Ambition Opportunity and Synergy - I'll take the Thai Road

Posted by Armin on May 15, 2004, 10:47:34 AM

Amidst all the fearful speculation, I think the positive aspect of the proposed Thai deal has been lost.  I think it's a wonderful opportunity and here's why. Note, allow me the caveats first! - we haven't seen the full details as yet but I'm cautiously optimistic about the Thai bid and wanted to explore the postives aspects.

The key word is 'Synergy'. Business Management types often use the term. Here is the Merriam definition:

1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.

I think there is a potential synergy at work here between LFC and Thailand. The more I think of this opportunity, the more I want the board - and the fans, to seize it.

Over the past couple of days I have seen Thailand and its regime portrayed in wholly inaccurate terms. Thailand is actually a great country. Easily the best run in the region and with a growing economy and sense of national pride. The Thais are great people, friendly, peaceful and good to do business with. The country is well run and relatively prosperous. They have developed rapidly and with the exception of the SE Asian economic crisis of a few years ago have enjoyed steadily rising incomes. This is not Myanmar or Indonesia under Sueharto.

There are human rights concerns, they are minor if viewed in the context of the region (that is not saying they are not significant). It is for each person to research the issue and decide for themselves. I won't tell anyone what to think but I personally have no moral objection to a linkup of this sort with the Thai sports ministry and private investors. I suspect that the furtherance of Human Rights issues in Thailand is directly related to the extent of interaction with the outside world and no condemnation or ostracising of a peaceful democratic and well run nation is likely to win the argument.

The Thai people are seriously mad for English football, us and Utd in particular. They simply cannot get enough of it (check the Bangkok post for extensive football reports) and are likely to spend their cash on English footy regardless of whether LFC are involved there or not. Due to several reasons (especially counterfeiting being rife), overseas clubs acting alone are unlikely to make much money in the Thai market. Local partners with good political connections are essential if we want the club to see any benefit from the millions which Thai fans will spend on English football.

If you are worried about the principle of surrendering the rights (as Steve Morgan has attempted to play upon) then don't be. We stand to do a lot better with Thai partners than without. So Liverpool will benefit from an overseas marketing operation that should see us become 'the' premier league club of choice for millions of people in South East Asia. Over time, the clubs profile and earning capacity could potentially soar. This is the best aspect of the bid for LFC as it promises to create a long term income stream that will continue to strengthen the club year after year. Those investing in us will have an interest in our success as they will share in it.

What about the Thai people however? None of us want to see Thai Liverpool fans exploited after all do we? This is the second part of the synergy.

What they don't have is any real pride in their own national league or setup - and long term thats not good. They need to develop their own talents and national league and raise standards - if the Thais get the kind of national team they deserve they will go bananas - and I'd like to see them do it as they deserve a decent side.

To do this however the Thais need to stop looking down on their own domestic footballers - in many ways idolising our players is hurting the developnment of their own game - and I think their sports minister has realised this and decided to use the interest in foreign football and turn it on its head to help stimulate the Thai game. Enter Liverpool, along with Utd the most popular club in the country. If we lend our expertise and brand to the national acadamy the Thai people will take it much more seroiously. Talented Thai footballers will be encouraged and the game over there may get the push it needs to develop.

The more I've thought about it the more I think this idea might work. There is no reason why given the correct coaching and the opportunity for the best to come overseas that Thailand should not start to produce world class footballers. The problem is spotting them early enough to expose them to the latest thinking and training methods. We can help do that. Obviously we can't promise them a place in the team but they can come over and maybe we can do a deal with Crewe or Marine etc and give them a taste of English football. There is a large enough pool of players over there to make this a mutually beneficial exercise.

I know many will recoil from this kind of thinking and I can well understand the reasons why. Its almost like the moment when a parent realises the child is growing up - this is the moment when LFC, a club rooted in tradition is making perhaps the biggest stride towards becoming a global power that any UK club has ever done. I think however that this is an inevitable process and that in the Thai people we have found one of the best partners that we could possibly want. I think we can help each other, I hope we have the courage to take the opportunity. To an extent this is going to be difficult for many of us here in the UK. This is the logical result of the globalisation of English football, yet we are already a global community here on RAWK and elsewhere in the online world, and I for one like it that way.

I'm interested in what LFC fans overseas have to say - I was one myself for a long time after all and being away gave me a different perspective on the game and how I see LFC. I don't feel threatened by opening the club up to the Thai people because I know they love the institution as well - there are no votes in Thailand for damaging LFC - thats why I think there is a synergy at work. I think this could be a very mutually beneficial partnership. It shows imagination and bravery - and a degree of opportunism between both the Board of LFC and the Thai Govt. I think it might be one of those big steps that organisations sometimes have to take to bring them forward.

The alternative offered by Steve Morgan does not fill me with optimism. He's saying many of the things that the fans want to hear - more local players, no bad signings etc but the reality is that he wants the club for his own. I'm sure he wants it to be succesful but I think he has an ego that will not accept questioning and he lacks the imagination to take the club to this next level. His business career was based in the UK and I worry that his thinking is too parochial. In the fulness of time the ongoing income from this deal could dwarf his immediate cash injection and I would far rather the club work on new revenue streams than rely on the caprices of a rich man injecting cash when he chooses.

One final aspect which I suspect is a factor in the boards thinking. There is the looming possibility on the horizon of a European super league (which I don't want). There may come a moment when the biggest clubs in Europe decide to break away from the present struture, it may well be inevitable, just as in retrospect the development of the Premier League seems to have been. When that moment comes, Man Utd and probably Chelsea due to their wealth will be guaranteed a place at the top table, Arsenal are also looking like shoe ins. I think there is room for one more club from the EPL and I know that I want it to be Liverpool. To make sure we get there I think we need the new stadium and as little debt as possible hampering us in the transfer market. We need therefore to take a big step, the alternative may be to slip and become top of the second division of English clubs.

© Armin Tamzarian 2004

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