Morals vs money: Where do you draw the line on potential Villa owners?

Stu Forster

Money. Money. Lot's of money and preferably a little football knowledge. But do we really care about the source?

Villa fans tend to agree that the Randy Lerner era has provided mixed results, but the one thing that always gave us a little reassurance even through tough times was that Randy would not allow the club to get into serious difficulty. We have been rubbish on the pitch as he's tried to cut his losses, but he has pumped money into the club a number of times to prevent any potential catastrophe.

'I'm what you call the custodian. There have been plenty of custodians of Aston Villa since 1874 and if I can't make it work, I will do what the others did, move on and let someone else try.'

'People like me come and go. The fans will always own Aston Villa because they never leave.'

That's what Randy said when he first acquired the club. Maybe it hasn't gone quite as planned, but he seems to be sticking to his word. Many would have preferred him to leave sooner, but it was always going to be difficult for him to sell a club haemorrhaging money.

Now we move on into a new era with the fans completely in the dark (although with £200 million on the line, this time it's forgivable). The consensus seems to be that we need an owner with more financial clout than Randy, but also someone who really knows how to set up a football club. Depending who you believe - one of several journalists with conflicting stories? The tabloids? The "ITKs"? Your dog? The ghost of Paul the Octopus? - Any of about 30 people could be our new owner tomorrow or in 6 months time or never.

However, along with cries for every famous rich guy on twitter to swoop down and save us, there are plenty voicing their concern over potential candidates. Most notably and recently, Kazakh property developer Tevfik Arif. A man who has endured allegations of prostitution (for which he was arrested but ultimately acquitted), trafficking minors, money laundering and even financing terrorist groups. A man so notorious that he was marked as the queen of clubs in a specially made Russian mafia card game. Yes, really. It's not just his apparent disregard for the law that has people worried either, his involvement with third party ownership and raises serious questions about how Villa would be run as a business under his command. But he has made a hell of a lot of money and you would assume at least some football knowledge from his involvement with Doyen Sports.

Another candidate heavily linked on Villa fan sites, Philip Anschutz, has been put under scrutiny for his supposed funding of homophobic groups and evolutionary science deniers. The man has a personal fortune of around $10 Billion even without considering his giant entertainment company AEG. He has also helped found the MLS, has had major success with various teams in the division and is seen as one of the most important figures in North American Soccer. Apparently he's a very rich, successful, knowledgeable, ignorant human being with prehistoric beliefs. I say prehistoric but does he actually believe in Dinosaurs? I digress.

Let's make this clear - most Premier League owners are far from saints. The way Roman Abramovich made his fortune and finances Chelsea has been heavily criticized. Sheikh Mansour of Manchester City has been accused of using the club to improve the poor reputation of the UAE government, in which he serves as Deputy Prime Minister. It seems that if you are to become that ridiculously wealthy, you can't be afraid of upsetting people or bending the law in ways other would find morally abhorrent.

The question is, does this bother us? If a man like this comes along with a huge cheque and the ability to make Aston Villa a force in European football, will we care that they are a totally reprehensible? Well, it's up to you to draw the line. Everyone wants what is best for Aston Villa and it totally depends how you define that. Maybe you should give us an indication below.

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