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Testing Times For Ayre

Ayre faces first real test as CEO

Ayre faces first real test as CEO

Ian Ayre has faced many challenges since joining the board of Liverpool Football. Often vilified by sections of the clubs fan-base the Liverpool Chief Executive has remarkable staying power.

This is a man who, operating as the clubs commercial director escaped the fallout from the disastrous Hicks and Gillett regime. It’s interesting to note that following the sale to New England Sports Group (who later became Fenway Sports Group) that both Purslow and Ayre offered their resignations. Only Purslow’s was accepted. Ian Ayre was eventually promoted to Managing Director.

Then came the Suarez-Evra controversy. Many, including myself felt that some of the crap that ultimately hit Kenny probably should have rolled uphill to Ayre.

Whatever your views on whether our number 7 was guilty of racism, what is beyond doubt is that the club could and should have handled it better. Surely Ian Ayre bore some responsibility for how the club responded in the immediate aftermath and the subsequent FA hearing. Yet our MD escaped the brunt of criticism.

For supporter their major gripe is his handling of transfer business at the club. In this department he is viewed in much the same way as Rick Parry was.

The general feeling is that he is too slow to act, and ultimately inept at negotiating, often low-balling the selling club and then refusing to ‘go the extra mile’ to get the managers targets.

To be fair to his critics we have had a couple of disastrous transfer windows under his stewardship. The deal that took Carroll to West Ham without a viable alternative secured was one that upset all, including the manager.

The club has also missed out on targets such as  Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Diego Costa, Willian. The ultimately futile attempt to sign Conorplyanka at the eleventh hour of the January transfer window, was seen by many as the last straw.

Suarez may be about to give Ayre a big headache

Suarez may be about to give Ayre a big headache

Were all of these failings entirely his fault? Only those at the top of the club really know. We can only speculate as to how much of a free hand Ian Ayre has in transfers. He will certainly have limitations placed on him by FSG.

Before moving for a player he will be told how much he can spend. He will also be working to clear terms of reference as to the structure of any deals.

Then there is the target himself and his demands. Ayre will not, I imagine have the final word on how far he can go in terms of wages etc. There are so many variables in a transfer deal and a club with limited resources will always win some and lose some.

FSG clearly don’t share the supporters doubts and have recently promoted their MD to Chief Executive, abandoning their ‘worldwide search’ in the process. Ayre has had his share of success.

Commercially the club is in much better shape thanks to numerous sponsorship deals. Yes he will have been aided greatly by the teams improvement on the field, but he has also worked wonders in more difficult circumstances.

The Standard Chartered and Warrior deals were rightly hailed as master-strokes. Liverpool were hardly a by-word for stability when these deals were struck, so securing such levels of investment under those conditions is worthy of praise.

FSG & Henry have put a great deal of faith in Ayre

FSG & Henry have put a great deal of faith in Ayre

We also seem to be seeing movement on the stadium and Ayre has played a big role in getting this moving. None of this could have been achieved if the man was the complete buffoon he is painted to be. Could it?

I am undecided, but I am certain that our Chief Executive is about to face one of his biggest ‘acid tests’. Today Sky Sports News revealed, albeit two days after it was revealed on Twitter, that Ayre is locked in talks with Barcelona chiefs.

In transfer terms he is going toe to toe with the ‘big boys’. The transfer of Luis Suarez (one of the top three players in world football) to Barcelona with Alexis Sanchez possibly coming the other way is one of the biggest deals in the game. There will not be a bigger transfer this window for sure.

Barcelona may have felt they had the upper hand. The fears of most were that the FIFA ban could be used in an attempt to drive down the fee. However, Liverpool know the player and the buying club are desperate to get the deal done. We also have an ownership who have shown they can play hard-ball when needed. Ask Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke.

Early indications are that talks are progressing smoothly and it appears that all parties will end up with a deal they can live with. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Ayre will be pilloried if he fails to get this right. However, a more interesting question may be what if he get’s it spot on? Will we as supporters be prepared to give credit where it is due?

These are certainly testing times for Ian Ayre and he just might be about to pass them with flying colours.

Article by me also published on

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