Ex-Liverpool CEO names surprise figure integral to recent success

Date published: Friday 21st February 2020 7:10 - Steve Pearson


Former Liverpool CEO, Ian Ayre, recently named a Liverpool manager other than Jurgen Klopp that was crucial to transforming the club into what it has become, and spoke at length about the turbulence endured during the previous ownership.

The Reds look set to end their 30-year drought on being English champions this season, with German Klopp seen as the figurehead of the club’s revitalisation.

With a host of superstar names currently in their prime, and rising stars Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold with their best years still ahead, the Anfield club looks equipped to sustain a prolonged period of success.

However, it was less than a decade ago that the club faced financial ruin under the previous ownership of American duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Speaking in an exclusive interview to Goal, ex-Reds CEO Ian Ayre lifted the lid on those tumultuous times.

“I could see that commercially, the business was really poor,” said Ayre.

“It was a long way behind the competitors in United and they were losing a lot of opportunities.

“They won the Champions League in 2005 and didn’t really capitalise on that commercially.

“I really went in there to try and transform the revenue as the big challenge. Then we got embroiled in the big ownership issue and what that did was really tear at the fabric of the business.


“It was tragic in many senses and it was ironic because we were adding revenue with the big sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered, the deal with New Balance, those were coming to the table and, at the same time, we were haemorrhaging money because of the structure with ownership.

“We really started to turn the corner when Fenway Sports Group came in.

“I worked very closely with John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and Mike [Edwards] and it was a process of seven or eight years, and that process still continues today. I think anyone in there would say they still have work to do.”

Klopp appears to be the perfect fit for the Merseyside club, with his unique brand of enthusiasm and charisma  blending superbly with the passion of the Anfield faithful.

However, Ayre believes the club’s rejuvenation began with a former manager who also had a special connection with the fans.

“Jurgen is incredible and I’m his biggest supporter and brought him to the club, but that transformation on the management side, it started with Kenny Dalglish,” added Ayre.

“Bringing Kenny back to stabilise the ship when it was in turmoil. He’s one of those unique unicorns that could get everybody to buy in and realign very quickly, and he did an incredible job, took us to two finals in his first year, and then to transition into the sort of coach that knew the game well and would play and develop young people.


“Then, Brendan comes in and does a wonderful job and gets us to second place and, ultimately, transitions all the way to Jurgen, who is a phenomenon really.

“None of that stuff happened overnight. We had a plan, we had to get with the plan.

“On the pitch, if you look at the team that plays now, I would guess there are six or seven players like Jordan Henderson who have been there through that journey that I was there for and others that arrived during that timeline like James Milner, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, and others that have come and gone like Luis Suarez or Coutinho.

“This idea that somebody could take over a club at that level now and just transform it with two or three players, I don’t buy that.

“You have to have a system and a process and you have to build the business on the field as well as the business off the field.”

Meanwhile, one pundit has explained why a Liverpool target may not experience the instant success he has achieved with his current club, should be move to Anfield.


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