See analysis on the Ayre hire here.
When Nashville moves from USL to Major League Soccer in the coming years, they won’t be doing it with an inexperienced front office. Indeed, the newly-named Chief Executive Officer for the team is former Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre.
“To be given this opportunity to build an entire club almost from the ground up is truly exceptional, and an opportunity and a challenge which I relish,” Ayre said. “I really cannot wait to get started.”
Ayre was introduced by Nashville SC majority owner John Ingram, whose purchase of a controlling interest in the team kick-started the club’s meteoric rise from a fan-own NPSL team, to a USL team (with a one-year stint in the PDL featuring a U-23 side), to an MLS team likely beginning play in the 2020 season.
There are few with a higher level of expertise than Ayre. While memories of his tenure Merseyside may be mixed-at-best among Liverpool fans, there aren’t many executives available to Major League Soccer teams (from both a monetary and interest perspective) who have run both the business and technical sides of a Premier League Club. From the very start, that puts NSC’s future MLS team in something of rarified air.
Ingram also made an important point prior to introducing Ayre.
“We wanted somebody who was committed both to helping us create a competitive MLS soccer team,” he began, “but also somebody who shared the vision of the power this game can provide to the community.”
That’s an area that the club has received criticism – some deserved, some of it undeserved – since Ingram’s majority purchase and the rise up the tiers of the US Soccer structure. While some are simply of the opinion that on-field achievement, rather than monetary heft, should have been the mechanism for the club to reach MLS, that’s not the system our country uses, for better or for worse. Some of the more legitimate criticisms have revolved around a failure to truly engage the Latino community (and other immigrant communities from soccer-mad areas of the world), and a seeming repetitive bungling of fan communication.
Still, the Ayre hire, at the very least, indicates that the club is ready to take the next step toward its MLS future. The new hire indicates that it’s a separate track of sorts from continuing its USL present.
With only a couple years to build toward the top level of American soccer, Ayre has his work cut out for him in quickly building a team from the locker room to the coaches’ offices and beyond. It’s a challenge that he’s ready for, and one he’s excited for.
“We have to find the right players, the right coaches, the right staff, and of course we bring along the right fans – those who exist currently and those who we’ll hopefully to this great product,” he said. “There’s a lot to do in a relatively short time, but for me that’s part of the challenge and part of the excitement. It’s important to say I’m confident that when the time comes to kick the first ball, we’ll be ready – not just be ready to take part, but ready to challenge and play a real part in this opportunity.”
Building from scratch will make the club in his image, to a large degree. With his pedigree (and few MLS sides whose owners appear as determined as Ingram to spend the money it takes to put a high-level product on the field), it should work out well.