We were warned. Everyone was told it was going to be a crazy summer full of twists and turns as Aston Villa Football Club tried to put itself right after a heartbreaking defeat in the Championship playoff final.
But Tuesday got crazy. This post is going to attempt to gather the threads of information that are coming from many different places — almost all from sources — and put it all into one place.
(A word on sources: I do not use it is a pejorative term. I merely say that because sources have a reason for confirming or leaking information. That should always been remembered.)
Let’s begin with the only official word from Aston Villa. It is simply called Club Statement
Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that Chief Executive, Keith Wyness, has been suspended by the club with immediate effect.
Owner and Chairman, Dr Tony Xia will assume the role until further notice.
There will be no further comment from the club at this time.
Keith Wyness is suspended — that is big news. Yet it is only the beginning for the thread that appears to be pulling Aston Villa apart.
Sky News reports that Aston Villa missed a tax bill due last week and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is knocking on the gates. The Guardian places the bill at four million pounds. There have been discussions between the club and HMRC and an extension has been agreed to. Villa have been given about a week to come up with the cash with a possible new deadline of Friday.
The club is hopeful of paying the bill — a source telling Sky News — the board is “confident of making a substantial tax payment within days”. If AVFC cannot pay — they are subject to a winding up order — which, simply put, is a court order for a company that has unpaid debts to go into liquidation/administration.
Aston Villa have suspended CEO Keith Wyness. The move comes at the same time as it`s emerged that Aston Villa are working with HMRC to resolve an unpaid tax bill. However, BBCWM understands that the suspension of Wyness and the unpaid tax bill are in no way connected. #avfc pic.twitter.com/c7atKhy7W2— BBC WM Sport 95.6 (@sportbbcwm) June 5, 2018
Yes. BBCWM (along with other organizations) report that the suspension is not connected to the unpaid tax bill. A skeptic would laugh this off because it is absurd to say that the suspension has nothing to do with the financial state of the club. So I think it was a smaller point -- that the missed tax payment was not the direct reason for the suspension. I’ll point to the Birmingham Mail who emphasized the bottom line of this part of the story — It’s important to stress that Keith Wyness has NOT been accused of any wrongdoing. The reasons for his suspension are not yet confirmed.
Provided that is true — it is time to temporary split the thread — money and personnel.
Personnel — One must speculate that Xia and Wyness have had a falling out or a very strong difference of opinion and the suspension is the result. The club’s paltry statement offers no further information (a growing trend around the club). Replacements are already being floated around.
Money — Financial Times reports that Xia (along with other Chinese business people) are having difficult getting money out of China to spend across the world because of the Chinese government placing strict capital constraints. Simply put — Xia likely has the money but cannot get it to Villa.
And it appears he has been struggling for longer than the public has known. Express and Star has this lovely little tidbit which shows that liquidity has been an issue for some time now — “Back in February, Villa cashed in on future revenue owed from the sales of Carlos Sanchez and Jordan Amavi in order to improve their immediate cash flow.”
The payment woes are not likely to end with this one missed payment. The Guardian — “the feeling within the club is that another financial issue could be around the corner unless there is some sort of cash injection.”
A cash injection huh? So like — Minority owner of world’s second-most valuable sports club linked to Villa takeover rumors. Yes — that would fit the narrative.
The report is that Peter B Freund — who is a minority shareholder of the New York Yankees — is preparing to put a £75 million offer in front of Aston Villa owner, Doctor Tony Xia.
So.... to recap. Aston Villa are late on a tax payment, have suspended their CEO, with the owner taking over control, who cannot get cash into the club because of Chinese government regulations, and a new owner may try to swoop in and scoop up the club in all this chaos.
And that was Tuesday.
I’m not sure I’m ready for Wednesday.