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
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