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Ian Ayre on the Challenges of Looking After Faberge Eggs

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The outgoing chief executive reflects on the fragile balancing act of running a club like Liverpool.

Liverpool v Wigan Athletic - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool need to keep hold of their roots; Liverpool need to keep pace with likes Chelsea and the Manchester clubs. Liverpool have to stay accessible to the local supporter; Liverpool need to be challenging for trophies in England and Europe.

It’s not an easy balance to strike, which can clearly be seen any time talk of ticket costs or paying for grounds expansions comes up. Or any time fans, many of whom were only minutes before complaining about ticket prices, start to demand shiny new marquee signings.

For Ian Ayre, set to depart the club in the summer after spending a decade trying to keep pace with the other big clubs in England and Europe while staying true to the needs of the local supporters he grew up with, it’s been a constant struggle.

“In a club like Liverpool it is one of the hardest challenges for a chief executive,” Ayre noted. “Because the core of Liverpool fans only want to think of this as a football club. And I get that. I have been that person. And to a degree I still am.

“I wish it could still be like it was in 1973 or 1974 when I was coming and standing in the queue to get in and then standing with my mates to watch the game. But the problem is, if you stay in that place, in that way, in that style, you are going to fall behind.”

What makes it most difficult is that both the desire to hold on to the club’s past and need to find ways to grow in the modern football landscape are valid. The need for marquee signings and title challenges and for local youth to be able to go the match are valid.

“When I arrived here 10 years ago, there was a lot of criticism around the fact that people felt we hadn’t capitalised upon our success back in the seventies and eighties,” Ayre added. “And as such, we had a bit of catching up to do.

“You can’t do that catching up without changing things. And change brings a little bit of unrest and business challenges. A lot of people are fearsome of change, particularly when you are dealing with something so unique and special and with so much heritage as Liverpool.”

The fear of change is valid. The need to catch up is valid. It’s been a thankless job sometimes for Ayre, On the whole, though, Liverpool are as well positioned for the future as they have been at any point in the past 20 years, and he’s played a key role in that.

“I always describe it to people that it’s like looking after a Faberge Egg,” said the departing chief executive. “It’s worth a fortune and God help that you would ever break it or damage it. It’s like carrying it around in your pocket most days.

“The important thing is that you are always conscious of it. You get criticism as a club and an individual and I understand that, because people care so much about the outcome. But if you are going to do this job you have to do it knowing you are carrying that special thing around with you.”