Former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre enticed to head up MLS's Nashville expansion team

Nashville's team that will enter MLS named former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre as its CEO.

During his 10-year tenure with Liverpool, Ayre rose to managing director and then CEO under new owner Fenway Sports Group. He left in February 2017 to become managing director of second-division German club 1860 Munich but departed quickly.

Nashville lead owner John Ingram said Ayre's hiring shows the expansion team's commitment to make an immediate splash.

“Ian understands our vision for Nashville MLS and has the skill and experience to bring the best in soccer to our city," said Ingram. "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.”

Ayre, 55, told the Tennessean he had his eye on an MLS job for a while.

“You talk about MLS and its growth, I think it’s becoming easier and will become easier to attract the right talent to something that’s exciting and developing. And if you have a reputation of being involved in a club like Liverpool, you hope that stands for something when you start to try and attract talent.”

Ayre's background was in consumer electronics in Asia and he first became involved in soccer with Huddersfield Town in 1999. He then worked with the Football League (the three English leagues below the EPL) to develop its digital properties. He later joined sports marketing firm Total Sports Asia.

No decision has been made on when the Nashville team will enter MLS. Ingram operates the first-year USL team Nashville SC.

European transplants. Ayre will be the highest-profile European transplant to head up an MLS team.

In recent years, other MLS clubs have, with mixed results, brought executives in from Europe to head up or work in their business or technical operations:

Sept. 2014: Atlanta United, Darren Eales (Tottenham), president
Jan. 2015: Colorado, Padraig Smith (UEFA), executive VP and general manager
Oct. 2015: Philadelphia, Earnie Stewart (AZ), sporting director
Jan. 2017: San Jose, Jesse Fioranelli (Roma), general manager
June 2017: San Jose, Tom Fox (Aston Villa), president

The most notable success story is Darren Eales at Atlanta United, which has broken new territory in terms of its commitment to sign players and the support of its fans.
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