In addition to all the normal concerns about Aston Villa’s current financial crisis, one other thought has nagged at me - are we partly to blame? Did we cheerlead the potential destruction of our own club?
By we, I mean me, 7500toHolte, Youtube channels like The Villa View, and Aston Villa fans in general.
Villa’s financial bind is the product of two things. First, there was the immensely reckless gamble to pursue promotion at all costs, even when the consequences of failure were apparent. Second, is China’s control of money flows which means that Villa owner, Tony Xia can’t access ready cash.
(To be clear, there is no suggestion Xia himself is facing personal financial difficulties, only that he can’t easily transfer the money to Villa.)
Both those elements were foreseeable. The first was obvious to everyone and widely discussed, including on this site.
The second, well, Chinese capital controls aren’t an everyday topic, but it’s come up elsewhere in the football world. Most notably Chinese investment company Dalian Wanda recently sold a 17% stake in Atletico Madrid, under pressure from state policies to reduce its debt.
At 7500toHolte we pride ourselves on giving the smarter take, looking at things a little more deeply. I personally am a massive fan of the use of analytics of football, a devout believer that ‘Moneyball’ will become a key part of how the sport is played. Shouldn’t we have seen this coming, warned people, turned our backs on a foolish gamble with our club?
But then again, we’re fans too. I don’t support Villa because we have the strongest balance sheet, the smoothest cash flows, the most efficient market approach.
I support Villa because my granddad and my mum do, because I loved our side under Martin O’Neill, because I didn’t want to support a gloryhunting team, but I did want the occasional shot at glory.
I don’t want to think about cash flows or player amortisation when I watch Villa. I didn’t sit there biting my nails in the play-off final because of FFP, I did it because I desperately wanted the team in claret and blue to win and lift a trophy.
And that’s how I, how 7500toHolte, and how the vast majority of Villa fans reacted to Xia’s plan - as fans. We wanted to believe.
I’m a fan and my focus is what happens on the pitch for 90 minutes, ideally on a Saturday. Of course you can’t split that off from what happens off the pitch - they’re two halves of a whole. But I’m not sure I want it to condition how I react to the team. There’s a limit to how much ownership I want.
Maybe it was stupid of me, and of us, to want to believe in Xia’s promises for Villa. But then, it’s stupid to entrust my happiness every weekend to 11 players who I have no conceivable influence over. Fans are stupidly attached to their team, that’s the idea.
Now it looks like we’re going to pay the price for believing. In a way, that’s fair - we got the excitement of seeing our club nearly make it while other teams couldn’t spend and couldn’t compete. If we have to sell our top players and build up from scratch with the kids, that’s the way things go. But I don’t think the fans are to blame, at all - fanatics don’t get to be sceptical. We simply live in hope.
Up the Villa.