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.''