Nashville MLS today announced the appointment of Ian Ayre as Chief Executive Officer. Ayre, formerly Chief Executive of Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League, will assume the responsibility of building and leading the Nashville MLS club.
“We are committed to bringing world-class soccer to Nashville, as evidenced by the appointment of Ian as our CEO,” said John Ingram, lead owner, Nashville MLS. “Ian understands our vision for Nashville MLS and has the skill and experience to bring the best in soccer to our city. His passion for the sport and the business of the game, along with his progressive approach and commitment to community, will help us create Nashville’s MLS club while elevating soccer in Music City and MLS. I’m delighted to welcome him to Nashville and our club!”
Ayre has an extensive background in sports, media and technology, most recently as Chief Executive of Liverpool Football Club. During his 10-year tenure with the club, he was responsible for rebuilding the organization at all levels. After initially securing a record-breaking sponsorship deal for the club, he went on to restructure the entire commercial, operational and football elements of the business as well as oversee the successful $160 million stadium expansion.
Ayre was directly responsible for all player transfer negotiations, including contract negotiations on more than 100 player contracts (acquisitions, sales, loans, extensions), including Phillipe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Roberto Firmino, Raheem Sterling and Sadio Manè. He also worked with five leading coaches – Rafael Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp. During his time at Liverpool, Ian served on the UEFA Competitions Committee as an elected member and in 2017 was voted Premier League Chief Executive of the Year.
“The opportunity to put Nashville on the national and international soccer map is a truly outstanding challenge, and I literally cannot wait to get started,” said Ayre. “Becoming chief executive officer of the Nashville MLS club is a unique opportunity in the global soccer community. To take what is essentially a blank sheet of paper and build an entire club is an amazing challenge, and one I am hugely excited about.”
Nashville was awarded Major League Soccer’s 24thclub in December 2017, and enthusiasm for soccer continues to grow in Music City. CONCACAF recently announced Nashville as a host city of the 2019 Gold Cup. Nashville Soccer Club, the city’s USL club, launched in spring 2018.
“In my experience, the key to success in building sports clubs is to create a bond and unity between the owners, the team and the fans,” said Ayre. “It’s clear to me that Nashville and its people not only have a true love of sports, but an enormous sense of civic pride for their city. These are the ingredients you need to build a great club.”
Born in Liverpool, Ayre has been a soccer fan since his early years and followed Liverpool all over the world both as a fan and as an employee. Following 10 years active military service in the British Royal Navy, Ayre’s career progressed into the consumer electronics industry where he was responsible for building an extensive manufacturing, sales and distribution network across the Asia Pacific region for Pace Micro Technology, a UK publicly listed company in the satellite television technology sector.
Following his departure from Pace, Ayre worked with the company’s founder and chairman to acquire a British soccer club Huddersfield Town in 1999. Ayre served as chairman and chief executive of the club, transforming the club’s commercial revenues, completing the final stages of construction of the club’s new stadium, and the revitalizing the club’s roster.
In 2000 while at Huddersfield Town, Ayre was instrumental in developing a business plan which envisioned the 72 clubs of The Football League, investing their digital rights into a common operating platform. Ayre was appointed as the Managing Director of that business – Premium TV Limited. The business, funded and controlled by communications giant NTL Inc., went on to secure the digital rights of all 72 professional clubs of the football league and a number of Premier League clubs.
In 2004, Ian returned to Asia where he was a board member of sports marketing business Total Sports Asia. With its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the company was focused on the sale of media rights in sports, event management, sponsorship sales and merchandising and licensing. Total Sports saw rapid growth and opened offices in Japan, India, Middle East, Thailand and China, boasting an impressive and wide array of sports and entertainment clients, including World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), FIFA, The World Badminton Association, US Tennis Association and a host of European and International soccer teams.
Following his 10-year tenure at Liverpool Football Club, Ayre served briefly as managing director, 1860 Munich.
Ayre and his family will be relocating to Nashville this summer.