgson in January. But Dalglish is only under

contract until the end of the season and Liverpool has yet to

decide whether the Scotsman, who delivered the club’s last

topflight title in 1990, will get a permanent deal.

Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayre on Thursday said Dalglish

is ”part of the fabric of the club.”

”As to Kenny’s long-term position that’s between Kenny and the

football club,” Ayre said on the sidelines of SoccerEx.

But Laws, who has discussed the situation with Ayre, said later:

”I’d like to see Kenny as the long term manager – I’m sure the

club would.”

”They are going to be talking to him if they aren’t talking to

him already,” Laws added. ”The Kenny magic is all around the

world, everybody believes Kenny can take the club (forward) and

that means they stay focused and that means they stay in the

newspapers around the world … we are looking for brand

awareness.”

Liverpool is sixth in the Premier League, four points behind

fifth-place Tottenham, which is in the Europa League spot and has

played a game less.

It means the five-time European champions are set to miss out on

competing in the more lucrative Champions League for the second

successive season.

”There’s no hiding from the fact that if you don’t participate

in European football then it is a big hit to your revenues,” Ayre

said. ”(But) our revenues and the way we govern our business is

absolutely geared to be able to survive and continue to prosper

without European football.”

And for Standard Chartered, the European competitions are of

less interest than the Premier League.

”The Champions League for us as a sponsor is not that important

for us,” Laws said. ”By the time the games are played, the major

markets we are interested in, everyone is asleep and in bed.”

And it’s in those Asian markets where Standard Chartered wants

to be selling more shirts with its brand across them.

”The market is saturated in Europe with so many clubs, how many

more merchandise sales are they going to create over the next 10

years?” Laws said. ”If the clubs want to do merchandise sales

going at an exponential rate you’ve got to be in China, you’ve got

to be in Korea really getting all the people excited about the

game.”