• Premier League

Liverpool claim they deserve more credit

ESPN staff
April 25, 2014
Luis Suarez says Steven Gerrard has been Liverpool's real star this season

Liverpool's managing director Ian Ayre claims the club deserve more credit for their transformation from financial basket case to well-run title favourites.

As Brendan Rodgers' side prepare to face Chelsea on Sunday in a game which could be key to ending the club's 24-year wait for a championship crown, Ayre has reminded fans how much is owed to the stewardship of their American owners.

He says Liverpool were on the brink of financial collapse when Boston-based Fenway Sports Group bought the club in October 2010 and insists the revival in the relatively short time since has been remarkable.

"People sometimes forget how bad it was," Ayre said. "I speak to people now and they have really short memories. When you think about that day when [the High Court ruled John W Henry and Tom Werner could take over and] we tipped it over the edge and finally pulled it back, we have come such a long way.

Ian Ayre claims fans have short memories © PA Photos

"It's easy to say it's about time we are back in the Champions League. But if you think about where we were financially, just because you are Liverpool it does not mean you have a right to get back up there. There are plenty of teams who could have slipped and slipped, despite new owners.

"It's an unbelievable achievement to get back where we are. As one of the few people who was here with the last ownership and through this one, the club is in a fantastically sustainable position now."

According to Ayre, Liverpool were on the verge of going into administration after being laden with debt under the regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

He compared their plight at the time of the takeover to the American TV documentary series Seconds From Disaster. Fenway, led by Henry and Werner, were only able to take control at Anfield after a ruling by London's High Court forced Hicks and Gillett to sell.

Ayre said: "It is no secret, it's like that TV programme - Seconds From Disaster. We were sort of in that vein. It was horrific to see the football club in that state. I do not think there was a Liverpool fan anywhere who was not worried we would not get to this position we are in now."

Even after the takeover, Liverpool's new owners were not able to work on improving the club without distractions from the old regime. Hicks and Gillett launched a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Ayre, FSG and other Liverpool directors in September 2011 and an out-of-court settlement was eventually reached in January 2013.

"The hardest thing after the event was the previous owners never felt the right thing had been done but it was the right thing," Ayre said. "We went from the court ruling [to] two years of scrapping via lawyers.

"One of the biggest parts of the court case was they said we could not legally make the transaction. John W Henry was waiting for the ruling to do the deal. It was horrific."

Liverpool have already secured Champions League football for next season and their lead at the top of the Premier League stands at five points - a feat striker Luis Suarez also believes is remarkable given the spending of their rivals.

Ayre's club may have recorded an annual loss of £49.8 million in their most recent accounts but he is bullish about their prospects after a reduction in debt and confident they can make the most of their new European income stream. He says Liverpool will, in time, also capitalise from a planned expansion of Anfield thanks to a sharpened off-field set up.

"One of the things we have done in a similar way to how we have gone about plans for the stadium, is to give us strength in the commercial department, Ayre said.

"When I came here seven or eight years ago, there were all these stories of the club shop being closed the day after the [2005] Champions League final [win over AC Milan], and only having a couple of sponsors and stuff like that.

"So, over a long period of time, we have been trying to lay the foundations and build the infrastructure that services a great club like Liverpool.

"You'll have good years and bad, but a club of this size, with this level of fan-base, you have to be set up to service that demand and that wasn't the case."

Luis Suarez and Brendan Rodgers have inspired Liverpool's revival © Getty Images
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