Sponsor will laugh all the way to the bank if Chinese bid wins

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The Independent Online

Whether it is remarkable good luck, or whether it was always part of the plan, Standard Chartered's sponsorship of Liverpool now looks like a commercial masterstroke as the club seemingly inches towards a deal with Chinese investors.

"Who?" was the question asked by most Liverpool fans when the bank and the club signed the £80m, four-year deal, last September. Even then the agreement looked like a savvy one from Standard Chartered's point of view. Only £3bn smaller than Barclays, StanChart as the City knows it, eschews the UK in favour of high-growth emerging markets in Asia, and particularly China. Even before rumours of the takeover surfaced, the Liverpool brand and the resulting sales of replica shirts, scarves and posters in Asian markets, would have given StanChart its fair share of good publicity.

However, there were eyebrows raised when the details of the agreement emerged last year. The deal is equal to the most lucrative ever shirt sponsorship deal, matching Manchester United's agreement with Aon Group, even though Liverpool has fallen behind its rival on the pitch.

When asked yesterday if the bank knew of Chinese interest in Liverpool before it penned its deal, a spokeswoman declined to comment, although it is believed that Standard Chartered was not aware of any talks.

If a deal is completed it could make the £80m look like small change compared to the free publicity the bank will get from the inevitable pre-season tours to play opponents in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.