Ian Ayre talks Liverpool FC ‘Moneyball’

17 April 2013

Liverpool Managing Director, Ian Ayre has spoken out about the club’s owners and the way the club has turned the way they conduct business around since the arrival of the Americans in 2010.


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John Henry and Fenway Sports Group took over the club in October that year, after success with the Boston Red Sox baseball team across the pond.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated magazine about his experience working with Henry and Chairman Tom Werner, Ayre says he is impressed with their strategies.

Ayre was asked about the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy in the transfer market, a strategy based on statistics and attributes of players that first came to light in baseball and was advocated by former Liverpool Director of Football, Damien Comolli.

Ayre says that since Comolli’s departure, the club use a range of strategies that supplement each other to create their transfer policy, recently resulting in the signings of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.

He said, “I don’t think there was ever anyone at Liverpool using the word Moneyball, but plenty of other people were using it. I think the reality is there were two phases to what’s happened since the change of ownership. In the first phase, like any major transaction of that type, we talked about the knowledge of soccer, and that takes time. So we probably spent a year with the owners taking a leap of faith to a certain degree of other people telling them what they should be doing. Within that year we then get to a situation where the dust has settled, and people start to see what is and isn’t working.

“I think the fundamental shift particularly around player acquisitions and disposals was that we took the view that it needs to be more of a science. Your biggest expenditure line can’t be the whim of any individual. What we believe, and we continue to follow, is you need many people involved in the process. That doesn’t mean somebody else is picking the team for Brendan [Rodgers, the manager]. But Brendan needs to set out with his team of people which positions we want to fill and what the key targets would be for that.

“He has a team of people that go out and do an inordinate amount of analysis work to establish who are the best players in that position. It’s a combination of things. Despite what people think and read, it’s not a whole bunch of guys sitting behind a computer working out who we should buy. It’s a combination of old-school scouting and watching players — and that’s Brendan, his assistants, our scouts — with statistical analysis of players across Europe and the rest of the world. By bringing those two processes together, you get a much more educated view of who you should and shouldn’t be buying. And perhaps as fundamentally, how much you should be paying and the structure to those contracts.”

Although Ayre’s comments can be taken with a pinch of salt – he is, of course, an employee of the club, it is refreshing to hear that a calmer and more sensible, well-rounded approach is being taken to contracts involving players at the club.

Ayre added, “I think we’ve had relatively good success since we deployed that methodology. We’re getting better all the time. Just as you think our football is getting better, our transfer activity is getting better. We were very pleased with the most recent window in January with Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Hopefully you continue to follow that path. But it’s not a Moneyball strategy. It’s a combination of skills and people and processes that bring us to what we’re trying to achieve.”

In the interview, Ayre also told fans to expect a big announcement about the club’s plans to expand Anfield this summer.

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