Liverpool shocked by Julian Ward’s decision to quit as sporting director

Liverpool’s sporting director, Julian Ward, has decided to leave the club at the end of the season, only months after replacing Michael Edwards in the post.

Ward officially succeeded the influential Edwards in the summer after being promoted from assistant sporting director, although he led Liverpool’s recruitment of Luis Díaz and Darwin Núñez before then while operating in a transitional leadership role.

The 41-year-old’s decision has come as a shock and disappointment to Liverpool, who are now considering whether to continue with the sporting director model that was first introduced under Edwards in 2016. Jürgen Klopp, who likes the sporting director structure and was close to both Edwards and Ward, will have a pivotal role in deciding how football operations should be run come the end of the season. The chief executive, Billy Hogan, will also be involved in the final decision that could see Liverpool maintain the current setup and have a third sporting director in just over a year.

No explanation has been given for Ward’s exit but he has told Liverpool he intends to take a break at the end of the season and has no intention of starting a job at a new club in the immediate future. While the Liverpool-born sporting director has been in his post for only several months officially, he has worked for the club for more than a decade since joining from Manchester City.

Ward was a European scouting manager and a loans and pathways manager before becoming Edwards’ assistant during a highly successful period for Liverpool. He has a close working relationship with the head of recruitment, Dave Fallows, and the chief scout, Barry Hunter, both of whom will continue to have a central role in Liverpool’s transfer strategy.

Liverpool believe the advance notice from Ward, together with their long-established football strategy, will ensure business continues as normal this season. They have no reservations over their sporting director remaining in his role until the end of the campaign, with Ward’s character and professional integrity unquestioned.

There are further changes scheduled behind the scenes with Liverpool’s director of research, Ian Graham, who has been at the club since 2012, also due to leave at the end of the season having handed in his resignation in June. He is currently serving a notice period.

Meanwhile, Uefa has still to be notified when the independent review into the chaotic scenes at May’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris will be published.

European football’s governing body commissioned a team led by Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, a Portuguese MP, to look into the events at the Stade de France which saw dangerous congestion problems leading to a delayed kick-off, fans locked out, tickets failing to work and heavy-handed police use teargas on supporters.

Uefa stated it aimed to have the report published by the end of November but with less than a week remaining it is still waiting for confirmation of when the report will be received. “Uefa has not yet been informed of a concrete date for the publication of the report being currently prepared by the independent review team led by Dr Brandão Rodrigues,” read a statement.

Concerns were expressed in some quarters over the appointment of Rodrigues just two days after the final as he previously worked closely with Tiago Craveiro, formerly the chief executive of the Portuguese Football Federation who in March this year moved to become an adviser to Uefa’s president, Aleksandr Ceferin. However, fears seemed to have been allayed, certainly among some groups on Merseyside, when Rodrigues and his team visited to gather information and take statements from the club and organised supporters’ groups.