Liverpool's commercial efforts in the past four years have largely been impressive, with a variety of new partners brought on board and a whole raft of new sponsorable properties created and sold off. (Official hardwood floors of Liverpool FC, anyone?) While this glut of activity has had a positive effect on the club's bottom line, it has also brought with it concerns from those who worry the spirit of the game has been lost in all this big business.
Chief amongst these concerns is that with the pending refurbishment of Anfield, naming rights to the stadium may be the next thing available as a lucrative sponsorship. Fans might be mildly annoyed by having an official coffee, an official sandwich, and an official outdoorsy clothing outfitter, but the idea of selling off a key part of the club's history to the highest bidder is exponentially more unconscionable. Fortunately for fans, the club have long been aware of these fears, and are trying a different approach.
"The new Main Stand is going to be a big focus for all of us,” said Billy Hogan, Liverpool's chief commercial officer, in an interview with the Liverpool ECHO. "We wouldn’t consider selling naming rights for the stadium as a whole but in terms of the name of the Main Stand that’s something we will look at. We’ll be looking to bring in a number of new partners. A naming partnership for the stand would make sense."
It's a compromise that will satisfy some fans while likely upsetting others. Many won't want any part of the stadium named after a commercial partner, while others will feel it's an acceptable option if it means that Anfield stays Anfield rather than becoming the Dunkin Donuts Stadium. Still, Hogan sees similarities between the redevelopment at Anfield and the work he was a part of in Boston as FSG refurbished Fenway Park over a decade.
"The fact that we’ve been through this process at Fenway Park means we’ve hopefully got that experience to take advantage of," Hogan explained. "If you go back four years to the day when FSG acquired the club this was one of their major issues – where the long-term home for Liverpool would be. Would it be a new stadium in Stanley Park or a redeveloped Anfield? A lot of people looked at what FSG did with Fenway Park. They have that experience of redeveloping a famous old sports stadium."
Naming rights to Fenway were never sold, but Hogan himself oversaw commercial deals that included securing a sponsor for the famous Green Monster, Fenway's left field wall. It's a fine balance to get right, but Fenway's redevelopment has largely been considered a success, which should bring some comfort to Liverpool fans who are worried about how much of their club's stadium will end up covered in corporate logos.