By Robert Smith
Premier league – you’re having a laugh?
The season is approaching its end and all efforts on and off the pitch are focused on getting Villa back where we belong. For Villa to progress, expand globally and for Tony Xia’s investment to pay off, the Premier League is where Villa ultimately have to be.
Villa should be at the top table of English football…but hang on a minute…
Before we start thinking the world depends on getting promoted this season, just a quick question: is life really, really any better in the big PL than in our present league?
Before you think I’m crazy, lets compare life now to what we can expect in the top league…..
Pretty cut and dried this one, the teams promoted last season got around £170 million each and may make another £100 million or so if they stay up.
Compare this to Newcastle getting £7 million or so for winning the Championship in 2017.
It works out that Premier League clubs are paid around £10.9 million per TV game (figures from total sportek), compare this to the £500,000 or so Villa made from 16 TV games last season.
Lets put all that accounting aside though, while the club obviously benefit from the TV cash, how exactly will going up benefit supporters?
Besides watching the Villa play (defensively) against some of Europe’s best teams, financially, it probably won’t in terms of our own pockets.
The prices of season tickets are likely to rise after a year or two, so the current £30 away ticket price cap will be nullified in the end, that’s if you travel to away games.
While we won’t be on TV quite as much as this season, games are switched to Sunday when opponents have played in Europe the previous week, so expect just as much messing about with the fixtures as now, especially with the new Saturday night game slot included in the new TV deal.
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Financially, it’ll initially be an advantage in the Premier League, as the away price cap of £30 takes effect and there are less games. But, of course, there are smaller away allocations in the Premier League, regardless of the size of the grounds.
For example, it’s 3,000 at Old Trafford and the Emirates, around 2,500 at Palace and just over 2,000 at Watford. Compare this to 5,500 at Barnsley and Preston, and 4,000 plus at Fulham, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday.
Some fans who have followed us all over the country this season will miss out, and those who don’t go away regularly, can now forget it, if we go up.
Compared to our Championship followings, the Premier League may well seem a bit tame by comparison.
Standard of Football
Better quality of course, but can anyone honestly say its less entertaining down here in the Championship?
In this league, we are the biggest fish (no Leeds, it’s not you) and although teams raise their game against us, most of the time we win anyway. Plus, anyone watched the Premier League lately? Choose between Man City’s sometimes boring passfest, Jose’s bus parking and Everton’s Allardyce FC and it looks a bit less enticing.
Did anyone see that recent Man City v Chelsea game? Some of the world’s best players on the pitch, yet words can’t describe how bad it was.
Added to the fact that we could struggle while we find our feet and next season could well be a pretty damp squib after the euphoria of promotion, should we get it.
Remember all our relegation scraps and mid-table finishes? Losing at home to Wigan, Stoke and Burnley, or going what seemed like 50 seasons without beating the red Manc lot at Villa Park. Such fun times!
At least in the Championship we are always likely to be up the top, so the end of the season should be worth watching, however long we stay down here.
With parachute payments dissolving and less money to squad build, the days of high-wage novelty signings like John Terry will be a thing of the past, if Villa remain in the Championship.
The standard of player may drop and the likes of James Chester may seek a move away.
However, if Villa can start building a young and hungry team – to quote Paul Lambert – for the long-term (rather than a short-term fix of old pros and loans), peppered with the odd home grown player, then that might be a team with an identity that fans can root for and believe in again.
A bit bigger in the Premier League, but how many would be here just for the Villa?
Fans of the top five teams moan about the number of football tourists at matches and anyone whose watched a game from the Emirates or Etihad in recent years, can attest to the library-like atmospheres despite their number of seats.
I heard Man Utd fans saying it had been the best atmosphere in years v Liverpool a few weeks ago, but the Wolves v Villa game on the same day eclipsed it by some distance.
Our average attendance this season won’t be that far below our crowds in the top league, and have you ever heard Villa Park when we are losing at half-time to moneybags FC? It doesn’t seem like 40,000 are in the stadium, so it’s small consolation at the moment.
While I’m on the subject of larger crowds, how does a guaranteed full Villa Park benefit supporters that are already here now? I for one don’t fancy waiting lists for season tickets, making it impossible to invite friends and family that can’t come regularly. Bigger queues at half-time for drinks and food too.
We’ll also be individually less important to the club than we are now, so I’m not sure how much we could expect from them going forward.
Going up (especially given our present blip) would be very exciting, but what about once we are back up there?
Well a mid-table finish would be great in our first season, but how exciting would that be, exactly?
Recent evidence suggests the club is likely to give up on cup runs in favour of concentrating on our league position, so no excitement there either.
Are we really going to try and break the top six? We simply don’t have the resources that those clubs have, so any attempt is likely to end in O’Neill-esque failure and consequent frustration.
Think I’m being too negative? Anyone remember how unhappy we were with John Gregorys defensive tactics in the early 2000s, or how we longed for something better after finishing 14th under David O’Leary in 2006? What about when Martin O’Neill rested half the team against CSKA Moscow in 2009, then saw our top four aspirations collapse in an eight-game winless run?
And its not just us, ask West Ham and Everton fans what chasing the Premier League dream feels like.
Put simply, if you think this league is frustrating, it’s a breeze compared with what may well await us in the top flight.
Like to see your team win? Our win percentage over our last 10 years in the Premier League was 26%, compared to 52% this season. And there is a realistic chance of promotion glory and/or a trip to Wembley at the end of each season in the Championship.
There’s less corporate nonsense at this level too, so anyone whose bothered to turn up a few times this season should get a ticket!
Don’t get me wrong, I will party like it’s 1999, if we go up. It will be a fantastic moment we’ll all remember for a long time. And that’s what makes me think, its all about the moments that makes being a footy fan worthwhile.
Beating Wolves 4-1, Blues 2-0, and the excitement of a promotion run-in (until we bottle it!). I just wonder whether it matters in which league we get those great moments?
My dad stood and watched with 40,000 plus every week as we became third division champions, and he prefers that team to the more pragmatic early 1980’s League and European Champions.
He’s not the only one, ask anyone who witnessed the third division days whether it mattered that we were in the third tier and they’ll look at you like the glory hunting young pup you are.
So lets get behind the boys and hope they give us some great moments, regardless of what league we’re in.