Liverpool FC Is 188Bet's Latest Coup


Internet sportsbetting site sponsors another major UK team

Liverpool Football Club has become the latest English Premier League club to sign a sponsorship deal with online gambling operator 188bet. The deal will run for an initial three-year period and comes after EPL champion Manchester United signed a similar partnership with betting exchange brand Betfair.

Liverpool said the deal, the terms of which were undisclosed, aimed to step up the club's profile in the lucrative Asian markets. 'Given 188Bet's presence in Asia, we will develop a number of initiatives that will mutually benefit our respective organisations,' said Liverpool's commercial director, Ian Ayre.

The agreement with Liverpool marks the fifth deal that the Isle of Man-based 188bet has signed with an English team, including shirt sponsorship deals with Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, and Chelsea FC.

Andy Scott, the chief executive of the Interet gambling company, says online gaming has been subject to the economic downturn, but it's been more resilient than other industries, and is therefore an industry that has cash in its pocket and an opportunity to invest.

Landmark deals have also been seen in Spanish and Italian territories, where Austrian operator Bwin has signed shirt sponsorship deals with AC Milan and Real Madrid - the latter thought to be worth up to GBP 18 million a year.

Football fans in Asia, who follow European and UK football with enthusiasm, can access the Internet while watching live Premier League matches, and 188Bet will attempt to tap into that market with billboard hoardings that feature both English and Asian script.

Major clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea have been cultivating the Asian fanbase with promotional visits to the region, and analysts believe that it's inevitable that more and more online companies will look at sponsoring Premier League clubs as Web and online markets expand.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Liverpool's co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks are looking for fresh investment after putting plans to build a bigger stadium on hold due to the global financial crisis. Despite record revenue of GBP 162 million in the year ended July 2008, the club's parent company, Kop Football Holdings Ltd., recorded a GBP 42.6 million net loss because of interest payments on a GBP 350 million loan used to fund the club's purchase in 2007. The loan was refinanced in July.

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