Ayre back in soccer with new Nashville MLS franchise
Ian Ayre, the former long-term senior executive at English soccer's Liverpool, has been named as the chief executive of the new Major League Soccer franchise in Nashville, Tennessee.
Nashville's bid to become one of the league’s four expansion clubs was accepted at the end of last year. Its plan includes the construction of a $250-million, 27,500-seater stadium, which will be located just south of downtown Nashville, and the team could join MLS in time for the 2020 season.
Ayre was the chief operating officer of Total Sports Asia, the sports marketing firm, before joining Liverpool as commercial director in 2007. He worked his way up to chief executive by 2014.
He quit Liverpool in April 2017 to join Germany's 1860 Munich as managing director but quit after less than two months following the club's relegation to the third-tier 3. Liga.
Ayre said at the time that he'd encountered a club "in which the shareholders are not aligned in a common interest, nor have a shared vision for the future of the club."
John Ingram, Nashville team owner, told the Tennessean newspaper: “He’s always been my number one choice, I’m just thrilled that this was attractive to him. 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: “MLS has huge ambitions to be one of the biggest and leading leagues in the world, and is on that trajectory. 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 one of 12 cities to submit a bid to join MLS in January 2017, and was eventually shortlisted along with Sacramento (California), Cincinnati (Ohio) and Detroit (Michigan).
In total, four expansion clubs are expected to be added, ultimately taking the league to 28 teams. Each team has to pay a $150-million franchise fee.
Los Angeles FC became the league’s 23rd team this season, and a Miami franchise headed up by former England star David Beckham is expected to be the 24th.