Liverpool faces replica relegation

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The Independent Online

Fears are growing that Liverpool Football Club's failure to secure a sponsor to replace its long standing deal with Carlsberg will mean it will not be able to produce replica kits in time for start of next season.

Fears are growing that Liverpool Football Club's failure to secure a sponsor to replace its long standing deal with Carlsberg will mean it will not be able to produce replica kits in time for start of next season.

The club's 12-year deal with the brewer is understood to be on the verge of collapse and the Champions' League semi-finalist has so far failed to secure a replacement.

Clubs need to sign deals by the end of March so that they can produce shirts in time to be on sale to fans for the following season. An insider at a rival Premiership club said the deadline could be stretched to the end of April, but any later was a concern.

"They can't push it much longer. It's going to be difficult to get it out for the start of the season at this stage. It really is cutting it fine."

There are also concerns that Liverpool may have to compensate kit supplier Reebok. "If the team is wearing something that isn't available in the shops, it's a massive negative for Reebok," said one sponsorship expert. "It could result in some sort of payment to Reebok and that would be a pill Liverpool would have to swallow."

Liverpool is expected to eventually sign Korean electronics group LG. The Carlsberg deal was worth around £6m a year, but sources claim the club is discussing between £2.5m and £4m a year.

Much hinges on the result of Tuesday's European Championship semi-final second leg with Chelsea, with the club's position either strengthened or weakened in the negotiations depending on the result.

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