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Liverpool yesterday became the first club to cash in on new technology when they signed a £20m deal with Granada for the right to show their matches on the internet.
The money will be used by their manager Gérard Houllier to increase his summer spending spree and represents football's first internet coverage deal after Premier League clubs were given rights to show their matches via new technology this year.

Under the deal, Liverpool will allow delayed coverage of their matches on the internet as well as on Wap (wireless application protocol) mobile phones and through digitial television. In some cases matches will be screened on the internet less than 24 hours after they have taken place.

The internet deal will include full coverage, edited highlights and live audio commentary as well as an online betting service, online shopping for Liverpool merchandise and live auctions of memorabilia.

Although the service will be available in Britain within 18 months it is particularly aimed at Reds fans around the world.

A club spokesman said: "The deal means we have £20m in the bank account to fund the summer's transfer spending."

Houllier has spent £9m this summer on Nick Barmby and Bernard Diomède. Part of the new money from the deal with Granada, which owns 9.9% of Liverpool, will be used to improve facilities at the club's Melwood training ground.

Steve Morrison, Granada Media's chief executive, said: "I would not preclude trying to do something with other football clubs, but they would have to have the same range that Liverpool have."

The existing Liverpool website will be overhauled in the autumn. The club's chief executive Rick Parry said the new version, which will eventually use broadband technology offering sharp television images, would take four to five years to develop fully and that fans would pay either by subscription or pay-per-view. Those in the Far East will be able to hear match commentary in Mandarin and other Asian languages.

Parry said: "If we get this right, Liverpool FC Broadband could become more valuable than the club itself. It's a proper dot.com business that we could float on the stock market in years to come."

He added: "At Liverpool our supporters come first and that means keeping them up to date with the latest news about the club. This pioneering project will enable us to provide an innovative, entertaining and informative service for our supporters."
 
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