LFC statement: Future changes to football operations structure

NewsLFC statement: Future changes to football operations structure

Published 10th November 2021

Liverpool Football Club has today announced future changes to the structure of its football operations leadership, with the news that Michael Edwards will step down as sporting director at the end of this season.

The 42-year-old has given notice to the club’s ownership of his wish to pursue a new challenge when his contract ends, allowing for a carefully managed and orderly transition to take place.

Julian Ward, currently assistant sporting director, will be promoted after Edwards’ departure, taking on the more senior role. The 40-year-old previously held the position of director of loan management.

Other senior members of Liverpool’s football operations department will remain and will continue to be integral to setting and implementing the club’s football strategy.

Edwards joined the Reds in 2011 as head of analytics. He was subsequently promoted to director of technical performance and later technical director.

In November 2016, he assumed the newly created position as sporting director, leading the club’s overall football development.

A significant part of his responsibilities included player identification, acquisition, retention and sales.

Headed up by Edwards, the club’s current football operations team have collectively played a pivotal role in aiding the success of Jürgen Klopp’s side on the pitch, reaching back-to-back Champions League finals in 2018 and 2019, ultimately securing a sixth European Cup in Madrid.

The UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup were added to the trophy cabinet before a 30-year wait for the league championship was ended in June 2020 when the Reds sealed the Premier League title having been runners-up in the previous season.

Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards

Off the pitch, the football operations team were instrumental in the development of the club’s new state-of-the-art training facility – the AXA Training Centre – in Kirkby, a venue which provides world-class facilities for the first and youth teams.

In an open letter to supporters posted on Liverpoolfc.com, Edwards said: “To be part of this club during this period has been a privilege due to the people I have been fortunate enough to work with and the success we have enjoyed.

“I had always planned to cap my time at the club to a max of 10 years. I’ve loved working here, but I am a big believer in change. I think it’s good for the individual and, in a work setting, good for the employer, too. Over my time here we have changed so many things (hopefully for the better) but someone new brings a different perspective, new ideas and can hopefully build (or change) on the things that have been put in place beforehand.

“Julian has been building up the skill set for this role for many years. Last year, he took on the role of assistant sporting director and over the past 12 months he has been introduced to other facets of the role that are vital to its success. I believe he is ideal for the role.

“Over the coming season I will continue to support him as we complete the leadership transition.”

Julian Ward
Julian Ward

Fenway Sports Group responded to the news by praising Edwards for his work with the club to date, paying tribute and stating his contribution would ‘stand the test of time’.

Mike Gordon said: “It is, of course, disappointing to be losing in due course a person who is as talented as Michael is, but we respect his wishes to seek a new challenge at the appropriate time for him.

“He and his amazing family will be missed at LFC. None more so than his wife and partner Emily. The friendships that have been forged will outlast all such decisions and I feel privileged to be able to say both will forever be part of our collective story.

“Having valued leaders who decide to move on is unfortunately part and parcel of running any organisation. It is our responsibility to make the best decisions for our immediate, medium and long-term future with any subsequent appointments and restructure. In this regard, I firmly believe that in Julian Ward we are fortunate to have that leader already within our structure and I am very excited at the prospect of continuing to work with him through the transition as he assumes the role of sporting director when Michael eventually departs, particularly as I have no doubt that he is more than absolutely ready for the new responsibilities that he will take on.

“Michael’s contribution and achievements will stand the test of time given the role he has played in helping to rebuild and shape the club into what we see today, but a more substantial tribute and recognition can be paid when he actually departs.

“Importantly, we believe we have a lot of elite, industry-leading individuals as part of the wider football operations team, all of whom will of course remain with us, working with and supporting Julian.”

Gordon’s sentiments were echoed by Klopp, who said: “I wish Michael and his wonderful family all the best, for whatever they choose to do next.

“I know he isn’t leaving immediately or in haste, which is cool, so we still have some time to work together. If we are as fortunate and blessed as we have been so far, maybe we can create more special memories for our club in this remaining time.

“He has been a constant presence during my period at LFC and his contribution to our success is clear for everyone to see.

“I have complete trust in Mike Gordon and the wider ownership group in their vision for what comes next. Julian and I have worked closely since he became loans and pathway manager, plus even more so in his wider role during the past 12 months.

“We have so many brilliant people here, all of whom contribute to what we have achieved and I have nothing but confidence we will continue to develop, progress and improve as an organisation.”

Published 10th November 2021