Liverpool damaged by failure to build new stadium says Ian Ayre

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The Independent Online

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre admits the failure of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett to build a new stadium "set the club back several years".

And Ayre, promoted from commercial director late last season by new owners Fenway Sports Group, said had it not been for huge strides made in off-field business during that time the finances would have been in a bigger mess than they were just before FSG assumed control.

Hicks and Gillett were eventually ousted last October when, with creditors Royal Bank of Scotland wanting repayment of a £230million acquisition loan, a sale to FSG was pushed through against their wishes.

They departed with work on the promised stadium in Stanley Park no nearer starting than it was when Gillett pledged "the shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days" at his first press conference having bought the club in February 2007.

"When you look at what we have done in growing the business, if we had started building a stadium in 2007 we would be in it by now," said Ayre.

"It could have been brilliant but we have probably set ourselves back several years."

The Reds managing director admitted there could not be a greater difference between the previous regime and the current one.

"There was a great opportunity to maximise the value of the club and they (Hicks and Gillett) were right, it needed a new stadium and new people," Ayre told the Liverpool Daily Post's Business Magazine.

"What they got fundamentally wrong was using leveraged finance to run the business and try to develop the business.

"Without the significant increase in revenues God knows how much of a mess we would have been in.

"What we have now is people who really understand how to own, operate and run a sports business.

"They are very honest about their objectives; they listen - that's quite fundamental."

The stadium issue is one which still needs resolving but Ayre said they would not repeat past mistakes and rush their deliberations.

"Nobody is going to force ourselves or the owners to make a decision until we know what's right for the club, because that was what partly went wrong before," he added.

"Sometimes people won't like that it takes a long time. That's unfortunate but it's the way we do it.

"Once a week someone will ask me what is happening with the stadium and the answer is 'We don't know'.

"The reason we don't know is there are still the two solutions. They are a new stadium in Stanley Park or a refurbished Anfield - that obviously comes with all sorts of issues - and there are a million questions to answer.

"The new stadium in the park comes down to the economics; how do we pay it back? It needs a big naming partner.

"Until you get the answer to those questions it would be wrong and unprofessional for us to make a statement about what we are doing."

Yesterday principal owner John Henry reiterated his belief that rebuilding the club - both on the field and off it - was a long-term project with no quick fixes.

Despite the progress made under FSG and manager Kenny Dalglish, who revitalised the team when he took over from Roy Hodgson in January, there is still plenty of work to be done to restore Liverpool to former glories.

And Ayre echoed the views of Henry by saying: "There's nobody getting carried away with what can be achieved in what timescale.

"The owners have said they want to win. That means a lot of things.

"We don't want to win once, we want to build consistency."

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