The below notes are taken form the recent Aston Villa Fan Consultation Group (FCG) meeting with Christian Purslow, which was the Villa CEO’s first such meeting.
Purslow was pragmatic in saying he should be judged on deeds rather than words, and he can already be seen to be making good on that by employing an Chief Corporate Affairs Officer (Paul Tyrrell, who was also present at the meeting) to make sure the tone of Villa’s in-house media and communication is of a higher standard and consistent. Also, he has signed off on a new tannoy system for Villa Park, which has been much needed and had previously been put on the back burner by the previous CEO and majority owner despite requests from the FCG.
There’s certainly more of a ‘taking-care-of-business’ approach by the new CEO and a lack of hyperbole, which was immediately encouraging to see.
They’ll be more context, thoughts and insight in the coming week, but in the meantime, below are the FCG meeting’s notes.
Fans Consultation Group
Tuesday 13thNovember 2018
Anne-Marie Fern – Heroes & Villains
Mo Razzaq – Aston Villa Supporters Trust
Peter Warrilow – Aston Villa Supporters Trust
John Gillett – Lions Clubs
David Michael – My Old Man Said (MOMS)
Scott Jones – Villa Talk
Steve Gough – Aston Villa Independent Supporters Clubs
Daniel Rolinson – Villa View
Joanne McKibbens – Aston Villa Disabled Supporters Association
Nick Sanders – Avillafan.com
Jonathan Fear – Vital Villa
Christian Purslow – Chief Executive Officer
Paul Tyrrell – Chief Corporate Affairs Officer
Tommy Jordan – Communications Director
Lee Preece – SLO
CHRISTIAN PURSLOW INTRODUCTION
Mr Purslow welcomed the group to Villa Park and said he relished the prospect of having a positive and direct relationship with the diverse group of supporters who make up the FCG.
Words are cheap, he said, and actions far more important but he hopes that over time supporters will see a high level of transparency, openness and accountability.
He said the owners believe in clear accountability across all aspects of how the club operates. The club’s senior management team will operate under Mr Purslow’s guidance with him – as CEO – directing policy and strategy.
Although Mr Purslow said there were numerous areas in which the club needs to improve – from football through to commercial and financial aspects – the priority will always be football. Now “good things happen if we get the football right” he stated while reaffirming that other areas of the business require significant improvement.
On the playing front, nobody can make guarantees about on field success but, with good management, the club can create a path that maximises the probability of getting back into the Premier League as soon as possible.
He stressed that false promises will not be made and achieving this target will be done in a “responsible, sustainable and sensible way”.
This will be led by a “top-down” approach of ensuring the correct strategy is in place to recruit, retain and develop players which creates long-term value.
He confirmed that the new owners had cleared off all historic liabilities via their investment in the club but this still requires the club to operate in a prudent and responsible manner. Mr Purslow said he was confident, clear and excited about the changes the new owners are bringing. The new ownership group are hugely experienced in sport and business, know what needs to be done to get the club on a long-term successful and sustainable footing.
VILLA PARK RENAMING
Mr Purslow stated categorically that recent suggestions of plans to rename Villa Park were “wholly, completely and utterly inaccurate.”
As somebody who was involved in drafting the rules ten years ago when he was the CEO of Liverpool, Mr Purslow confirmed that the club wants to be FFP compliant and have a clear set of plans to be so going forward.
JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW
With a new Sporting Director, Jesus Garcia Pitarch, and Head Coach, Dean Smith, arriving at the club, it represents the first opportunity for Dean to make changes. Mr Purslow recognised the January window is a limited market but expects some ins and outs.
CONSULTATION ON DECISIONS
Mr Purslow said an important message from tonight’s meeting is that he thinks the FCG is a very important vehicle and relishes the chance to work with it. He also confirmed senior executives will continue to attend FCG meetings on a regular basis.
DR TONY XIA
Dr Tony is a significant minority shareholder and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future, Mr Purslow confirmed.
MEDIA TONE AND CONTENT
In his relatively short time at the club, Mr Purslow said he has observed work is needed in this area and acknowledged the desire to provide information from the club can, if unchecked, create content of an inappropriate tone, look or feel.
He was insistent that the club should not produce content which is unhelpful or damaging or chasing clickbait and likes.
He also said he was amazingly proud to now run this institution and wants the tone to be unremittingly excellent.
For these and a number of other important reasons, Mr Purslow confirmed that Paul Tyrrell has joined the club. Paul has been Head of Comms at ITV as well as at a number of major Premier League clubs.
Mr Purslow confirmed all outsourcing agreements would be analysed to make sure they are appropriate for the club.
BMH NAMING RIGHTS
As part of the sale of the club, Dr Tony’s agreement ended. Mr Purslow confirmed the club may find a replacement in the future but it wasn’t something they were actively working on.
CONSTANT BETTING SPONSORSHIPS
The club’s current agreement with 32Red is working well and AVFC is receiving important revenue from it but was in place prior to Mr Purslow’s arrival. He expressed sympathy with the view that there is a high dependency on this sector within the Championship.
(PAUL TYRRELL ANSWERED THE QUESTION)
The club will look for continued improvement in these areas Mr Tyrrell confirmed. He praised the Aston Villa Foundation who have made great strides in the last few years to reach out to our communities. The Foundation staff do a fantastic job and the club would like to build on their success and adopt more socially responsible policies.
Mr Purslow said there is a clear desire to use the stand and the club has to build that demand. It is a key marketing challenge.
The current agreement on kit supply provision, and branding, is perhaps misunderstood, Mr Purslow suggested. The designer and producer of the kit is Fanatics. Hugely respected within the sports industry and a maker of many other high-profile team apparel. Luke, a local retail clothing brand, has a marketing-only agreement with the club.
Fanatics make their profit from selling merchandise in our store and on websites and wholesale. Luke have a relationship where their brand is promoted with their logo and other visible marketing around the ground.
Mr Purslow added that a priority for him is to drive higher values for the brands associated with Aston Villa.
Mr Purslow confirmed he had authorised a very significant capital spend in order to upgrade the sound system in the stadium. As he as well as everyone else at Villa Park accepts the current infrastructure is not fit for purpose.