Ayre: We Were Close to Administration; A Year from Their High Court Battle, Reds' Managing Director Ian Ayre Reflects on One of the Most Momentous Days in Liverpool's History
Byline: Ian Doyle
IT WAS a moment of welcome relief on a day of unremitting tension. As the public gallery jostled for position to witness Liverpool's future being played out at the High Court in London, the judge decided enough was enough.
"We were all crammed into the little court and somebody managed to talk the usher into letting the fans to go and watch from up top," recalls Ian Ayre, then the club's commercial director.
"Then the judge came out and said 'I'm sorry, you'll have to leave from there, it's a health and safety issue' and some Scouser up there said 'can we appeal against that?' That gave us some respite!
"That was my favourite memory of the proceedings.
But to be honest, I think I've mentally blocked most of them out."
Small wonder. The surreal sight of the club's immediate existence resting at the hands of a High Court judge signified just how desperate the situation had become with Liverpool potentially on the brink of going bust.
It was a year ago today that Tom Hicks and George Gillett fought to prevent their main creditors, the Royal Bank of Scotland, from forcing through the sale of the club to a group of investors led by Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry.
Put simply, RBS had become fed up at Hicks and Gillett defaulting on repayments, and wanted their pounds 280million debt repaid by the end of the week or the club would go into administration and Liverpool, who were then in the relegation zone, would most likely be deducted nine points.
Salvation came in the for m of New England Sports Ventures. Martin Broughton, the chairman appointed by Hicks and Gillett to oversee the sale of the club, agreed a pounds 300m deal with NESV.
That, though, wasn't a big enough offer for the American duo, who subsequently attempted to depose Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and Ayre to ensure the club rather than their pockets bore the brunt of any loss, with the proposed deal leaving them pounds 144m in arrears.
Hence the incredible scenes of jubilation on the steps outside the High Court when Mr Justice Floyd ruled in favour of RBS and the Liver pool board. The date was October 13 2010 - and within two days NESV, or Fenway Sports Group as they are now known, had completed their takeover, Hicks and Gillett banished for good.
"I was always confident," reveals Ayre. "I knew we hadn't done anything wrong. We were very well advised and were all together during the process.
"I always work on the basis if you haven't done anything wrong, then you'll be fine. And that remains the same today.
"We had to weave our way through being removed from the board then being back on the board, being in a board meeting then not in a board meeting, but we got there in the end.
"What was going to happen to our football club? How can we actually be here? "That was the more bewildering thing. It's a club we all work at, support or both, so what are we doing at a High Court arguing about how we should run it and look after it, when it's been around for more than 100 years?" Given the amount of positive change at Liverpool during the past 12 months, it's easy - and perhaps convenient - to forget the perilous state the club was in during those dark, dark days.
"Would we have gone into administration? …