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Sports

Liverpool Chairman Ian Ayre to step into the fray at 1860

Second division club 1860 Munich are set to make a major boardroom signing. Ian Ayre is to step down as chief executive of Liverpool to try and guide the Bavarian capital's second club back to the Bundesliga.

Friday's move, which had been rumored for months, was announced in separate statements issued first by Liverpool, then by 1860 Munich.

"In Ian Ayre we have hired our candidate of choice," 1860 Munich's majority shareholder, Hasan Ismaik, said in a statement on the club's website. "We are confident that his long years of experience at the highest level of football will be an asset to us."

"For me there is no doubt that the club belongs back in the Bundesliga," the statement quoted Ayre as saying. "As of today, TSV 1860 is not among the biggest or best clubs in Germany. However, there is tremendous potential to improve this situation. If size alone mattered, the elephant and not the lion would be king of the animal kingdom," he added in a reference to the animal that happens to be on 1860's badge.

Early departure

Ayre, who let it be known last March that he would be stepping down as Liverpool chief executive when his current contract expired, is to leave the Premier League club at the end of the month, three months ahead of schedule. 

Mike Gordon, president of the Fenway Sports Group, which owns Liverpool FC, paid tribute to Ayre on behalf of himself, FSG owner John W. Henry and club chairman Tom Werner.

"On behalf of John and Tom, I would like to place on record the outstanding contribution Ian has made to Liverpool Football Club over the past 10 years," he said in a press release.

"It goes without saying that his leadership of LFC has been instrumental to the club's progress under our ownership.

Ayre is credited with leading a major comprehensive overhaul of Liverpool's financial, commercial and operational structures, including an expansion of the main stand at the club's stadium, Anfield.

"There is no greater professional satisfaction for me than to leave Liverpool Football Club in much improved health throughout than when I joined here in 2007," Ayre said.

A club in turmoil

The 53-year-old Ayre will have his work cut out for him at his new club. 1860 are currently 13th in the second division and haven't been in the Bundesliga since being relegated at the end of the 2003-04 season.

The club has been in turmoil in recent years having gone through numerous changes in coaching and management in the second division. Over the last few months, head coach Kosta Runjaic as well as other club officials Thomas Eichin and Raed Gerges have all been replaced. Ismaik's plans to build a new stadium for the club have also stalled, with the Jordanian investor having rejected a site that the city of Munich supports as too restrictive. In an interview with the Munich newspaper "Abendzeitung" on Thursday, Ismaik raised the possibility of eventually looking for a site outside of the Bavarian capital.

There has also been unsettling news in the first team, with the current head coach, Vitor Pereira, having dropped Stefan Aigner from the squad for Friday night's match against Arminia Bielefeld, a day after Aigner asked to be relieved of his duties as team captain. 

This comes at a time of heightened tensions between the club's management and the press after 1860 Munich revoked the standing accreditation of the beat reporters for three newspapers and instructed them to apply for accrediation on a game-by-game basis. 

pfd/jh (SID, dpa)