December 4, 2020

FSGs naming rights decision breaks Liverpool tradition and hints at Anfield Road End future – Liverpool Echo

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/liverpool-fsg-naming-rights-anfield-19301999

Liverpool’s move to their new training ground in Kirkby was one for the ages.

After 70 years at a venue that has since become iconic, the Reds upped sticks and officially left their Melwood base last week.

The switch to the £50million complex represents, what Liverpool’s managing director, Andy Hughes, labelled “a major, long-term investment in the future of the club” as the champions of England continue to put their best foot forward both on and off the pitch.

And while the move itself was indicative of a club who aren’t prepared to be held back by the allure of tradition, the re-naming of the place itself provided a more subtle hint at the same sentiment.

For some time, as construction rumbled on, there was some speculation over what the training base would be christened.

That was until last month when it was announced that Liverpool’s much-anticipated future home would be known as the AXA Training Centre.

The insurance firm took over from Bet Victor in 2019, signing a three-year deal to become the Reds’ training partners.

Liverpool initially struck a four-year deal with AXA in 2018 which saw them become the club’s first global insurance partner.

The link up proved so successful that the French company jumped at the opportunity to strengthen their bond with the club.

And on October 27, it was revealed that AXA would have their name on the new state-of-the-art Kirkby campus.

“AXA couldn’t be prouder,” said managing director of the company’s UK and Irish division, Claudio Genial on Tuesday.

“It is great to be the official training partner and to see all the club’s achievements over the past few years, which have just been fantastic.

“More importantly we do share the same values and visions for how we run and how we look at ourselves.

“It is a great partnership because we align so much. It’s a fantastic moment and I couldn’t be prouder.

“I can’t wait to see all the good things that come out of this.”

Liverpool’s chief executive officer, Billy Hogan, said the naming makes “perfect sense” as the club explore further avenues for revenue increase.

Hogan said last month: “The expansion of AXA’s partnership to include the naming rights of the club’s new Training Centre makes perfect sense.

“We have already seen their emphasis on driving health, well-being, confidence, and self-belief and so deepening their relationship in the field of training makes this partnership a great fit.”

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The financial details of those naming rights have not been disclosed, but Liverpool’s decision to essentially slap some advertising onto their training ground represents a shift in focus to many.

Moving away from the heritage and the prestige that Melwood was shrouded in, the call to create a new training base just a few miles away with naming rights sold to the highest bidder is a very modern trend.

Traditionalists may baulk at the idea, but naming rights have been part of the wider discussion inside the corridors of Anfield for some time.

Back in 2016, as the Reds’ then chief commercial officer, Hogan flew to China to discuss the imminent opening of the Main Stand.

“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,” Hogan told the ECHO at the time.

“We’ll be looking to bring in a number of new partners. A naming partnership for the stand would make sense.”

Figures varied between £7m-£9m-a-year over the next decade, potentially bringing in as much as £90m, but those plans never came to fruition.

Instead, the club were convinced they could offset the shortfall by sponsoring the individual lounges instead for the grand opening in September of that year.

Plans to expand the Anfield Road have been pushed back by 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning construction will begin, at the earliest, in December 2021.

Liverpool were not against naming rights for the increased stand and were continuing to explore their options earlier this year.

Given the developments on the AXA Training Centre since, it is unlikely that idea will have been shelved indefinitely.

Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group have, quite understandably, never had any appetite to sell naming rights for Anfield itself.

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Giving one of the most famous stadiums in sport a new moniker akin to the Emirates or Etihad would not go down well with the club’s local or international fanbase.

However, with the next stage of Anfield’s redevelopment perhaps next up on FSG’s agenda, naming rights on the new stand is an avenue the Americans could consider in their ongoing pursuit of growth.