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Fenway plans to host Liverpool-AS Roma soccer game

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / January 17, 2012
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Organizers are planning an exhibition soccer game between Liverpool FC and AS Roma at Fenway Park this summer, according to multiple sources involved in the negotiations.

The match would be part of United States tours for both teams, the first since controlling interest in the clubs was purchased by Boston-based investors.

Liverpool, founded in 1891, was purchased in 2010 by Fenway Sports Group, headed by Red Sox owner John Henry (NBA star LeBron James is also an investor). AS Roma, founded in 1927, was taken over last year by a group that includes Red Sox minority owner Thomas DiBenedetto and Celtics part-owner James Pallotta.

The game would be part of a tournament involving Chelsea FC and, possibly, Celtic FC. Matches will also be held in Chicago (Comiskey Park or Wrigley Field) and New York (Yankee Stadium).

Dates have not been set. Liverpool has tentatively made reservations to be in the Boston area from June 20 through July 4.

“Throughout its 100-year history, Fenway Park has seen some of the best in athletic competition,’’ Fenway Sports Management president Sam Kennedy said yesterday. “And while we are exploring the possibility of hosting a Liverpool match - which certainly rises to that level - nothing has been finalized.’’

This would mark a rematch of the 1984 Champions Cup final, Liverpool defeating Roma on penalty kicks at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. That victory was the fourth of Liverpool’s five European championships and Roma’s only appearance in the final. Liverpool has won 18 English League championships, the first in 1901 and most recent in 1990.

Matches involving professional soccer teams have been held at Fenway since the 1930s, the stadium serving as home for the Boston Beacons in the 1968 North American Soccer League season. Celtic and Sporting Clube de Portugal tied, 1-1, before 32,161 July 21, 2010.

Fenway’s irregular dimensions make it difficult to configure a regulation-sized soccer field. The field measured less than 100 yards in length for the Celtic-Sporting contest.

Pallotta recently presented a program to AS Roma coaches and players, detailing plans to improve the team’s standing in Serie A and European competitions, spread the brand world-wide, and build a new stadium.

“The first thing was to hire an unbelievable football operations staff and have the team playing the style of ball you see Barcelona embody right now, with [former Barcelona player] Luis Enrique as coach,’’ said Mark Pannes, Roma’s chief operating officer. “It’s a beautiful style of football and it takes a certain type of player - it is very fast and it’s all about ball possession. They are planning on building a stadium but it takes time to build in a place like Rome.

“Rome is bidding for the 2020 Olympics and this will bolster the bid; the stadium will be privately financed and Jim [Pallotta] was very explicit that it will fit into the local area. They will not build something with a million feet of retail space, where the locals will say, ‘I had a nice restaurant before this.’ It will be a purpose-built stadium, worthy of a city like Rome.’’

F_Dell’Apa can be reached at fdellapa@globe.com.

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