Addressing the Crisis
In recent years you’d be more likely to enjoy going to a funeral than taking a trip to Villa Park. In the past five seasons, Villa supporters have experienced an ever-growing club record number of home defeats in a season, under both Alex McLeish (8) and Paul Lambert (9 & 10), and then during the absolute farce of this current season (currently at 12 losses).
Villa chairman Steve Hollis said when he arrived into the club, “You should never waste a good crisis”, a sentiment the Villa chairman echoed at the recent Fans Consultation Group meeting before the Southampton game (more of that to follow on MOMS).
From a supporter point-of-view, it’s very much Defcon one. How many times have we thought, ‘well, it can’t get any worse?’ We’ve got to a stage where a sizeable amount of season ticket holders aren’t even attending games now, despite having prepaid for their tickets. Supporter-player relations are also at an all-time low.
Admittedly, until a new owner buys Randy Lerner out, realistically the club cannot use the crisis as a catalyst for change to re-energised the fanbase for a promotion-push ahead next season. Too many uncertain variables exist to plan for the future with any certainty – after a new owner, there must come a new manager and squad overhaul.
Of course, supporters will need to see the outcome of these issues to also be able to buy into next season with any real conviction. However, there is a step the club can take as a statement of intent to supporters.
Statement of Intent
The club’s recent announcement of a conservative £10 reduction in next season’s season ticket prices (which was countered with a reduction in Villa Cash from 5% to 3%) did little to excite the supporter base, while closing the upper tier of the Trinity Road, symbolically at least, was akin to raising the white flag.
However, we cannot go into next season on a whimper.
There is one way the club without potentially spending a penny can make a clear statement of intent in terms of the direction of the club and also provide a firm gesture to supporters.
What the club should be doing is what Leeds United have ventured to do next season, declaring that promotion is the clear mission and to provide a percentage refund to fans if the club fails to reach at least the Championship play-offs.
The Leeds club statement announcing their initiative read:
“As a clear statement of our intent to gain promotion, in the event that the club does not reach at least the play-offs in the 2016/17 season, we will offer all season-ticket holders who purchase their season ticket before the May 31 deadline a 25 per cent refund on their net season-ticket price.
“In addition, should general admission season-ticket sales surpass 15,000 by July 31, 2016, and the club does not reach at least the play-offs, the season-ticket refund, for qualifying season-ticket holders only, will increase to an incredible 50 per cent of the net season-ticket price.”
If Villa were to offer the same, it would be a declaration of real intent. Plus, in light of the previous woeful home form of recent seasons, it also says to fans, if we fail you again, we’ll acknowledge that fact financially.
By adding an extra percentage bracket if a certain amount of season ticket sales is reached, this also sends the message of ‘help us to help you’ and gives supporters even more security to their investment in the club.
The play-offs should be the bare minimum of the club’s endeavours next season. If the management at the club don’t think they can make the play-offs at least, then what the hell are we doing here?
In the case of Leeds they have seen their average attendance at Elland Road fall. For the 2014/15 campaign it was 24,278, while this season’s current figure is 22,611. A ball park that Villa might be in, if fans have tired of their club’s recent shenanigans.
MOMS has verbally communicated the idea in person to Steve Hollis, Brian Little and Nicola Keyes at the aforementioned Fan Consultation Group meeting. It was received with interest, but such a venture it seems from our discussion would understandably be at the door of any new owners to implement, considering any rebate would be paid or attributed the following season.
The club haven’t had a clear mission statement since Lerner took over and aimed for the Champions League. Since then, there’s been nothing steering the club and it has contributed to the club’s loss of direction and downfall.
Without potentially spending a dime, the club with such a rebate gesture could go a long way to getting supporters to look ahead, rather than at the current mess that surrounds us all.
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