Nashville SC

Key newsbits: Ian Ayre on SI’s Planet Futbol podcast

Ayre (right) with General Manager Mike Jacobs. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville SC Chief Executive Officer Ian Ayre joined Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl last week for a discussion of all things Nashville Soccer Club. Here are some of the key quotes from that appearance.

There’s much more in the pod, so be sure to check it out, but some of the newsworthy items – with items of particular interest in bold:

Building around veterans, youngsters, and DPs

“We always said from the outset that we wanted to find players that we thought could really excite in MLS – particularly in the DP area – and find a balance in the roster we built between exciting, younger, dynamic international players (and some domestic players on the younger side), but then also balance that out with established domestic players and players who’ve been around this league for some time that give us a mix both on the field and in the locker room of stability and excitement. Anybody who knows Gary, Gary builds teams that are very hard to beat… We’ve built around that solidity: we’ve built excitement. Hany [Mukhtar] brings that, Danish player of the year, really exciting. A lot of the analysis we did around him and other players around that part of the field was really about bringing pace and ability around the box, and a different style to that we already brought in the case of Daniel Rios and others up front – Randall Leal – we think Hany brings a little bit of a different dimension and we’re very excited about what he think he can bring.”

Additional preseason signings, and adding another DP

Note: the interview took place before the signing of Miguel Nazarit (though that transfer has been inevitable for some time).

We certainly have money left in the war chest to do some more business. Without giving the trade secrets away, I would say that we have lots of considerations. The guys are traveling often and looking at players on a daily basis. I have a meeting later today with that [recruitment] group where we’ll go through where we are on everyone and hopefully make some more decisions. Certainly plans to bring more to the team – whether they end up being DPs or not is to be seen. The biggest challenge in soccer or any sport is really getting what you want rather than just getting warm bodies. We want to find the right players, rather than just finding players.”

“It’s really about how the money is spent. What we all know is you only get to spend it once. We’ve been really thoughtful about that. Part of our strategy is that we probably won’t spend all of our money before roster compliance [Feb. 28], we’ll keep a little bit of a war chest so that we open and see how we do and see where we’re excelling and see where we maybe don’t have as much depth. Depending on early parts of the season, and then we’ll go again in the Summer. I think that speaks volumes about how we’re approaching this in a very considered way rather than, ‘let’s go find 30 players to put on our roster.’”

Stadium progress

“We’re still on target for an opening in 2022. Construction has always been planned to commence in earnest in the Spring of next year. We’ve just reached a 100% design and development stage, which is crucial, so the design as it is from a technical point of view is now locked in. We’re in the middle of the process where we develop the construction documents, so I think the next set of those comes in January at 50% and a few months later 100%. It’s on track, it’s no different to where it’s been. We’re still working to the same opening date: Opening Day of 2022.”

Ticket sales and the recent report in The Athletic

The number was inaccurate [ed: The number cited to Sam Stejskal was 5,000 tickets. As I reported at the time, I know it to have been at least 6,100 by then – certainly not a game-changer in terms of perception, but a reasonably large difference]. I would say we’re behind where we expected to be: not overly behind, but behind. This is a marathon not a sprint, I think it’s wrong and just not smart to try and predict our outcome at this stage, whether it’s on season tickets or overall attendance. Always in our plan was that December-January-February were going to be the crucial months for us. We saw – and we know from speaking to other expansion clubs previously – that it’s the big key events that almost shine the reality light on this thing arriving that make the biggest difference. When we had the expansion draft in November, we saw over 100% growth in our day-to-day sales on season tickets. It’s heading in the direction we want it to. We’re a little bit behind; the number is greater certainly than the number that was put out there by somebody to the Athletic.”

Off-field goals for the club

We want Nashville – particularly the people who perhaps aren’t as close to soccer right now – want them to come see what a great sport it is, what a great experience it is to come attend games, and how Nashville Soccer Club is putting that together.”


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