By Euan McTear
On June 1st, 2019, Liverpool Football Club defeated Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid to win their sixth European Cup. That journey in many ways started, though, on November 21st, 1959. That was the first game that Liverpool FC CEO Peter Moore saw at Anfield, with the passion and excitement surrounding the Reds’ 4-3 victory over Leyton Orient in the old English Second Division converting him into a lifelong Liverpool FC supporter.
Since June of 2017, Moore has been the man at the helm at Liverpool FC and the man tasked with delivering success both on and off the pitch, while at the same time maintaining the essence and values of the club. At no point could Liverpool FC stop being Liverpool FC.
While Moore has overseen progress in the club’s data and technological use, in their social media strategies, in the creation of content, in sponsorships deals, in e-commerce and much more, one of the very first things he did when he arrived was to sit down with the marketing team and to discuss what makes this institution special and how to channel that feeling and sentiment, that stems from the Bill Shankly era and even beyond, into something concrete. This was delivered in the form of Liverpool FC’s “This means more” campaign.
At the WFS19, held in Madrid in September, Moore was one of the event’s expert panellists and was interviewed by Spain-based broadcaster and former Liverpool FC player Michael Robinson. The pair discussed the values of the club and what makes it so special, while Moore was pressed on how he manages the juggling act of maintaining the traditions while also modernising what is one of the biggest global brands in all of sports.
“Football is going from being the working-class man’s passion at 3.00pm on a Saturday afternoon to a massive multi-million business and our job is to maintain the passion and emotion that is football, but to at the same time continue to grow the industry that is football”, he told World Football Summit. There’s a need to improve the matchday experience through modern concepts such as cashless payments, an app for ordering food and drink and quick-pouring beer taps, while also catering to the traditionalists who don’t want too much change to their biweekly trips to Anfield.
“Football is going from being the working-class man’s passion at 3.00pm on a Saturday afternoon to a massive multi-million business and our job is to maintain the passion and emotion that is football, but to at the same time continue to grow the industry that is football”, Peter Moore, CEO of Liverpool FC
During the panel with Robinson, he elaborated further: “We are fundamentally what I believe is the essence of what a modern football club needs to be. It needs to be organised, it needs to have a culture to build on success, it needs subject matter experts in their own fields that all come together as one”.
The notion of acquiring the best talent in each field is key to what has brought Liverpool FC back to the top of European football and to the top of the Premier League table, where they currently boast an eight-point lead over Manchester City. One example of this was with the hiring of Thomas Grønnemark to work as a throw-in coach with Jürgen Klopp’s first team. At the time, this move was ridiculed by some in the footballing world, but in 2018-19 the Reds retained possession from throw-ins under pressure 68.4% of the time and this was the best retention rate of all clubs in Europe’s top five leagues, according to Tifo Football.
This ideology is applied in all areas of the club, from the hiring of coaches such as Grønnemark to filling the club offices with experts. There is to be significant investment of £16 million in technology over the next three years, which Moore joked was the equivalent of two Andy Robertsons based on the fee the club paid to Hull City for the Scottish left-back. But this investment should pay off in the same way that previous ones have. With more than 12 million Twitter followers, more than 20 million on Instagram and over 3 million subscribers on YouTube, Liverpool FC now claim to reach 700 million followers around the world and have boasted the fastest-growing Instagram account and most popular YouTube account of the Premier League.
Analytics’ role in sports has been debated for some time, but it remains one of the hottest talking points in the industry as teams try to find the balance between the old school scouting practices and evaluation by numbers. In this sense, the best man to manage this is surely Moore, who has a significant tech background from his previous roles with Sega, Microsoft and Electronic Arts, but who has been watching the team with his own two eyes since he did so from the terraces as a young boy.
“We apply both an analogue way, which is looking at a player and assessing what that player is about not only on the pitch but off the pitch, and then secondarily we apply science”, Moore said. “We have four PhDs that are part of our football club. We have a director of sports science, that is a PhD, that looks at data and famously will look at games without watching a game. What does that mean? He looks at the data and the output. But there’s a merging of that data and experienced eyes so that the analogue and the digital come together”.
It certainly helps Liverpool FC that they can draw on the experience of their baseball cousins, the Boston Red Sox. In the Fenway Sports Group, both teams have the same owners and the MLB franchise famously went 86 years between 1918 and 2004 without winning a World Series. However, as Moore put it, “they applied science and technology to analysing players and understanding what players they needed for the Red Sox to create the best chance to win and it’s that combination and amalgamation of an experienced eye looking at an athlete, combined with data combined with phycological outputs”.
For Moore, having owners like this who ‘get it’ is important when it comes to the challenge of modernising a sports brand while respecting the history. It’s for that reason that he doesn’t even refer to Fenway Sports Group as the “owners”. “We don’t have an owner, we have stewards,” he told Robinson. “My boss Mike Gordon and the principal partners John Henry and Tom Werner will always describe themselves as stewards of the club. Mike would say we have the economic rights to do business on behalf of the club, but the people own the club”.
“We have four PhDs that are part of our football club. We have a director of sports science, that is a PhD, that looks at data and famously will look at games without watching a game”, Peter Moore, CEO of Liverpool FC
It’s all for the people, for the fans. That’s why Moore was so excited to get back to the city of Liverpool after winning the 2018-19 Champions League final in Madrid. The trophy may have been attained through scientific scouting processes that helped acquire the likes of Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk, through a sound commercial strategy that provides the necessary budget and through the hard work of the experts behind the scenes. But, it’s all about the fans and their loyalty. “I was looking at these people’s faces and there were grown men who were sobbing because we’d shown them the European Cup”, Moore recalled of the day of the Champions League trophy parade. “What a life-changing moment that was for me”.
Part of the reason it was so special to Moore was because Liverpool FC is so special to Moore. As Robinson stated during the panel: “I think it’s great that the CEO of Liverpool FC is a Scouser, from Liverpool. You’re also a fan. You’re one of the few people who have been to Anfield when the Reds were playing in the second division and before we would sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.”
Moore agreed, reflecting on some of the conversations he had when discussing the possibility of assuming the CEO role: “Is being a fan a plus or a negative? Is understanding the football club, the people, the city of Liverpool and the history of the football club sometimes a burden, when you have to make difficult decisions as a chief executive? In the end, fortunately we figured it was a plus and here I am.”
There Moore is, and there he was at the 2019 World Football Summit in Madrid to discuss Liverpool FC’s return to the top. “We’re back on our perch, as we famously say”, Moore joked during his conversation with Robinson, referring to former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson’s quip from 1986. Looking at results on and off the pitch, they certainly are.