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Tootle's 'slug' goal celebration

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Ayre plays down Europe importance

Liverpool's managing director insists the club does not need European football to break even financially - while their shirt sponsors say the Champions League is not important because most of their target audience in Asia is asleep when the matches are played.

• Dalglish cautious over Gerrard

Ian Ayre, promoted to be Liverpool's managing director this month, admitted that failure to reach the Champions League or Europa League will hit the club in the pocket but that their commercial success meant they could cope with missing out.

Liverpool would have to finish fifth in the Premier League to guarantee European football and Ayre said: "There's no hiding from the fact that if you don't participate in European football then it is a big hit to your revenues.

"At the same time a football club like Liverpool is an institution that has been around for many, many years and commercially is significantly ahead of most of its competitors, other than one [Manchester United].

"Our revenues and the way we govern our business is absolutely geared to be able to survive and continue to prosper without European football but that's not to say we don't want it.''

Gavin Laws, head of corporate affairs at the club's shirt sponsors Standard Charter, insisted they were comfortable with Liverpool's absence from the Champions League.

He told the Soccerex conference in Manchester: "The on-field performance is nice to have, but for us as a sponsor the Champions League is not that important to us because it happens at a time most of Asia is fast asleep.''

Ayre added that the American owners were not demanding instant success.

He added: "We are a football team and we want to win and John Henry said that on the first day, but he's also been on the record as saying it's not about winning once, it's about getting back to winning on a consistent basis. It's what the foundations of Liverpool were built on in the 60s, 70s and 1980s.

"Will that happen again overnight? Probably not, but will we create something that has a strong foundation and the ability to continue to prosper? Absolutely. They are very supportive, they have done it before in baseball, and will do it again, I'm absolutely certain of that.''

Ayre refused to be drawn on caretaker manager Kenny Dalglish's long-term future in charge of the side but said he would always be part of the "fabric'' of Liverpool.

He added: "There's been a lot of questions around that but there is no person at Liverpool football club that doesn't think Kenny Dalglish is part of the fabric of the club. But as to Kenny's long-term position that's between Kenny and the football club.''

Laws, meanwhile, said Standard Charter - who are in the first year of a four-year shirt deal - would love it if Liverpool signed a high-profile Asian player.

He added: "The real power for what Liverpool could do for us, and I think for the English Premier League, is if there was a way they could nurture foreign players from Asia ... a great Asian player - you see what Park Ji-sung does for Manchester United.

"The markets in Asia and the Middle East are so nationalistic, they are very proud about their countries. One appearance from a player, say from Dubai in the Premier League, and you'd have the whole of Dubai watching it.''

He also said he would like Dalglish to be signed up as the permanent manager.

He said: "I'd like to see Kenny as the long term manager - I'm sure the club would. They are going to be talking to him if they aren't talking to him already.

"The Kenny magic is all around the world, everybody believes Kenny can take the club (forward) and that means they stay focused and that means they stay in the newspapers around the world ... we are looking for brand awareness.''


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