Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Thai media blasts Liverpool visit


Liverpool will never walk alone but they probably have more "enemies" here in Thailand following their visit to Bangkok last week.

While several Reds followers still have a vivid memory of watching their beloved football club draw 1-1 with their national team at Rajamangala National Stadium last Wednesday, a large number of fans and journalists are still complaining about the trip.

It was one of the most chaotic and controversial visits by a European football club. Some critics said it was fortunate that Liverpool were just runners-up in the English Premier League and the situation could have been worse had they been champions.

Understandably, many Liverpool players are millionaires who should receive protection anywhere they go. But security for their Bangkok trip was so tight that in the eyes of many it was over the top.

It was reported in the Thai press that a kid, who is around four or five years old, was pushed by a security guard and fell as she was trying to get closer to Liverpool players when they visited the Grand Palace.

I do not blame Liverpool but the organisers. The company that organised Liverpool's Asia trip was Britain's Profitable Group. The Reds' other destination on the tour was Singapore.

The company acted like an amateur. There were very few press releases from the firm in the run-up to the game. They did not care much about promoting the match probably because tickets had been sold out.

Popular football writer "Jackie", a Liverpool fan, wrote in his column in Star Soccer that Liverpool were far behind the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea in terms of marketing and promoting their image.

It's a pity that they did not have a "professional" organiser to help increase the club's value, he said.

"The tour was handled by conservative people who only thought about playing football and selling tickets," Jackie wrote.

The organisers were happy because the stadium was packed and they were not making a loss. But the club lost part of their image as it was difficult for fans to reach the players, he said.

"One of the company's directors is a former Liverpool player. May I ask if you have a vision," he wrote.

"I am thinking about sending a letter to the club's PR director that next time when they come to Asia they should hire a company which is capable of making the club look great. They should not come just to play football and take a small amount of money home."

A Thai Rath reporter who wrote under the pen name "Power Bomb" pulled no punches against the organisers.

"As a journalist who covered Liverpool's visit, I saw several things that I had not thought that I would see," he wrote in his column.

"And the one to blame was that company. They tried to work like professionals while in fact they were not!"

The organisers might have known a long time ago that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, their most popular player among Reds fans here, would not be able to join the Asia trip.

In his absence, the club or the organisers should have made striker Fernando Torres the star of the Bangkok trip.

As it turned out, the Spain international did not take part in any promotional event or press conference. All he did was visit the Grand Palace and play a few minutes.

Surprisingly, I saw on TV that when Liverpool were in Singapore, Torres attended a press conference and fans were allowed to seek his autograph and hug the popular forward.

This was probably because the firm's head office in Asia is in Singapore or the organisers thought Thailand was a dangerous place.

Liverpool commercial director Ian Ayre insisted on several occasions that the trip was not about making money but more about giving their fans a chance to see the players in the flesh. But after their visit to Thailand, one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Hopefully, Liverpool and the company have learned a few lessons from the Bangkok trip and will make things right when the Reds come next time.

COMMENT - first Singapore and now Thailand. Of course these tours are purely commercial and to suggest otherwise is nonsense. But then again what do the media expect? 24/7 access to the players? Cos that ain't gonna happen is it? It's unfortunate that much of the media coverage of the game revolves around individuals and not the team, encouraging fans to 'believe' in certain players at the expense of others in the squad. Yes, have a pop at the organisers but also perhaps the media should look at themselves. In their quest for copy perhaps they raised expectations to an impossible level?

Not sure how much blame one can assign the media for trying to give their Premiership-hungry customers more of what they want. They might just be taken aback by how tightly controlled media access is in England, especially compared to what they deal with here.

Everything the writer said about Profitable Group jives with what folks around here have experienced. If memory serves, there were all of two press releases for the Liverpool tour, one of which was for press credentials.

Too bad no one was willing to put a name to their rip job, though.
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