Wednesday 21 March 2018

What exactly will Ian Ayre's departure mean for Liverpool?

Ayre will be only 53 when he walks away from his boyhood club at the end of May 2017. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Ayre will be only 53 when he walks away from his boyhood club at the end of May 2017. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre is to the leave the club at the end of next season.

The 52-year-old has spent nine years at Anfield, previously serving as managing director and commercial director.

Here are some key questions around his departure.

Who is Ian Ayre?

Ayre was born in Liverpool in 1963. He joined the Royal Navy after leaving school at 16 before taking up various business roles in Asia. Returning to the UK, he became chief executive and chairman of Huddersfield before moving into TV.

He was head-hunted by then Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett in 2007, becoming commercial director.

Why is he leaving?

Ayre described leaving at the end of his contract as the most difficult decision of his professional life. He said in a club statement: "I believe the end of next season is the right time to pass the CEO baton on to a new person, who will take on the challenges and opportunities with a fresh enthusiasm and vigour."

What have his achievements been?

As commercial director, Ayre engineered the club's lucrative shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank and increased revenues dramatically.

He helped pave the way for current owners Fenway Sports Group's (FSG) buyout in 2010 after voting against Hicks and Gillett in a boardroom battle for the future of the club. He then helped bring much-needed stability. Ayre has also been instrumental in the redevelopment of Anfield and should see that through in his remaining time.

In a statement, FSG said they had tried to persuade Ayre to change his mind and praised the job he has done, saying: "Under his leadership we have seen Liverpool transform from a club that was on the brink of bankruptcy to one which today enjoys strong financial and operational health. Liverpool will reap the benefits of his outstanding work for many years to come."

So all positive then?

Not exactly. Ayre is not a popular figure with supporters, many of whom feel he has not been up to the job. The principal source of complaint has been failings in the transfer window. Many of the high-profile names with which Liverpool have been strongly linked over the past few years have not ended up coming to Anfield. Ayre was also heavily criticised over plans to increase ticket prices.

A walkout by fans prompted a U-turn by the club last month.

What happens now?

Ayre will not be leaving until May 2017 so FSG have plenty of time to find a successor. In Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have an A-list manager, and fans will hope the new chief executive can bring in the players to match and restore the club to the top of English football. Financial constraints will undoubtedly remain, however, making the job far from easy.

Press Association

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