Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Football : Hicks bullish about Reds' finances

Liverpool's American millionaire co-owner Tom Hicks has dismissed concerns about the club's financial health and poor start to the season, saying the Reds have never been stronger on or off the pitch.
Hicks has promised to reduce the English Premier League team's debts and significantly strengthen the squad after revealing an estimated $43 million sponsorship income from British bank Standard Chartered and Danish beer Carlsberg next season.
Hicks also maintains that Liverpool operates as a "smart club'' unlike Manchester City, whose business plan he branded unsustainable after an offseason of heavy spending.
Cash flow
"You have to look cash flow rather than accounting and we intend to operate Liverpool where it has a very strong positive cash flow so we have the resources to be as competitive as possible on the pitch - that's our commitment,'' Hicks said.
"We had strong, positive cash flows last year. Our debts levels are at a very comfortable level and we are going to continue bringing it down.
"Our goal is to have less debt than any of the top clubs and that's a commitment we have made and will continue to make.''
Hicks, along with fellow American co-owner George Gillett Jr., reduced the club's debt to around 411 million dollars in July.
Manchester United, who beat Liverpool to the Premier League title last season by four points, have an estimated debt of almost three times that amount.
Manchester City's free-spending Abu Dhabi owner has spent more than 197 million dollars since May strengthening the team.
"It's not sustainable at City, they won't continue to invest like that as it doesn't make good economic sense,'' Hicks said.
"Hopefully they will make the improvements they need to make and then run it more like a business. The smart clubs operate for the long term and you have to look at who have had success for many years.''
Brand power
Liverpool announced a shirt sponsorship agreement on Monday with Standard Chartered and Hicks anticipates a new deal from next season with Carlsberg, who have been the club's primary sponsor since 1991.
"We are seeing for the first time the real power of the brand and the power of a well managed club,'' Hicks said.
"I feel very good about the entire club. The total sponsorship contracts should probably bring in 25, 26 million pounds of incremental revenue a year. It's a huge development for the club.''
Standard Chartered will bring in at least 35 million dollars (21 million pounds) each year from the 2010-11 season by replacing Carlsberg on the shirts.
Hicks expects the company to contribute even more than that as the bank acquires new business globally.
"It's not just the 21 million pounds that we will develop from the new sponsorship agreement with Standard Chartered because we will have an additional two or three million pounds for the Infinity part of the deal with Standard Chartered,'' Hicks said.
"We have an existing contract with Carlsberg until the end of the season. Between now and the end of the season we will finalise new arrangements where we will retain the Carlsberg special sponsorship packages and pour Carlsberg products in the stadium. They will be one of our key sponsors, just not on our shirts.''
Transfer window
Hicks expects manager Rafa Benitez to be contacting him and managing director Christian Purslow about using some of the revenue to buy players in the January transfer window.
"Knowing Rafa Benitez I suspect he's got his eye on part of it,'' Hicks said.
"As we build our revenues it gives ability to be more competitive on the pitch and, this is a very important one, but we think we have other opportunities in the future as well.''
Having already lost two games this campaign - the same number as in all of 2008-09 - the Reds are fifth in the standings, six points behind leaders Chelsea.
"Everybody involved with Liverpool wants to win the Premier League, it's been too many years and it's our goal"
Tom Hicks"Everybody involved with Liverpool wants to win the Premier League, it's been too many years and it's our goal,'' Hicks said.
"I've been in sport for 15 years and sometimes you have to do things to get the players' attention to wake up and really get focused.
"Maybe we have learned the lesson (from the losses), certainly the way we played on Saturday (beating Burnley 4-0) showed that we have. We have stability and the nucleus of the team.''
Uncertainty lingered over Anfield last season as Benitez's contract negotiations dragged on, but he committed himself to the club until 2014 and key players like Fernando Torres followed him by signing new deals.
"Everything is very stable. I think the management situation at the club has dramatically improved,'' Hicks said.
"There is a real sense of optimism.''

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