Liverpool seek US aid to solve stadium crisis

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The Independent Football

The Liverpool chief executive was a guest of the Kraft family at Monday's NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, the franchise they bought for £98m in 1994 and whose subsequent success is reflected in a new £195m stadium, three Super Bowl victories and a £135m profit last season alone.

At their meeting in Massachusetts on Monday, Parry discussed the private finance that Kraft's son, Jonathan, attracted to build the Patriots' 68,000-seat Gillette Stadium in 2002 and, it is believed, the possibility of the Kraft Group salvaging Liverpool's new stadium plan by purchasing a stake in the club or the exclusive naming rights to an arena only 300 yards from their Anfield home.

It has been nearly six months since Liverpool's Champions' League triumph and more than 18 months since the club appointed financial advisors Hawkpoint to flush out potential investors, but they have still been unable to attract the finances required to rescue their stadium proposal and to provide the manager Rafael Benitez with the transfer funds to turn his squad into genuine title challengers.

Liverpool had originally hoped to commence work on the Stanley Park stadium in March and have seen costs rise over the past two years by a minimum of £70m although, as Parry's presence in America indicates, they have not abandoned hope of bringing the scheme to fruition yet.

Parry said: "I have known the Kraft family since meeting them in Boston back in 2001 and have had a long-standing invitation to visit the Gillette Stadium, which is one of the very few privately funded stadia in the USA. They were keen for me to see at close hand how the match-day operation ran and I watched both the New England Revolution v Chicago Fire MLS game on Sunday and the New England Patriots v Indianapolis Colts NFL fixture a day later. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss at length the way in which they had funded the construction of the ground."

Parry left the United States without a firm proposal from the Kraft family and will travel to Dubai for the second time in less than a month this weekend as part of the Soccerex football business convention, although Liverpool have distanced themselves from links to a Middle Eastern consortium. The Kraft Group, however, have been considering a move into English football, and Liverpool in particular, for the past 12 months and were involved in the failed attempt by the L4 consortium - fronted by Hollywood executives Stuart Ford and the Liverpool-born Mike Jefferies - to invest in the club last year.

Liverpool's third-largest shareholder, the former Redrow Homes owner Steve Morgan, has failed in three separate attempts to convince the board to allow him to underwrite a share rights issue and, although his initial proposals were said to have undervalued the club, he withdrew his final offer after a period of due diligence amid concerns at the financial state of Liverpool and the rising stadium costs.

The Liverpool chairman, David Moores, is reluctant to relinquish his 51 per cent shareholding in the club, a stance that is clearly not conducive to would-be investors and has encouraged Parry to follow Arsenal's route of funding a new stadium partly by selling the naming rights.

Parry publicly stated his opposition to such a move at an annual general meeting two years ago but has since described the £100m Arsenal received towards Ashburton Grove from Emirates Airlines as "a real eye opener".

Robert Kraft's Patriots games

* Robert Kraft is one of the most influential figures in New England sports history but is no relation to the cheese foods empire.

* Kraft has followed the New England Patriots as a season ticket holder since 1971, fulfilling a boyhood dream when he bought them for $172m (£98m) in 1994 and turning them into one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.

* Under his ownership the Patriots have won the Super Bowl three times in the past four years.

* Kraft's commitment to football dates back to his efforts to make Boston one of the nine host cities for the 1994 World Cup finals, having played the game when at Columbia University.

* Apart from owning the Patriots, the Kraft family are the main investors in the New England Revolution, one of the most popular clubs in the MLS and coached by former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol.

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