The Villa hierarchy’s rather enthusiastic and at times naive use of social media has finally caught up with them, as the FA fined and suspended Aston Villa chief executive Keith Wyness from all football and football-related activity for three weeks for misconduct via social media.
So far, it had been Villa owner Tony Xia who had made most of the headlines for his Twitter usage. There was his rookie mistake wishing happy birthday to Uncle Jimmy (Saville). Then there was WBA not being too happy about Xia announcing James Chester’s transfer on social media before the official and proper formalities had been signed off. Xia calling Ian Holloway a ‘f**ked pundit’ amongst other things, while humourous, wasn’t too professional or classy from the new figurehead of the club, either.
MOMS also experienced the Villa owner’s hyper-tweet sensitivity first-hand too, in response to an article, based on facts, that simply posed the question of what had gone wrong during the season?
The article had actually praised Xia’s own contribution, but the Villa owner claimed on Twitter he was insulted and unfollowed MOMS. His actions were worryingly petulant, it has to be said, considering he’s meant to be running the football club.
Still, compared to Randy Lerner’s stonewall approach to supporter communication, the Villa board’s misadventures in social media have been refreshing to many Villa fans (and the Birmingham Mail’s online revenue).
No doubt wanting to improve on the previous regime, helped motivate the openness, but palling up to supporters on social media was always going to be a tricky tightrope, one that Wyness has just slipped off.
For those who didn’t know about the situation, after the final game of the season against Brighton, Wyness caught some heat over social media for retweeting the following tweet regarding the referee’s decision to send Nathan Baker off (a decision that seemed fair enough in MOMS’ eyes on closer inspection).
The FA rap in some ways like the referee’s Baker decision wasn’t a clean-cut one to call. You understand arguments for not giving it (in Wyness’s case ‘pc gone too far’ and he wasn’t aiming to offend anyone), but ultimately you can’t argue with the FA’s verdict in the context of the climate of football trying to breed more inclusiveness into the game.
The FA’s statement read as follows, detailing Wyness’s £10,000 fine and three-week ban.
Aston Villa chief executive Keith Wyness has been suspended from all football and football-related activity for three weeks for misconduct via social media.
He admitted an FA charge that a comment he re-tweeted accompanied with a video was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute contrary to FA Rule E3(1). Furthermore, the breach was “aggravated” as defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to disability.
Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, Wyness was also fined £10,000 and ordered to complete an education course.
His suspension will run from date of the expiry of the period that he has to appeal the decision.
Obviously, the outcome is a little embarrassing for the club given the recent progress of the AVFC Foundation charity and the ongoing dialogue for an increase in wheelchair places at Villa Park.
Wyness apologised at the time of the tweet and pleaded his innocence.
“It was a genuine mistake and as soon as it was brought to my attention I realised my error and acted immediately,” he said. “I simply saw the video and not the comment attached to it.”
It would be hard to be 100% convinced he didn’t see the comment to the video, as it does act as the headline. You don’t tend to watch a video without looking at the headline/context first, nevermind retweet it. It was certainly the first thing that struck MOMS when seeing the tweet in question at the time.
The sentiment expressed in the original tweet was obviously referring to the whole season of poor refereeing decisions in the Championship, something that Wyness at a glance would have agreed with, like most Villa supporters would.
His social media mistake is just that and shouldn’t be seen as an insight into his character, as most people with any common sense would surmise.
One thing is for sure, the FA were certainly keen to make any example out of Wyness here despite it also only being a retweet (I wonder how much of the £10,000 fine @thevillazone Twitter account will offer to contribute to?!).
“I have received the findings of a recent disciplinary hearing into a retweet that I mistakenly sent on the last day of the season.
“I requested a personal hearing earlier this week because it was hugely important to me to firstly apologise for my genuine mistake in person and I also wanted the opportunity to make it clear to the panel I am really remorseful and extremely disappointed in myself for making such a silly mistake.
“When my error was first brought to my attention by a supporter, I immediately deleted the retweet and issued a public apology.
“I’d like to reiterate that I have always sought to promote the interests of people with disabilities in football and I am actively rebuilding the Aston Villa Foundation with disability as one of its key pillars.
“This is a topic I’ve regularly discussed with our Fans Consultation Group and it’s something I feel extremely passionate about.
“My record in football has been spotless until this event. I am both surprised and disappointed at the severity of the punishment.
“I will go to my grave knowing it was an honest mistake.”
While the pleas of innocence and good character have been largely over-cooked, with the Birmingham Mail for example trying to make Wyness out to be the reincarnation of Mother Teresa, MOMS won’t be loosing any sleep over the Villa CEO’s social media slip up.
The nightmare of him sanctioning the purchases of Gollini, Tshibola and McCormack though… I have to admit, that does still keep me up at night.
Follow MOMS on Twitter at @oldmansaid where we also like to RT nonsense.