Liverpool league glory worked hand in glove with off field success 

Liverpool league glory worked hand in glove with off field success 
Tom Werner, Liverpool chairman,  poses with Jurgen Klopp and John W Henry, principal owner (FSG), and Henry's wife Linda Pizzuti at Anfield back in 2017. Picture:  John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

THE last time Liverpool won the league, there was no way I could have imagined that I would be a middle-aged man the next time they would achieve the feat.

The Liver Bird's fall from its perch was a long and painful descent, filled with pitfalls, jagged edges, and plenty false dawns.

The Boot-Room collapse, joint-managers, and the Spice Boys were all regrettable landmarks in the downward trajectory, much to the delight of opposition fans. But it wasn't until George Gillett and Tom Hicks acquired the club in 2006 that the demise of the club became a genuine possibility.

The exit of Rafa Benitez, followed by the short tenure of Roy Hodgson, marked the lowest point on the field for many fans. But in the boardroom, things were in an even worse condition. By the start of the 2010–11 season, Liverpool were on the verge of bankruptcy with the owners maintaining a limpet-like hold on the club while funds drained out of the club and investment in new players and infrastructure dried-up. In an unlikely scenario, one would have thought, it was the club's creditors that rescued the club. They insisted that the High Court allow for the sale of the club (so they could recoup their losses) and the court agreed, overruling the wishes of Hicks and Gillett, and the club went on the market.

At this point, the idea of Liverpool winning the Premier League seemed as unrealistic a proposition as at any point since 1990.

In October 2010 the Boston Red Sox owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), purchased a Liverpool side that had finished the previous season in seventh place and were paying interest payments on loans to the amount of £340,000 per week. It had a maturing list of players on the books and a stadium creaking from old age and overuse.

A daunting task for sure. Yet in less than a decade, they would have Liverpool back at the top of the league with a slew of European and world titles collected along the way. How did they achieve this in 10 years?

Building on the initial good work and hope brought by Brendan Rodgers, FSG made their best signing in Jurgen Klopp, the man who revitalised and reinvigorated the Bundesliga with his achievements with Dortmund.

Klopp's unique man-management talents, along with the new Recruiting Department led by Sporting Director, Michael Edwards, revolutionised recruitment at the club.

Similar to the Boston Red Sox 'Moneyball' experience, the new department commenced data-led recruitment which relied heavily on statistics to identify unheralded and importantly, value for money talent from across the globe that was willing to work the high-intensity, pressure-game that is Klopp's philosophy which saw him overachieve at both Mainz and Dortmund.

FSG owner, John Henry and Liverpool chairman, Tom Werner recognised the need to return the atmosphere and connection the fans had at Anfield. And in Klopp, they had their man, a personality that ignites passion and exuberance among the players and with the people in the stands.

No doubt, in Klopp they found the perfect candidate to succeed on the field but it was matched with sufficient spending and balanced with the promotion of new revenue streams.

An artists impression of the planned redevelopment of the Anfield Road Stand at Anfield, Liverpool. While delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic it is still an integral part of the ongoing plans to redevelop the iconic stadium. 	 PA Photo
An artists impression of the planned redevelopment of the Anfield Road Stand at Anfield, Liverpool. While delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic it is still an integral part of the ongoing plans to redevelop the iconic stadium.  PA Photo

In FSG's time at the helm, commercial revenue went up £120m, TV revenue leapt up by nearly £200m and matchday income went up £40m, by in large from abandoning the plan for an entirely new stadium in favour of the impressive expansion to the Main Stand that enlarged capacity by nearly 9000. It also provided extra corporate boxes, media areas, and conferencing facilities. This without, crucially, losing matchday revenue as the expansion was achieved without closing the original stand.

This, along with a promised extension to the Anfield Road End stand, has raised the club profile and image, making them more attractive to sponsors and advertisers. Standard Charter, Western Union, and AXA paid significant amounts to secure shirt sponsorships and kit deals at Liverpool, while longterm associates like Carlsberg, EA Sports, and Nivea extended their association with the club. In 2018-2019 alone the club added nine new sponsor partners.

Liverpool also extended their profile with new retail selling channels online while also hooking up at a local level around the world to open pop-up shops that sold merchandise. As exemplified by the LFC shop that opened in Cork before last Christmas with substantial sales apparently.

The new ambition within the club saw them turn down a renewed deal with club's kit manufacturer, New Balance, in favour of a new deal with Nike. That new deal is estimated to be worth less than £30m a season than what was offered by New Balance but is estimated to be worth £70 to £80m more a year in royalties from sales in Nikes' vastly superior retailing infrastructure, making it the third-largest shirt deal in the world. But that may take a bit of a hit depending on how well the UK and the world emerge from Covid-19.

Of course, all of this financial growth was dependent of success on the field and without Klopp and the drive of his team, then FSG would not have been able to capitalise on it with their own initiatives. However, they do have to be given credit for recognising and enacting the bid to find and secure the services of someone like Klopp. Someone who, like in his own words brought the “Boom” that has now resulted in the bucks.

Something that seems obvious when you look at it now but few clubs have actually managed to master.

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