InterviewBilly Hogan: It's great to be back on tour and we're really excited
Liverpool FC CEO Billy Hogan spoke of his excitement about kick-starting the club's pre-season tour of Asia shortly after arriving in Bangkok.
The Reds touched down in Thailand's capital on Sunday afternoon local time ahead of Tuesday's friendly with Manchester United at Rajamangala Stadium – a game you can watch live and exclusive on LFCTV GO.
Jürgen Klopp and his squad were greeted by thousands of supporters at the airport and team hotel as they returned to the continent for the first time since 2017.
Watch Liverpoolfc.com's interview with Hogan as he explains the importance of such trips and developments at the club over the summer in the video above, or scroll down for a full transcript…
Billy, you arrived in Thailand a couple of hours ago. How does it feel to be back on a pre-season tour? It's the first one now since 2019...
It feels great. As you said, it's the first since 2019 and obviously the pandemic impacted the summer of '20 and '21. So first off, it's just great to be back on tour. These are an incredible experience as a part of the club and I think a great reminder of how popular the club is on a global basis. So, great to be back in Thailand, the reception that we just had at the airport was absolutely incredible – thousands of people waiting for us upon touchdown and then when we got to the hotel, another group of thousands of people here. So, it's been terrific, great to be back and we're really excited about the tour.
Why is it so important for the club, why is it so important for the fanbase?
First off, important for the club because it's an opportunity for us to really bring the club to our supporters. As we know, most of our global fans probably never have the opportunity to come to Anfield, never have the opportunity to see the team play in the UK. So this is a great opportunity to interact with the club on a more personal, in-person basis. It's just important as a club that has hundreds of millions of fans around the world, to be able to bring the club out to them when we can, and this is the one time of our season when we can.
So, it's important from a club perspective in that regard, and also an opportunity for us to work very closely with our corporate partners – a number of whom have critical business interests particularly here in Asia, where we are over this tour. And it's an opportunity for our supporters and the club and our partners to all work together. There's a number of different events that we're doing where we're going to be bringing our former players along to community events. Really, it's just an opportunity for us to do kind of everything across the club but bring that to our supporters on a global basis.
All of the new signings are told about fanatical Liverpool supporters. But the fact so many of these new signings get to see it so soon into their Liverpool time is massive for them as well...
I think so. Again, the reception that we had at the airport, the reception that we got here at the hotel, I think it's one of those things where until you experience it in person, it's hard to sort of describe it to people. As I say, it's like travelling with The Beatles! You show up and there's just thousands of people everywhere. So, I do think that gives people, particularly the new signings, a sense for how the club is on a global basis.
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It's been a busy close-season – and it's been busy for you on and off the pitch, hasn't it?
Absolutely, particularly some of the work that's gone on on the football side, obviously. Great work from Julian [Ward] and the team, and Jürgen obviously and the coaching staff. Some great new signings and a couple of important renewals as well, which I am sure everybody is excited about. Off the pitch, it's been incredibly busy. We had three concerts at Anfield – Elton John, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles – and then just post-those three concerts, we've completely replaced the pitch at Anfield, so there is a new hybrid carpet that's been installed. It looks fantastic and it's going to be great for the season.
Then, also, going on at Anfield is the Anfield Road expansion and a pretty big moment coming up on Monday, where a 300-tonne truss is going to be placed on top, which holds the roof together. It's a pretty significant development and once that is in place then we really get going on a lot of the expansion there. People will be able to see some of the coverage online. It's been tremendously busy in the last several weeks. There's obviously [also] some of the follow-up post-Paris in terms of some of the elements around the UEFA independent investigation, which we have been updating the fanbase on over the course of the last few weeks.
All eyes will now be on the return of the football season. Two great games to warm up us up, two Premier League opponents – and one of our oldest rivals to start it all off...
It's going to be exciting. It is a great opportunity. Every time we play Manchester United is a tremendous occasion and going back to earlier in our conversation, it's an opportunity for people in Thailand and across Asia to see the game in person, which doesn't happen very often outside of the UK. So, it's a great opportunity to bring an incredible rivalry out to our global fans, but also we'll be looking forward to playing Crystal Palace in Singapore at the end of the week. Two very exciting games. It's obviously pre-season [with] people just getting back and just getting back into shape, but I am sure they will be competitive as well.
Just finally, Billy, on LFC Foundation. It has always been a massive part of these tours and will be out with the legends this time and that's a really important part of what we do when we come away from Liverpool, isn't it?
A huge part of it. A huge part of what we do in Liverpool, the importance of the community and the importance and, frankly, the responsibility we have as a community club. I think when you extend that as a global club, there is an opportunity for us to do things in the local community when we come out to these various locations. As you said, the Foundation is here, they're going to be working very closely with some of our legends who are here. Club ambassador Ian Rush is here and a number of other former players. I am going to be personally involved in one of the events going on, but specifically the LFC Foundation is working with our partner Right To Play, which people may recognise [as] it's on the back of our shirts during the Champions League. They'll be working on a number of initiatives here, soccer clinics going on both in Thailand and Singapore later in the week. It's incredibly important that we're not just coming out and having the matches, but that we're giving back to the community as well.