clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Let's try and clear the fog surrounding Aston Villa's takeover by Dr Xia

No matter who Xia is, or his intentions, Villa are a few checks away from becoming his company. Not yours, or mine.

Journalism's a weird game.

Gossip reigns the day and the deep, truth is usually buried next to an advert for a car dealership.

The truth is, anything and everything can and will qualify as a 'story' in 2016. It's hard to get a genuine exclusive or scoop, because everyone wants the story, there and then - spelling mistakes and all.

That's why the current speculation surrounding Tony Xia and his takeover of Aston Villa is surrounded by a fog of war, because those with the power to clear that fog are instead creating more questions. That's not a bad thing, though.

★ ★ ★

The main area of uncertainty surrounding Xia is his main asset - the Recon Group. Aston Villa's own site had to correct an error that made it seem as though the Recon Group controlled a number of companies when in actual fact, it doesn't. I'm willing to dismiss this as a translation issue as Mandarin and Cantonese do not paste straight into English, in fact - anyone who has tried to learn an East Asian language will be able to confirm that embarrassing mistakes are very easy to make.

English is a West Germanic language and has evolved and passed through the tongues of many in Europe and has been forged from the influence of the Saxons, Franks and Lombards. It's an entirely different language structure to that of Mandarin Chinese, which comes from the Sino-Tibetan tree. It's a world apart and no easy task to translate on the fly, which is what both Steve Hollis and Aston Villa did when they described Xia's work and assets. They messed up.

This also shows in Xia's English speech, which is 'broken'. It doesn't mean he's not smart, it just means his English is poor (it's not even that bad).

"Again, you need to ask him but he is responsible for the Bird's Nest in Beijing and some of the other major iconic developments in China" - Steve Hollis

The above was said to be false by a Recon Group spokesperson. It's a grey area, but Hollis' language isn't clear. His job is not only to help sell Villa, but to sell the new owners to Villa fans - why would he gloss over some of Xia's major achievements?

What are these iconic developments? Either they don't exist or Steve Hollis was reading from a brief someone gave him. If the latter is correct, Recon and Xia weren't involved as why would they give a man information the would deny moments later?

It doesn't hold water. Hollis and Villa made a mistake. Either that or Xia fed him false information only to refute it? Until the truth surfaces, we can only stick to the realms of relative realism. We believe what we want to be true, but we must adopt a new position once the truth is revealed.

Recon's only known asset, Lotus made a loss during the last financial year and that same loss is used against Xia as concern regarding his management abilities.

'Last month, Lotus — Recon's only verifiable asset — announced it had made a net loss in 2015 of Rmb508.5m ($77.6m) on revenues of Rmb1.7bn, compared with a net profit of Rmb23.9m the previous year.' - The Financial Times

One of the issues I struggle with as a writer is facts. Facts have scuppered thousands upon thousands of words of a number of potential articles I have planned for this site. The problem is, I love telling stories, I love language and writing - but I prefer telling the truth.

Sadly, when facts collide with a delicately crafted narrative, the truth doesn't always win.

As a Villa fan, I'm more than aware of the market slump that hit China last year, because Randy Lerner refused to sell up to a China-based group because of market issues.

Now, a year later, why is the China market crash of 2015 being ignored when Recon's financial results are mentioned? A loss would be expected from most of the companies operating in China? More importantly, why is it that an economics-based paper such as the Financial Times are choosing to ignore a critical portion of a Chinese financial story?

If the loss is a subject, why is the market crash not mentioned? It's a clear counterpoint to Lotus' losses!

The answer? Hysteria makes people read and share your stuff.

When Brad Guzan sat motionless and bored on the Villa bench for the FA Cup clash with Wycombe, a reasonable headline would be this: Brad Guzan looks bored on Villa bench. What we in fact got were variations on this: 'The moment that Brad Guzan DISRESPECTED Villa fans' or 'You WON'T BELIEVE THE AUDACITY of Brad Guzan'.

Blowing up small portions of the story to create aggression hooks people. I know that people won't read articles and will share an entire piece simply based on the headline. I mean, I literally just did this with an article about Villa's new kit. It's a proven formula and it works.

The trouble is when the headlines turn out to be massive falsehoods that have nothing to do with the story.

When you craft a narrative of someone without the full facts, you're creating a lie and unfortunately, that's what is happening with Tony Xia. It's ok to worry, it's ok to be wary - but building a false picture of a man we don't know anything about is dangerous and in some cases could be outright xenophobic. Many papers have fallen for this trope and it doesn't seem that much journalism or investigation has actually been done and in most cases, leaps of faith have been made as well as instances of putting 2 and 2 together and getting 7.

Fear of the unknown leads to racism, xenophobia and all manner of dodginess. It leads to crazy unfounded online witchhunts. If we take our time and let the natural narrative unfold, we can come to our conclusions, until then, we cannot judge.

★ ★ ★

People are wary of China. That's no secret. We can't get the facts about Xia simply because of the strict regulations surrounding privacy in China and remember, if Xia is linked to the Government of that nation, then China would not want to expose details about the man (naturally).

Another subject that came about was Xia's Harvard record being made private after news of his takeover of Aston Villa. Of course, this could be suspicious but what about the other side? What if someone, for once, didn't want their private life to be at the mercy of the media?

Strange, right? We've no obligation to provide information about ourselves, at all, but yet - when Aston Villa (a privately traded company, by the way) are bought out, the owner must suddenly reveal a large portion of his private life. It's not right. Of course, it still raises suspicion.

Simply enough, we have to accept that there are two sides to every story. Sticking to our pre-determined narratives and playing by the rules of confirmation bias only creates friction.

★ ★ ★

As someone with strong left-leaning political beliefs, I'd rather dodgy regimes stayed right the hell out of football, but it's not the case. The game is, and will forever be the playground of billionaires. I've accepted that and focused on trying to change what I can.

No matter who Xia is, or his intentions, Villa are a few checks away from becoming his company. Not yours, or mine. It's best we wait until we have all the inks, paints, brushes and pencils before we paint a (positive or negative) picture of a man that, frankly, no-one knows anything about.