PROTEST WITH PURPOSE
No one can question the pain and misery threshold of Aston Villa supporters. The last five seasons have been nothing short of soul-destroying. Our patience has been wrung out to the very last drop.
Enough is enough.
Previously, the club has been in limbo, now it’s heading for potential disaster. You know the problems, you’ve suffered the despair, so lets cut to the chase.
Protests, banners etc are inevitable and necessary, but as Aston Villa supporters we need to go beyond simply expressing our anger and frustration and calling ‘Lerner Out’.
“We are not talking about a mere business. This is Aston Villa Football Club and it deserves nothing but the best.” – Frederick Rinder, club chairman, 1924.
DON’T ACT WITHOUT AIMS
Everyone knows we’re not happy and Lerner is to all extent and purposes ‘out’, as the appointment of chairman Steve Hollis pointed to. It’ll take a buyer to get him out proper though.
As well as expressing our feelings we need purpose and we need to point the way to a better Aston Villa FC.
Ask yourself, what are we actually protesting for? What do we want? What can we sensibly demand to help the club improve itself and its engagement with supporters.
RECLAIMING OUR IMPORTANCE
Back in 2015, at the first AVST AGM Aston Villa CEO Tom Fox attended, after he referred to the club’s colours as “burgundy” (there was the first clue this might not work out), he spoke about how the influx of Premier League television money impacted on fans. As Fox said, supporters contribution to the revenue of the club is decreasing, but the atmosphere that supporters create, especially away fans, was an intrinsic part of TV product.
Fox’s sentiments are an economic reality echoed by the hierarchy of most Premier League clubs and indeed Richard Scudamore of the Premier League. There is the notion as the Premier League matured that supporters have become ‘customers’ in the eyes of clubs.
It’s actually worse than that, because at least customers can ask for their money back and return goods.
However down in the Championship, this balance shifts, especially once the parachute payments run out. Then gate receipts, match day income and merchandise make the supporter increasingly important again. The club need reminding of this with a more commercially aimed boycott.
The time for supporters to act is NOW and on many levels. MOMS will discuss protests, walk-outs and more visual and physical protests elsewhere (in a nutshell, a massive & unique action once our fate is mathematically certain), but if we are increasingly to be viewed as consumers and customers, then let’s engage on that level too…with immediate effect.
MATCH DAY COMMERCIAL BOYCOTT
- Until the end of the season, a full supporter boycott on all match day kiosks within Villa Park stadium, including: food, drink and betting.
- Communication to club sponsors to highlight club’s treatment of supporters and to get their support on ticket price reductions and other supporter issues.
The key benefit to supporters with this action is it is a universal boycott that every fan can be involved in, it doesn’t alienate any fans, it doesn’t cause conflict amongst fans and it doesn’t affect the team.
The season ticket holder isn’t compromising their prepaid ticket in anyway and they can watch games without interruption, the Villa Park visitor can join in and even fans watching Villa on TV in America or Australia, are by default joining in too! Plus, a positive spin-off too is supporters at Villa Park won’t fall victim to over-priced food and drink.
Importantly we are not protesting solely out of anger, we want improvement and a change in the mindset at the club to finally get it moving in the right direction. We propose the following ‘Charter of AVFC Improvement’. If you are another supporter group, collective or site with any other ideas you’d like to add, please do get in touch and we’ll draft this up officially:
A SUPPORTER CHARTER TO IMPROVE
ASTON VILLA FOOTBALL CLUB
1.Tom Fox to Reconsider Position at the end of the season
Due to this being a results business, Tom Fox must consider his position at the club after his restructuring process has had devastating consequences for the club, which he admits himself he is accountable for.
Prior to joining the club Fox was celebrated for his commercial marketing credentials, well his new kit deal with Under Armour will suffer greatly as the financial package is readjusted due to relegation. In short, despite his good intentions, his failure on structuring player recruitment and getting the management side right has heavily compromised what he has done and can do off the field.
If the Villa CEO strongly feels as he did in 2015, that he actually couldn’t think of any better candidate for the job than himself, he must be made to re-apply for his job, like other Villa staff have been made to.
2. Reduction in ticket prices
The club should implement a more progressive strategy in terms of ticket pricing incentives to encourage bigger crowds in the Championship and not go down the conservative route of closing off sections of stands to cut overheads.
Such a conservative attitude has already seen the club refusing extra away ticket allocations and not cutting cup ticket prices as drastically as they could have (to encourage bigger attendances and younger fans). Such thinking will only carrying over the current depressing mood at Villa Park for another season.
The attitude needs to be one of igniting the supporter base in the Championship and not playing damage limitation. While Villa are privy to parachute payments, we feel there is room to do this.
3. Appointment of an SLO
A proper Supporter Liaison Officer and framework is needed at the club. Still nobody at the club has the title of ‘Supporter Liaison Officer’, since UEFA introduced the idea to have someone working at the club for the supporters. Villa haven’t taken the role seriously enough and unlike other clubs have not considered it important enough to appoint a designated person. All they have done is pass on the role to an employee who already has another job title at the club. It’s unfair to expect that individual to do justice to a role that needs a dedicated person (if not more).
Over the past few years various middle management have got involved in supporter matters that they were ill-equipped to deal with and their mismanagement of the situation just build up more resentment to the club’s name. A Head of Sales playing judge and jury on season ticket holder supporter bans is far from ideal.
4. Work With Supporters Not Against Them
A dedicated SLO will greatly help with this, but there needs to be a better attitude all round. Throughout the season supporters have been thrown out of the ground during games for either unjustifiable reasons or situations that were avoidable.
Take for example, the supporters who came up with the ‘Fight Like Lions’ slogan that helped rallied the club’s fortunes last season. Ironically, the club picked up a ‘Fan Engagement’ Business Award for their ‘Fight Like Lions’ campaign, yet before the marketing staff picked up their award, those fans who inspired it were banned from Villa Park. This in a nutshell sums up what is wrong with the attitude at this once great club.
These fans should have been accommodated (as other clubs have managed successfully to the benefit of the team on the pitch) to avoid issues on standing etc. A ‘can do’ attitude would be a step in the right direction, as all fans will be needed in a promotion push.
Again, the club needs to shake it’s stubbornness and needless persecution of some supporters – the example of the recent ejection of a girl with her 81-year-old dad following, was simply out of order – or it will lose more and more dedicated supporters.
5. Pay the Living Wage to match day staff
Aston Villa should pay its match day and part-time staff the living wage, whatever division we find ourselves in. It’s peanuts within the context of wages in the industry, and going into the new season it would improve staff morale amongst the club’s work force after it has suffered in recent years.
6. Vote for Away Ticket Price Cap
The Aston Villa representative at the upcoming Premier League stakeholders meeting in March, will get to vote for the cap on away tickets next season. Since they probably won’t be in the Premier League next season, we request them to use their vote for the good of supporters and not Premier League greed. Do the right thing.
7. Transparency on the £200,000 Away Fund
The away fund is the amount the Premier League have instructed clubs that they should spend on ticket price/travel concessions to away fans to help them support their teams. We would like to see more transparency on the spend by Villa and it should be listed on the club’s website, so all supporters can easily view it.
Potential Gripes aka FAQ
You want the club to build a better team, but you want to take money away?
As we’ve already been told supporter’s influence to the club is minimal now with the TV money. Next season the 5.1 billion domestic TV rights (there’s estimated to be £3billion+ more on top for international rights to come!), has been broken down to be worth £41 to every single match ticket sold. So, next season Premier League clubs could let us in free to every Premier League game and be no worse off than this season.
Villa will receive substantial parachute payments for the next couple of seasons at least (basically their window for promotion). They have the money to build a decent team, they just don’t have the know how or will to (see January window).
Don’t feel sorry for Lerner’s business, it has squandered millions upon millions on poor or uncommitted player’s transfer fees and wages. Also, Villa fans who have been unfairly thrown out or banned don’t get refunds, plus the club are happy to spend money on bodyguards for some of the people who are causing the club’s problems.
It won’t have much impact?
Oh yes it will. It will make the club take supporters a lot more seriously than if they simply just had ‘Lerner Out’ bedsheets, waved white handkerchiefs or threw a tennis ball on the pitch (although do everything you can to make a point). You will be hitting them right in their £-spot. It will be a warning to the club on the commercial terms it understands and runs the club on.
How the hell do I get through half-time without a beer?
If you can’t survive without a crappy overpriced beer at half-time, nobody’s going to stop you But consider this: You wouldn’t be able to drink anyway if it was a European game (remember those?). You used to get around not drinking at half-time on the last Villa Park European nights, so employ the same resolve or tactics for this cause, because it’s important. If you don’t make a stand now, there might not be any more Villa European nights in your life time.
I know you’re reading this employee of Aston Villa, so this might be a good time to contact your drinks sponsor Carlsberg and get them to arrange some kind of free drink promotion to win some kudos back. It’s a perfect time, as you wouldn’t be losing out on as much revenue as usual during this boycott and you’d be showing supporters some consideration for what they’ve had to watch recently. Win-win.
if anybody has any ideas to add to the objectives of supporter protest and boycotts, please get in touch on email – contact (at) myoldmansaid.com
If you want to get more involved in supporter issues and really help support MOMS become a MOMS patron here
What you have to think about is that these ‘business people’ who seem to be running the Club at the moment have no feeling for our Club, don’t hesitate to tremple over our pride for the Club and if it seems to go down, down, down money wise I am afraid and don’t want to think about it they would not hesitate to sell the ground to Real Estate so that they try to get the money back.
Not seeing anything I would take too seriously if I was in charge. Worse I don’t actually see a plan for improvement except the overly polite request for TF to reconsider his position. Here’s how that’ll work out: “I considered it, and found I like to be paid a lot and have bodyguards because it makes me feel important, so I think I’ll stay thank you very much.” Very much centered on local supporters wants but doesn’t give a plan to go forward for the Football itself.
I think you’re taking the Fox bit a little too literally there. It says what it has to say. ‘Local supporters’? What you implying there? This is being realistic and demands on various supporter issues are just that and would improve people being able to support their team (and the need for bodyguards). If you want a plan for the football itself, you better pay us a manager’s salary.
Where’s your suggestions?
Fair point MOMS, and I do admire that you’re taking a stand.
My plan. It is very risky.
We Aston Villa Fans should buy the club. I would envisage the funding coming from a debt issuance to the fans, maybe a gofundme campaign and some help from Lerner by allowing us to refinance his debt to pay it off over a longer term. Surely our “celebrity” fans could help a bit more. Maybe even a loan against the assets of AVFC too, but I suspect it is already levered to the hilt. Need to see the books.
Chairman sacked, CEO demoted to Business Development. New Chairman and CEO as one role, will also act as the SLO. Will also live at the house at Bodymore, no more remote control. (I have me in mind for this role, no CEO experience but I am a “football” person even though I have never worked in sport.)
Board Members, no compensation. You join the board for the love of Aston Villa not for money. Don’t think the current members are short a bob or two.
Confidentiality agreements for all senior, scouting, legal, and team staff. For too long everything Villa does is in the papers before it happens.
Scouting team, reports to the Manager as does the DOF for all things 1st team related. Manager has final say.
Closer integration of youth and 1st team, U21’s for U21’s not bomb squad.
Remi stays, Black stays, Macdonald stays.
Current players, some to keep, Grealish is among them. The rest can either show willing by winning games to keep us up or take the pay cut until we come back to the Prem.
Players not showing willing will be banned from all AVFC facilities, No more Darth’s in the dressing room or even training ground, hard to keep fit without the facilities.
Plan to NOT come up too quickly if we go down, look to rebalance the team with a core of home grown talent with quality foreigners. Leicester, Southend both have this policy and were successful until S’end became a selling club.
No more a selling club.
Lawyers to review our contracting, currently we are a soft touch. Much tougher contracts with non performance clauses.
Oh, no more getting to 6 months left on a Star Players contract. CEO fail! Contracts reviewed annually for renewal, renegotiation.
Loan system modeled on Chelsea’s. Lots of people loaned out.
Academy Income Generation: Summer camps for rich kids, leased out to smaller teams in the area.
International revenue, it is amazing how well known AVFC is in Europe, leverage that, multimedia, live streaming, twin with other clubs like Cities do. India will be one of the biggest growth stories in economic terms, Birmingham is the curry capital of England, surely there is a link to be exploited.
Have to look at the Ladies team, if it aint making money and can’t be made cost neutral it will have to go. I will make up for it by Diversifying the board. Once we’re a big club again then we can look to restart it.
200K that the FA say is for the fans will be ringfenced for the fans.
This is just the tip. I am sure if I had a deeper look under the bonnet of the club I could find a few more things. Need 150M quid and access to Lerner.
Oh and yes I am extremely literal.
Finally I think I would look at suing UEFA on the basis FFP ruined us, was enacted by a corrupt organization, and their punishments for breaching the rules have been a sham. Maybe a class action suit with other clubs if we can find some partners.
Need to remind AVFC mgmt that this is a football club within a football industry, it should be run as such. Too many of our problems stem from the board attempting to run it as a business that partakes in football.
If you look at the long term successful clubs, they’ve built global fanbases based on on-field success and that on-field success was driven by focussing on youth development for progression into the first team not as a feeder club for other teams.
This needs AVFC to develop its under-age structure with a long termist view while being in full communication with the fans so they are on board with what the club is trying to achieve. The patience may have worn thin but if it can be shown that we have a plan to get behind that isn’t based on short term success (the boom and bust we’ve seen in the Lerner years) then i’ll accept relegation and support the club financially however little it means to them to get them back on the road to a team that challenges in every game (may not win) but at least challenges as opposed to our current participatory role in the Premier League.
We should be striving to capture the Chinese market by tying up with a local club for player and training devt that may lead to external investment in AVFC either in terms of club sale or sponsorship, and open this massive market to AVFC before it’s fully saturated by the Manchester and Barcelona’s of this world.
Excellent article with excellent and workable ideas to make our point, which we should all look at very seriously. UTV
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