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Former Liverpool owners missed opportunity to build new stadium

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre revealed that it was only an increase in off-field revenues that prevented the Reds being in a worse financial mess under the stewardship of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The the failure of Hicks and Gillett to build a new stadium "set the club back several years".

They departed with work on the promised stadium in Stanley Park no nearer starting than when they arrived, leaving new owners Fenway Sports Group to decide whether to build a new stadium or refurbish Anfield.

"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."

The Reds managing director admitted 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; they listen - that's quite fundamental."

The stadium issue is one which still needs resolving but Ayre said they would not repeat past mistakes and rush their deliberations.

"Nobody is going to force ourselves or the owners to make a decision until we know what's right for the club, because that was what partly went wrong before," he added.

"Sometimes people won't like that it takes a long time. That's unfortunate but it's the way we do it.

"Once a week someone will ask me what is happening with the stadium and the answer is 'We don't know'.

"The reason we don't know is there are still the two solutions. They are a new stadium in Stanley Park or a refurbished Anfield - that obviously comes with all sorts of issues - and there are a million questions to answer.

"The new stadium in the park comes down to the economics; how do we pay it back? It needs a big naming partner.

"Until you get the answer to those questions it would be wrong and unprofessional for us to make a statement about what we are doing."

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Dave Williams

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