Ian Ayre, the architect of Liverpool’s current Premier League side, was introduced Monday as the CEO of Nashville’s MLS expansion team.
Ayre, 55, left Liverpool FC in 2017 after nearly a decade of guiding the club both on and off the field.
“He’s always been my No. 1 choice, I’m just thrilled that this was attractive to him,” lead owner John Ingram said, per The Tennessean. “He’s the kind of guy, there’s a lot of other leagues and clubs that would find him incredibly attractive. I’m just glad this opportunity is one that, a bit of the entrepreneurial bug and the ability to build something from scratch, this is a rather unique opportunity. And I feel very fortunate that it was of interest to him.”
Ayre said the prospect of building a club from the ground up (Nashville is likely to begin play in 2020) was more attractive to him than taking over an established club. He briefly joined TSV 1860 Munich after leaving Liverpool, but left shortly after arrival citing “warring factions” among ownership.
“Through that time I had a number of calls from, let’s just say big clubs,” Ayre said. “But that was never going to be of interest to me, established clubs rather than this, because I’ve kind of done that.”
As for his arrival in Nashville, and in the MLS, Ayre said it’s something he’s been thinking about for a while.
“The MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory,” Ayre said. “Both as a soccer fan and an executive in the industry, it’s something I’ve had my eye on because it’s important. … You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”
Nashville was awarded a team on Dec. 20, 2017 after beating out fellow finalists Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento.
The investment group was led by Ingram — in partnership with the Wilf family, which owns the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings — during the bid for a new team.
Ingram’s group secured $225 million in public funding from the city of Nashville to be used in the construction of a $275 million stadium, proposed to be built on the Fairgrounds Nashville. In March of last year, Nashville Soccer Holdings acquired a majority stake in the USL’s Nashville Soccer Club, a team that was founded in 2016 and is set to debut in 2018.
The city’s bid was also boosted by its success hosting a Gold Cup match between the United States and Panama last summer. The match garnered an attendance of 47,622, a Tennessee record for a soccer event.
Twelve cities submitted formal bids in January, with Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg beaten out by the four finalists.
–Field Level Media
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