Aston Villa made official their sale to Chinese businessman Tony Xia on Wednesday, sometime around 6 PM BST. I am currently writing this more than 55 hours after that announcement, and even that first bland, boring sentence of this article is more than we have heard from the Aston Villa Supporters' Trust. Their twitter account and Facebook page have been silent since a May 11 tribute to the victims of the Bradford City stadium fire. Their website has not been updated since an April 27 post outlining the minutes of their meeting with Aston Villa.
I have detailed my frustration with the AVST in the past, but this latest dereliction of duty is an absolute affront to the supporters whose trust the group claims to keep. With each passing gaffe it becomes more and more apparent that the AVST are more interested in self-serving pats on the back than they are in taking care of supporters themselves.
To play devil's advocate for a bit, perhaps the AVST have nothing to say about the sale. Perhaps the single most significant moment in the past decade for our beloved club has them shrugging their shoulders and not giving a care about what happens. That's their prerogative as individual members of the AVST, but as a group they claim to represent our interests. And we, the supporters of Aston Villa, are keenly interested in this sale. Is Tony Xia everything the club claims he is? Is he better? Is he worse? Where will he take the club? Will the AVST support this sale? Will the AVST even be bothered?
I want answers to these questions as, I suspect, do you. We, however, are unlikely to get them on our own. But the Supporters' Trust? As much as I dislike the group, they are uniquely situated to provide us with answers. Earlier this year they helped to form the Aston Villa Fans' Consultation Group, comprised of them and a few other Villa sites. This group had the direct ear of the club when they met with board members including chairman Steve Hollis. They set this thing up, ostensibly, to get things done. To improve life for fans.
Now that it exists, and now that we're in the midst of all of this, you'd expect them to use the group to make a bit of noise. And nothing. Silence. This shouldn't come as a surprise. When the AVST have been given the opportunity to make an actual difference for supporters or to speak on our behalf, they have been quiet. When we reached out to them about improving access for disabled fans, they shrugged us off claiming that they were on holiday. When the club changed seating and removed some to improve access for those same fans, the AVST were nowhere to be found to try and mediate between club and angry fans.
And now that the club have been sold, they've gone quiet again. Probably on holiday, if I had to guess.
The worst part is that this is not inconsequential. The AVST accept paid memberships. People pay to be part of an organization that should give voice to their concerns, and no voice is being given. Quite frankly, at this point, the AVST are basically frauds. If they are not going to do their job, the AVST ought to refund everyone's money and close up shop.
But that won't happen, because the AVST is still accomplishing the thing that it is quickly becoming clear is their primary goal: helping themselves. The board love being on the board of an officially-sanctioned supporters' group. They don't actually want to do anything (for heaven's sake, they responded to an article in which I pointed out that they had called one of their achievements a "War Memorial plague" and still have not fixed that typo seven months later), but those titles sure are nice. The last update of the group's website was basically "Hey, we went to a meeting and spoke to important people. LOOK AT US."
At this point the AVST are more akin to a group of masturbatory monkeys than they are a proper trust: lots of noise, plenty of self-pleasure, and few results. The AVST's mission statement promises that they will strive to be: "Your Club-Your Voice: To represent the democratic and collective voice of Villa supporters in constructive dialogue with our Club and at a national level."
Yes, it is my club. And it is yours. But the AVST are not my voice. They are none of our voices. They aren't even a voice. They aren't a collective of us, and they are not representing us with the club or at a national level. At every level of their own statement, the AVST have failed, and failed miserably.
It's time for an alternative. Something in the mold of the Blackpool Supporters' Trust. In the face of ownership that makes Randy Lerner look like a saint, the BST are fiercely advocating for their constituents while providing options for those same people. They are there every step of the way and are a genuine beacon of bright hope in one of the worst situations in English football.
That is what Aston Villa need. Not the AVST that we have now, but a supporters' trust that cares as deeply about us as they care about themselves. I'm not sure what the alternative is, and I'm not sure how best to organize it, but we need something new. Let's abandon the shambles of an organization that can't even be bothered to notice that our club have been sold and start something new.
I am not the person to start this effort, though I can certainly think of some who might be. That said, I will do whatever I can to help if someone wants to start a viable alternative to the AVST. As the editor of a site that runs on the passion of supporters, I could hardly do otherwise. It's time to channel that passion in a way that will actually get something done. UTV, DTAVST.