Ian Ayre with Sir Jon Murphy and LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill
Outgoing CEO of Liverpool Football Club (LFC), Ian Ayre last night delivered the latest Liverpool John Moores University Roscoe lecture on ‘Football – Past, Present and Future’, drawing on his legacy and life at the world-leading club.
The Kirkdale-born, lifelong Liverpool fan covered a range of issues from the power of sports agents to the economic and cultural impact of football, to an audience at the city’s St George’s Hall.
Speaking of the social significance of LFC, Ian said: “The Premier League is a phenomenal success and the quality of its content and its spectacle is unrivalled throughout world football and world entertainment. Liverpool Football Club in particular means far more to the people who support it than being just another business in our local economy. It is a phenomenal business, it is a growing business and alongside The Beatles must be Liverpool’s greatest export of modern times.”
“But at its heart it is an anchor of this community. There is nothing else that connects so many people, across so many demographic groups, across so many areas of the city and from all walks of life, than their support for LFC. Where else will you see binmen, brickies, barristers and Hairdressers standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, week in week out, than on the terraces and in pubs, clubs and living rooms, vying for success for their team?”
Ian spoke of LFC’s role in transforming football into an economic powerhouse in its own right:
“LFC played a key part in changing this landscape. In 1979. Liverpool agreed football’s first major shirt sponsorship with the Japanese Electronics Manufacturer Hitachi. That deal back then generated a whopping £50,000 a season... and was rightly considered ground-breaking. We find ourselves today in a situation where the same piece of £50,000 space commands around 500 times more, closer to £30 million pounds per season a staggering increase.”
Going on to discuss the main industry revenue drivers, Ian spoke of the future need to balance a successful club business with solid support and longevity:
“For me, the future and success of football lies in holding on to the things that matter, the things that make each institution unique to its own supporters, and the things that make other clubs and the rivalry between them what is great about the contest.
“The things I feel important to hang on to are the values of a club and the core memories we as supporters hold dear. We have in recent times seen owners in football who want to change the colour of a club’s home shirt; we have seen owners who want to change the name of a team. I believe that is just fundamentally wrong. The club has to balance that dilemma with putting the best squad together, hiring the best coach and providing the best facilities to allow Liverpool to compete at the top of the game.”
Before answering questions from the audience, Ian was thanked by Sir Jon Murphy QPM DL LLB (Hons), Chair of the Roscoe Lecture series, who said:
“As you move on to your next challenge, we are grateful that in your own engaging manner, you have shone a light on the other side of football – the bit where we wonder about the vast sums of money that move around the unique business that is football.”
Prior to the lecture, Ian delivered an exclusive masterclass to 50 LJMU students where they had free reign to get his views on what it takes to work in the premier league. Ian talked of the need to carve out a specialism to make headway in the football industry and spoke of LFC’s standing as a global brand and retailer in its own right.