To steal an adjective from a well-known Danish brewer, Liverpool now have probably the best shirt sponsorship deal in the world.
The £80m, four-year agreement with the Standard Chartered bank that replaces the club's 17-year association with Carlsberg will underpin Liverpool's transfer budget and demonstrate that, for the first time in the era of the Premier League, they can compete commercially with Manchester United.
The Standard Chartered deal exactly equals the shirt contract that United concluded with Aon, which will also begin at the start of next season, and signals the beginning of a more aggressive approach under Liverpool's new managing director, Christian Purslow, brought in by co-owner, Tom Hicks, to replace Rick Parry, who was ousted in the summer.
Liverpool have historically lagged behind the other members of the Big Four when it comes to exploiting their brand. Their turnover of £159m may be a club record but it is at least £50m less than the figures declared by Arsenal, Chelsea and United. Old Trafford and the Emirates have between five and six times the number of corporate boxes than the 32 Anfield can muster.
“I hate words like 'brand',” said Purslow, who added that all the money raised by the sponsorship would remain in the club.
“I want Liverpool to be the best football team in the world and there is a pretty clear link between being the best team and having the best performance off the field. That has not been our position, historically, but there is no reason why we cannot be the biggest, best-run and most commercially-successful football club in the world.”
The deal with Standard Chartered, which has 1400 branches in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, will expose the five-times European champions to markets they are keen to exploit. Manchester United tour the Far East every two years and, when asked if Liverpool would be following suit, Purslow said that was “a reasonable conclusion”, adding: “We were there this summer and that is not unconnected [with the Standard Chartered sponsorship].”
Purslow said he was keen not to comment on Parry's regime, which Hicks viewed as unsatisfactory at raising large sums of money. However, in a clear reference to the shirt sponsorship deal with Carlsberg, which has been in place since 1992, but which this season will bring in £7.2m, Purslow said: “We have to strive to have the most successful commercial agreements in the market-place. We should not be satisfied with having OK agreements.”
The Standard Chartered contract suggested that Arsenal's 15-year, £100m shirt deal with Emirates might not have been the commercial coup it seemed at the time. Until 2021, Arsenal will receive £6.7m a year, which since it includes the naming rights to their stadium is much less than the benchmarks set by Manchester United and now Liverpool.
Purslow accepted that until a new stadium at Stanley Park is built — and Hicks has confirmed that no work will start until credit conditions improve — Liverpool will be fighting one-handed. “But I have to say that the debt is not as large as is often reported, it is perfectly manageable, and that even without the stadium, Liverpool is growing fast,” he said.
“Our profit this year [£44m before tax] was above what we budgeted for and recently I was with the board of the largest sports goods firm in the world, Adidas. They have five major football partnerships — Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Chelsea and ourselves. Out of that group we are the most successful club in terms of commercial performance.”