Belfast Telegraph

Ayre: Reds set back by stadium woe

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.

"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."

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.

The Reds managing director stated 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 and they listen - that's quite fundamental."

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