Hansen steps out for fresh debut

The ghost of predictions past came back to haunt Alan Hansen yesterday as he branched out into a new field of football punditry.

The Match of the Day analyst and former Liverpool captain has been hired on a three-year contract to act as consultant to Britain's first dedicated football fund to be launched by investment bank Singer & Friedlander next month.

"Alan's in-depth knowledge of the workings of football clubs and contacts in the game will be invaluable to us in getting the best opportunities early," said Tony Fraher, chief executive of S&F Investment Funds.

But during a packed press conference at a football theme bar in central London, Mr Hansen was soon reminded of a remark he made last season about Manchester United's youth policy. "You can't win anything with kids," he famously opined to the watching millions. Unfortunately for Mr Hansen, Manchester United went on to win the League and FA Cup double.

Only time will tell if Mr Hansen's forecasts for the new fund about what is hot and what is not in the world of football will be as wide of the mark.

Mr Hansen will not be offering the fund investment advice as such. He has taken no regulatory examinations and for him the letters SFA still mean Scottish Football Association rather than the Securities and Futures Authority.

"I'm only here to give my opinion and advise on the prospects of clubs," he insisted yesterday.

What Mr Hansen did provide was a typically sober assessment of who are likely to emerge as the winners in the headlong rush of football clubs to seek listings on the Stock Exchange.

"You are only as good as the 11 players on the pitch. When you go public you have got more money to buy better players. Success breeds success," he said.

The problem, Mr Hansen acknowledged, was that very few quality players were available and expensive imports tended to disappoint. "Some of the continental players haven't the heart for the competition," he continued. "They have to play as hard as the rest on a wet rainy night in January."

Mr Hansen was more sanguine about Newcastle United's prospects for a pounds 200m flotation by Easter, despite this week's shock resignation of Kevin Keegan as manager. "I can't see any problems," he said. "If Kenny Dalglish took over tomorrow the gloom and doom would be lifted."

The Singer & Friedlander football fund aims for capital growth and will invest up to pounds 200m in individual clubs in Britain and Europe as well as related companies in sportswear, retailing and media. The minimum lump sum investment is pounds 1,000 with a regular savings scheme available from pounds 50 a month. An initial charge of 4.5 per cent will be levied, plus an annual management fee of 1.5 per cent.

"We are not going to invest in every club. We are going to be selective," Mr Fraher said. "That's why we signed Alan. He will tell us things we would never know."

S&F expects the fund to have wide appeal among fans and private investors as well as larger institutions seeking exposure to a football sector whose shares have risen by 696 per cent since 1993 - outstripping the stock market as a whole by a factor of ten.

Critics say the fund is being launched when football shares have already scored their most spectacular gains. S&F believes sponsorship deals, merchandising and increased television income from pay-per-view will secure the fund's future growth.

"There's no easier way to share in football's growing fortunes," says Mr Hansen in a glossy brochure being sent out to promote the fund. Only time will tell if those words - like his kids quote - come back to haunt him.

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