Clubs share common ground
Liverpool, Red Sox are power partners
Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers picked an interesting night for his first visit to Fenway Park, the Red Sox taking a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on a Cody Ross walkoff home run last Thursday.
Rodgers had to leave in the sixth inning of the 2-hour-47-minute contest, but some of the drama and nearly all of the terminology would have been lost on him, anyway.
“I hadn’t a clue about baseball before I came here, to be honest,” Rodgers said Tuesday. “I’ve come to watch a couple games and I’ve been able to share some experiences with the manager [Bobby Valentine]. Obviously, it’s a different sport, but the problems are similar.”
Rodgers, who is from Carnlough, Northern Ireland, might never have set foot in a baseball stadium if it weren’t for the fact that Liverpool Football Club is controlled by the Red Sox’ owners, Fenway Sports Group.
The advantages and disadvantages of cross ownership setups are still evolving, but one of the benefits is a chance for a high-level exhibition soccer match involving Liverpool and AS Roma at Fenway Park Wednesday night. Liverpool will be the “home” team but Roma also has local ties — Celtics owner James Pallotta is chief executive and Kevin Garnett is a minor investor.
“The guys had to leave [the Red Sox game] to get some sleep but some came back Sunday and I think they liked it,” said Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief commercial operator. “For the most part, there were not a lot of guys who had watched baseball before and we did a lot of explaining. But I think we got a few converts.”
Hogan is among the few former Fenway employees to cross the pond since the group acquired control of Liverpool in 2010.
“There are a lot of similarities between Liverpool and the Red Sox,” Hogan said. “The fan base, most importantly. Both have a strong following and tremendously passionate fan base. They are port towns, and a lot of Irish emigrated to Liverpool and to Boston, so there is a good connection there. Both play in relatively old stadiums — Fenway and Anfield have great histories.”
But Fenway Sports Group’s John Henry and Tom Werner did not invest in Liverpool because they wanted to acquire another logistically-challenging stadium or because they recently became soccer fans.
Liverpool’s global reach and potential for growth make the club less provincial than the Red Sox.
“One of the interesting things is, if you look at merchandise and retail,” Hogan said. “The Red Sox share it, and we [Liverpool] control it, on a global basis. If you think about the revenue opportunities, there is more landscape to cover and areas to generate revenue. The Red Sox are confined to six New England states and Major League Baseball controls a lot of the global and international rights.”
Liverpool recently became the first soccer club to sign a uniform deal with Warrior Sports, a subsidiary of New Balance. On Tuesday, the club announced Chevrolet as a sponsor.
“We also have a deal with an Indonesian airline [Garuda],” Hogan said. “That’s a great example of the global nature of Liverpool and it speaks to the global nature of the fan base, for sure.”
A near sellout is expected for Wednesday’s game, which could surpass the previous Fenway soccer record crowd — 32,161 for a Celtic-Sporting CP exhibition in 2010.
There have been few connections between the Red Sox and soccer since 1968, when Fenway also served as home to the Boston Beacons of the North American Soccer League.
Other than being under the same controlling interest, though, the operations of Fenway Sports Group’s baseball and soccer teams are separated by more than an ocean, according to Hogan.
“All of the properties operate independently,” Hogan said. “What happens to the Red Sox during the season doesn’t have any bearing on Liverpool. They stand alone.
“But on the marketing and business side there are opportunities. We have these world-wide, blue chip brands, and that allows us to go out and talk to potential partners to combine a powerful brand with the Liverpool brand.”
Rodgers, for one, has taken advantage of the partnership with this visit.
“It’s a unique situation, two clubs that are at the top level of their game, iconic clubs,” Rodgers said. “Experience is important and as a manager, you never stop learning. For me, I find it very beneficial.”
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.