Liverpool, Roma make Fenway plans
Both Liverpool FC and AS Roma will attempt to claim home-field advantage when they meet in an exhibition game July 25 at Fenway Park. Both soccer teams plan to spend about a week training in the Boston area, not only in preparation for the 2012-13 season but also attempting to connect with trans-Atlantic supporters.
In the last two years, majority ownership of the clubs has been acquired by local interests: Fenway Sports Group (Liverpool) and NEEP Roma Holding (Roma). The local ties extend to principal investors John Henry (Liverpool) and Tom DiBenedetto (Roma), both part of the Red Sox ownership group, plus Celtics star Kevin Garnett and co-owner James Pallotta (Roma).
“The fact you have two historic clubs playing in one of the most historic American sporting venues makes it an event of historical significance,’’ said Fenway Sports Management president Sam Kennedy. “They played against each other in the [Champions Cup] final in 1984, and they have a longstanding rivalry.
“This is our premier special event of the summer of Fenway’s 100th anniversary.
“We are going to segregate fans, Liverpool supporters on one side, Roma supporters on one side, so it will have the feel of a European soccer matchup.’’
The first professional soccer match at Fenway was staged in 1931 but there were no matches at the park from 1968 through 2010, when Celtic and Sporting played to a 1-1 tie before 32,161 spectators.
Tickets for the Liverpool-Roma game will be available Saturday.
“The US is in the top three markets for sales for us in merchandising terms,’’ said Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre. “What this is about is giving those fans an opportunity to see the team, and it’s a commercial venture as well, a chance for our sponsors to have the team.
“More than anything, this is the most important period for players and the coach for getting prepared for the season. I was fortunate to come out and visit and I can say these will be some of the best facilities we will ever see.’’
Both teams have struggled this season but could achieve major goals with strong finishes.
Liverpool (12-12-10, 46 points) is in eighth place in the Premier League but won the League Cup and has qualified for the FA Cup final. Roma (15-13-5, 50 points) is in sixth place in Serie A but remains in contention for a Europa League place and trails Udinese by 2 points for a Champions League qualification spot.
“We are absolutely in line with what we thought at the beginning of the season,’’ said Roma general manager Franco Baldini. “Because we were starting from zero to build a new, young team, we wouldn’t expect much more than this.
“Obviously, we had a chance to be a little closer to first position in the table and we have some regret about that. Now, it is very important to achieve a European place, hopefully in the Champions League.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.