Ian Ayre has been appointed Liverpool FC’s new Managing Director and Damien Comolli had been promoted to Director of Football for the club.
Ayre came to the club as Commercial Director in 2007 under the previous regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, reporting at the time to then Chief Executive Rick Parry. The club has made significant improvements commercially during his time at the club, including the significantly improved shirt sponsorship deal Ayre negotiated with Standard Chartered. Liverpool have significantly increased the number of partners they have deals with.
Not every commercial move the club has made has been popular with all supporters, especially the arrangements with Thomas Cook, but the additional revenues raised overall have been vital to the club. It can certainly be argued that this boost to income is what kept the club afloat as Hicks and Gillett’s financial problems started to take hold. Now it’s hoped that as much of that increased cash as possible can go towards improving the squad.
The club has been searching for a new Chief Executive since takeover and although the new owners had met with a number of potential candidates they were unable to find one meeting all of their criteria.
John Henry explained: “Ian has enormous experience gained from his work in the sports and media businesses over the past 15 years and we are delighted today to announce this significant appointment. We conducted an extensive recruitment search and met with outstanding candidates who sought this role but in the end, after having worked with Ian and other top executives within the club, we realised that Ian had all of the attributes necessary to lead the Club forward.”
Henry also praised his new MD for his role so far at Anfield, including the Standard Chartered deal, “which Ian spearheaded”, and said Ayre “will help us continue to succeed in the commercial arena going forward.”
Of further importance to Henry is that Ayre is a local “and understands the relationships between the club, the supporters and the city. He will play a key role in all of our future plans.”
Henry’s partner, and club Chairman, Tom Werner said, “We’ve worked closely with Ian since coming to Liverpool and we have great confidence in his management and leadership skills. Also, as a life-long fan of the club, he has been instrumental in bringing John and I up to speed on the traditions and history of this great club and specifically, what it means to follow ‘the Liverpool way’.
“Ian has been instrumental to us in stabilizing things after we purchased the club and helping us with a reset to put us on a solid path to move forward. We consider this one more big step in taking the Club to exactly where supporters and we want to go.”
Damien Comolli was initially appointed as Director of Football Strategy in November, back when the days were dark and Roy Hodgson was still, somehow, in the manager’s job. He sat with Ayre at the press conference to belatedly reveal Kenny Dalglish as the club’s new, interim, manager and was no doubt involved in the decision to give the fans what they’d been asking, shouting and singing for.
Henry said of Comolli: “In the short time that Damien has been at the club, he has impressed us greatly with his knowledge of the sport, his work ethic and his incisive intelligence. He is a clear thinker and understands exactly what is needed to form a long-term, consistent approach with the philosophy we all share here.” He said Comolli “has a track record of identifying young talent and has already made significant contributions to the first team and academy.”
As well as a slightly shorter sign on his office door, Comolli will see his role broadened, as Tom Werner explained: “This promotion will see him assume extra responsibilities including overseeing areas such as performance analysis, medical provision, and team administration.”
Comolli said: “I’m delighted to have been offered this promotion and very proud that I am going to be able to make significant contributions to the development of this great club.”
Ayre said he was very proud to get this chance in the role: “Obviously being from the city and having supported the club all my life, I have a deep understanding of what this special football club means to so many people.
“In my four years as Commercial Director, we’ve been extremely successful in growing our revenues, but I’ve also gained a thorough understanding of the challenges facing the Club.
“We have been through some difficult times, but we find ourselves today with a great team of people all working together for the same goal. An important part of this new job will be to work closely with all our different stakeholders and help us move forward together.
“John and Tom have a clear vision for rebuilding the Club and bringing back success and I’m delighted to be able to help shape that future. It is a very proud moment for myself and my family and I am honoured to be given the opportunity.”
It would be difficult for Ian Ayre to make a bigger hash of the role than his predecessor, but despite the new owners and a sense of genuine optimism at the club (since the return of Kenny Dalglish) he will know that now certainly isn’t the time to relax.
Criticism will undoubtedly come his way, as it has throughout his time at the club (particularly when he was unfairly accused of being a stooge of Tom Hicks), but Ayre is a genuine Liverpool fan and will act in a way he feels is for the good of Liverpool FC. Ian has repeatedly gone out of his way to quietly reassure supporters about many of the unsubstantiated rumours that have been part and parcel of the damaged ‘Liverpool way’ of the past few years.
There can be problems finding compromises to situations where pleasing one group of fans will leave other groups feeling left out or ill-treated. Many clubs solve that problem by looking at which one suits the balance sheet the best, something that Ian Ayre has often resisted wherever it’s fallen into his area of responsibility.
One of Ayre’s skills over the past three-and-a-half years has been in trying to find compromises where there are polar opposite opinions on how to move forward; he’s worked extremely hard to act as a peacemaker in many of the conflicts that have taken place inside and outside the club.
However, as big as the news today was, the two big updates that Liverpool fans are waiting for now are the appointment of the new manager (specifically for Kenny Dalglish to be given the job full-time) and for a decision on where exactly Liverpool will be playing their games a few years from now.
Both decisions can wait a little bit longer before being finalised, but not much longer, and with the club now initiating a permanent structure in the boardroom those decisions shouldn’t be too far away.