The long awaited and much anticipated proper communication from Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia was delivered to us on Friday evening. I mean late Friday evening when most would’ve been offline unwinding after a long week of work.
At least it wasn’t delivered at kick-off on Saturday as England booked their place in the World cup semi-finals, that would’ve hidden it better if that was the intention.
On face value, it gives a lot of answers. Had it come a month ago it would certainly have quelled tension and worry within the fanbase and been warmly received – in fact, a lot of fans have received it warmly, they are content, somewhat reassured and they have praised Xia for being so open and honest in his communication.
You may be one of them, you might not be but the full statement can be read by – Clicking Here.
It might help to reference the statement as I work through it.
Read it once and your main take away is ‘Xia apologises for lack of communication but he was rightly busy’ and ‘Bruce stays with Xia’s thanks’. The main one being ‘to meet FFP we need to player trade’ or in modern language, sell our most valuable assets.
If that’s all you want, excellent. I read it twice.
My problem is it didn’t come a month ago. My problem is, and I’m choosing my words carefully, it’s not open and honest if you spend a little more time with it. It’s incredibly well crafted to give it full credit and I repeat, it’s clearly worked its magic for many fans, so maybe I’m just a cynical old goat? It doesn’t invite you to read it twice.
But this cynical old goat sees trigger words, key phrases and a pattern to the communication and I’d humbly suggest that is by design.
Read it twice, however, and when the initial take away points no longer hit you, you notice other things to take away and they are a little more concerning.
Read it three times and the patterns become incredibly clear. Reassure, change subject, build on previous reassurance and move on again – basically control the speed of reading so information filters through without you actually asking a single question or doubting it.
It’s great writing – it’s almost as if it’s actually written more as a statement to potential investors than it is the fans themselves. It’s certainly from Xia’s point of view and not necessarily the club’s itself.
This is my initial interpretation being a cynical piece of work I am, it was bullet pointed Friday night but I’ve obviously cleaned it up for this.
It starts with a little ingratiation and placation, paying appropriate lip service whilst claiming he’s hurting as well. We get talk of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘business decisions’ as an excuse – but also – without acknowledging that the ‘implications’ were 100% known by the board, if not the fans when it came to our lack of promotion.
The ‘realities’ that we now face aren’t realities for anyone but the fans – or have we done no planning and contingencies at Boardroom level?
We get a block of waffle after laying the above seeds that intimate it’s really not his fault.
Structural changes at Boardroom level are addressed, as is minority investment to aid ‘our objectives’ and we get more buzzwords like ‘measured approach’ and phrases like ‘enable us to overcome the implications of FFP’ – again it appears Xia wants us to forget these implications have long been known and should certainly have been known to him and the Board, but presumably we blame those sacked and not Xia himself.
That pivots to our new approach is self-sustaining – which it always should’ve been – but that’s supposed to be a reality check for fans when the truth is it seems to be a reality check for Xia himself.
The reality check line is actually followed by ‘performance and expectation for the season ahead’ specifically, yes some fans called for promotion last year, some fans didn’t, the majority of fans in my experience felt it would still be a struggle and we needed to look for growth and the Play-Offs would be a bonus.
Xia called for promotion by any means necessary, his Board repeated it, his manager then repeated it. It’s not the fans who need a reality check. But at least he seems to get it now, maybe?
I’m starting to ramble – I’ll stop.
He addresses Steve Bruce next, thanking him and praising him for sticking with us whilst everyone around him gets sacked and there are other bits that for greater brevity I won’t mention as they aren’t major.
Xia then moves on to address speculation in the press with 15 points.
1 – Yes, you have put the club up for sale. You’re being semantic, if you take minority investment for equity they aren’t going to give you money if the club isn’t for sale. You may have wanted to say the club is only partly for sale?
3 – I don’t think anyone believed you did – are you inviting one?
4 – Cash flow isn’t a strategic value or do we have other anticipated funds you can factor for a short-term benefit, long-term loss? The source of the money – isn’t that what a period of due diligence is about – fans don’t know the source of your money after all.
6 – We should’ve already been working within the confines of FFP, why is this a reality check?
7 – No we don’t. You’re right, a shareholding sale is irrelevant for FFP but please tell me we have greater brains at play when it comes to the ‘strategic value’ a new investor can bring.
8 – Don’t repeat yourself.
9 – We’d guessed that as he hadn’t been fired.
10 – We might have significant football experience in the playing department, administration team and club administration team…
11 – Converting to equity is a good touch, but we new investment had been made otherwise FFP wouldn’t have given us greater leeway. How does this answer cash flow?
12 – Bank loan free…what about overdraft, what about lost money by panic factoring player sales. Would I be flippant to mention Credit Card debt – interest-free balance transfer?
13 – Oh that was the point of point 10 then – I get it now.
14 and 15 – Completely irrelevant but ends with a nice touch of ‘money is still being spent’.
Maybe I’d be more assured if I’d just read in once and not thought about it for more than 30 seconds?