When he was appointed Commercial Director in 2007, Ian Ayre couldn’t believe the state that Liverpool Football Club was in, in regards to the managerial infrastructure at the club. In an interview with Management Today, Ayre said
“Both as a fan, and as someone who’d worked on the commercial side of football, it was pretty evident that Liverpool wasn’t punching its weight. It hadn’t really capitalised on the growth of football. Revenues had grown for all clubs almost by default because of the size of media contracts and so on, but in Liverpool’s case, the club hadn’t geared itself up to support and manage that revenue growth. It’s like the corner shop growing into a superstore without bringing any staff in.”
As Ayre states, it has been well documented that the Reds had failed to capitalise commercially on the incredible success of the club for the last few decades. With the advent of the Premier League, and the already global status which Liverpool had accrued via years of success, the Reds never really had the business acumen at the club to capitalise on the worldwide renown of the club. Without accusing previous owner David Moores and CEO Rick Parry directly, the corner shop-superstore metaphor works pretty well. Ayre had to completely overhaul the organisation as it was in 2007 and describes how he had to fill an entire area of middle management, which had been missing at the club previously.
The club had fallen behind the likes of Manchester United commercially for a long time, and although turnover had increased from £45.6million in 1999 to £121million in 2005, the club was still leagues behind the rest of the football world’s top clubs. It was no coincidence though that from the period of Ayre’s appointment in August 2007, things started to move at a pace. The accounts reports for July 2006 – July 2007 which were recorded a month’s previous to his appointment showed annual revenues at £133.9m. At things stand with the club’s most recent announcement of the accounts for the period between July 2009 – July 2010, revenues now stand at £184m, a significant 37% increase, one which could get even higher when the record deal, which Ayre brokered, for shirt sponsorship with Standard Chartered, is included in next year’s report.
Although some fans may not like it, Ayre’s job as Managing Director is to exploit Liverpool’s global “brand.” To make the most from the Reds support globally is his primary goal, and to bring in revenues to support the club’s on pitch activities. Increased revenues can only benefit the club, and I think what Ayre has done for the Reds, especially in difficult circumstances for the club, is nothing short of remarkable. We still lag behind Manchester United (£81m) and Real Madrid (£123.5m) with £62million in regards to commercial revenue, but as the club goes from strength to strength on the field, I have no doubt this will replicate itself off the field too, unlike in the past. The formation of Liverpool Football Club as a Global Brand has been a long time in coming, as Ayre states:
“I’m a Liverpool lad. We’d all love to think that this is our football club from our city; that we own it. But the absolute reality – in the case of Liverpool, not everyone – is that this is a global brand, one of only a handful of clubs that are truly globally recognised and supported. So you can’t have it both ways. You can’t hope to be one of the biggest football clubs in the world, with some of the biggest revenues and some of the greatest players, and you can’t invite people from the other side of the world to support your team and contribute to your revenues and therefore your success, and not expect to let them in and let them participate in some way in what you do. If we want to be a small parochial club, and close our doors to anyone outside the city, we won’t get very far in this global football market. So whether it’s what people like is irrelevant – it’s absolutely what people have to accept and expect.”
Ensuring we capitalise on our global support is essential for the Reds long term future and it could very well be the crucial step in creating the self-sustaining football club, which can win titles year in year out, which Fenway Sports Group is aspiring towards. Well done Ian for your work so far, and keep up the good work.
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