On Tuesday morning, or extremely late Monday evening (make your own choice), The Times published a report about Aston Villa that I can only say was either a blatant attempt at scaremongering or further proof that most in the media don’t actually understand Financial Fair Play.
I’m by no means an expert, probably proven by the fact I say I’m not an expert every time and I take the lazy option of calling it FFP instead of the Profit and Sustainability Whatsit, but it does become pretty easy to just slam the reports of our demise, when clever use of language is used to imply something that doesn’t actually exist.
We all saw it last summer during our real financial meltdown and although fears and concerns were definitely appropriate, the steady stream of reports talking about £40m holes, £50m holes and even £70m holes on an FFP front were always based on supposition and not fact.
We had the whole points deduction nonsense constantly rearing its head where the implication was just because it was available to the EFL, Villa would naturally fall foul of it.
No proof, no pudding despite all the headlines and oh yeah, all these months on with promotion attained and the EFL seemingly passing our accounts and FFP submissions for the year, a points deduction cannot be on the table in any event.
Despite all that background and all that history (and a failure to be accurate) it didn’t stop The Times from leading with:
“Aston Villa facing investigation after stadium sale”
In short, the article references the fact that the EFL have given us their sign off for our accounts and approved the Stadium transfer and just gently leans on the fact that the Premier League are yet to authorise the final set of numbers for last year.
Cue panic and hysteria as the report goes on to claim that although ‘loosely aligned’ with the EFL’s FFP provisions the Premier League regulations ‘contain additional complications that could cause problems for Villa.’
Sadly, that just patently isn’t the case and given we had to submit the paperwork by June 30, quite why the previously reliable outlet are under the impression that the Prem would sign off within 24 hours is simply something else that stumps me.
The EFL’s FFP provisions are far stricter and far more stringent than the Premier League set, you know, that’s kind of why relegated clubs have a far more difficult time of things under FFP and it’s not just the extra revenue that is helpful in the top flight, it’s also the looser rules and regulations.
The complications are far fewer and the wriggle room is a much wider margin, so much so in fact that for all The Time’s belief in ‘additional complications’ from this season forward the Prem have actually relaxed the wage growth stipulations in the regulations that more restricted how quickly a wage bill could grow each year – not that they seem to be aware of that, of course, but that was confirmed over a month ago from my memory and you kind of assume they’d do their research don’t you.
It’s not the only flaw in the report but as other outlets lap it up and rehash it, it’s certainly gained the expected traction – despite not actually being fair or balanced – and subsequent reports get even further from an accurate truth as nobody bothers checking for facts during a quick rewrite do they.
Yes, the Prem will have now received our books as we transition to a top flight team again and they will be looking. Why? Because we are back in the Premier League and we now operate in their FFP system so they will be drawing a marker so future assessments can take place.
I wouldn’t have thought it was a secret that if you could call that an ‘investigation’ then you might as well claim all 20 top flight sides are facing a normal, annual, investigation – but that’s not what The Times imply and it doesn’t quite get the emotions going making you click does it?
Having returned to the top tier, part of the annual paperwork is investigating the accounts and yes, despite being passed off by the EFL, the Premier League have their own process and they will take a cursory look at the Stadium deal – which anyone following FFP will have been well aware of owing to the ‘fair market value’ stipulations in the regulations that apply to ‘linked deals’ when it comes to owners.
The fact we valued Villa Park at £56.7million and we already knew the EFL had approved Derby’s £80million deal, we had no issues there. I certainly don’t believe we’ll have any issues for the Prem set as we arguably undervalued Villa Park for me, and as the Prem look around football for Stadium valuations – Derby is already on paper and we’ve been cute.
It’s a report about nothing, based on nothing that isn’t absolutely normal and given we passed the far more stringent EFL rules, with greater leeway anyway in the Prem, how and why would we have any problems there?
The EFL have chosen not to punish us for our spell with them, so the Premier League certainly won’t take any retrospective action at all here (they can’t btw), despite the implication the report would have you believe.
If they have any issue with the Stadium valuation, they may downgrade the fee to one they believe reflects a fairer market value but ignoring the fact they won’t, even if they did, that wouldn’t come into play until next summer in any event.
The clue for the media really should be in understanding that the EFL don’t enforce Prem FFP nor do the Prem enforce EFL FFP. Now we are back in the Prem, whilst they will draw a marker from 2018/19 results, they don’t do an assessment until we are preparing for the 2020/21 campaign so ‘investigation’ is the wrong word carrying inaccurate connotations and even talking about points deductions or fines are totally out of order, because those decisions won’t be made until next summer IF we’ve breached the Prem rules.
It’s not even ‘fake news’ in this format, it’s flat out BS.
The only way the report lives up to the headline was if it was heavily caveated by if’s, but’s and maybe’s with a blue moon, an alien invasion, oh and it would still only happen in 12 months time with another load of if’s, but’s and maybe’s. It would also have to categorically not imply the ‘investigation’ was this summer, imminent, or likely.
But that is why the media are supposed to be preoccupied with the words ‘accuracy’ and ‘ethics’.
This time next year, if we’ve done anything naughty the Prem can punish us, so I might as well wrap this up by forewarning people that The Times (and others) will no doubt rewrite this summer’s content next year when it might actually be more believable.
You have been warned, but I won’t be taking it seriously in 12 months time either.
Vital Villa’s Media Meltdown Forum Thread.