Former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre has vowed to adhere to Nashville’s penchant for entertainment after being hired by the city’s Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
Ayre, who spent a decade at Anfield before leaving in 2017, has taken on the challenge of building the league’s 24th franchise after they were awarded a place in MLS five months ago – shortly before David Beckham’s Miami-based team was approved too.
The Tennessean capital Nashville, nicknamed ‘Music City’, is synonymous with country music and is already home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators, both of whom made the play-offs in their most recent seasons.
Liverpudlian Ayre sees parallels between his home and his new adopted one, and the new Nashville chief executive wants to see his MLS club promote the values their city is famed for.
“It’s renowned for its music heritage here, people love to be entertained, people are very passionate about the city, which kind of mirrors my home in Liverpool,” Ayre explained to Press Association Sport.
“People are hugely patriotic of the city itself. I think that’s a great ingredient to build a football team with.
“I was fortunate enough in the process to go and visit the Predators in the play-offs and see the genuine passion that people have for the team here. That’s a franchise that was acquired 21 years ago. There’s no history of ice hockey.
“To see people going crazy in game two of the play-offs was really comforting because you could see what’s possible when you bring something here and engage with the local community. All the ingredients are perfect.
“I can see in Nashville that they like to be excited and entertained because there’s such a rich history of entertainment in the city. We’re not coming here just to take part, there’s a lot more than that.”
Ayre left Liverpool in February 2017, having played a key role in the ownership change seven years earlier and in the redevelopment on the recently-renovated Main Stand at Anfield.
He became 1860 Munich’s general manager in April of that year but left a little more than a month into the position, with the German club relegated into the third tier for the following campaign.
Now Ayre will face an entirely different task as he looks to build a club virtually from scratch ahead of Nashville’s debut season, possibly in 2020.
“This was exactly the type of opportunity I thought about in own my mind,” he added.
“When I stepped down after 10 years at Liverpool, my desire was always to find something different and challenging.
“Having done the very big, historical club job, this couldn’t be a better opportunity or challenge in terms of building an entire club from the ground up in a league that has gone in an upward trajectory year on year.”
In the more immediate future, Ayre will travel to Kiev for his old club’s Champions League final against Real Madrid.
“I just had a very nice and complimentary text from Kenny Dalglish this morning congratulating me on my appointment here,” Ayre said.
“I hope to raise a glass with him at some point in Kiev when we go and win it…hopefully!”