We are fast approaching a time when supporting a top football club will become a paid-for privilege


Last month, Liverpool announced it would be the first sports team in the world to launch its own YouTube membership subscription.

James Milner and Andy Robertson can barely get their words out for chuckling. As the Liverpool teammates and close friends stare intently into the autocue explaining the benefits of subscribing to Liverpool’s new premium YouTube channel, they take it in turns to try to put each other off. “I think we’ve sold that, James,” Robertson says in mock-solemnity at the end, before both collapse into fits of giggles.

The pitch may be jovial, but for a club enjoying unprecedented Premier-League era success, the stakes are deadly serious. On the field, Liverpool’s 1-0 win against Tottenham on 11 January left them an outlandish 16 points clear at the top of the league. Their 20 wins and one draw from 21 games this season is the best start in the history of elite European club football. If, as expected, they end their 30-year wait for a league title in May, they will simultaneously be champions of England, Europe and the world.

For all the jaw-dropping dominance of Jürgen Klopp’s side, however, off the field Liverpool remain a little way short of Europe’s financial elite. The latest Deloitte table of football club revenue puts them seventh, behind their two biggest domestic rivals, Manchester City and Manchester United, and more than £200m behind market leaders Real Madrid. Commercially speaking, Liverpool have been playing catch-up for some years, hamstrung by a historic failure to move with changing times (as late as 1998 they did not have an official website) and an indifferent playing record.

Right now, though, they are not only the best football team on the planet, but its most admired and resonant brand: this is why the club was so keen to enlist two of …read more

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