On Wednesday, MOMS, along with other members of Villa’s Fan Consultation Group, received an early morning invite to meet the representatives of the new Villa owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris. The eleventh hour meeting would take place that afternoon at Bodymoor Heath to discuss the role of the group and the club’s supporter communication as a whole.
There was also a chance, if time permitted, that we would meet both Edens and Sawiris, who now own the majority share (55%) in Aston Villa.
First of all, the very idea of calling such a meeting at such an early stage, was a refreshing and unexpected step by the incoming owners. Remember, we live in a country where the government actually had to step in to instruct English football clubs to have structured dialogue at least twice a year with their supporters.
Whether it’s a mindset of fan engagement that Edens has picked up from his time as co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks remains to be seen, but credit must go to the two footballing people (i.e. staff who ‘get it’) at Villa who both originally sowed the seeds for the Fan Consultation Group (FCG) over two years ago and continue to carry the torch for it and made sure that the incoming owners were aware of it.
From MOMS’ experience of hearing about non-existant club/fan communication from supporters of other clubs at Football Supporter Federation (FSF) meetings, the Villa FCG has the potential to develop into an example of good practice for the rest of English football.
Anyway, to the meeting…
The first part – the meeting with the owner’s reps – gave us a chance to individually put forward our own experiences and discuss the good, bad and the ugly of what had been happening recently in terms of supporter/club communication. The three reps asked questions as we went along and showed interest to deepen the discussion and their understanding.
Later, after they had met Steve Bruce for around an hour, both Edens and Sawiris popped in for a sit down chat to give us a bit of an insight in themselves. The meeting was informal, as opposed to a formal FCG meeting (where summation/minutes of the meeting are published); it was more a chance to get a feel for the new owners and them to get an insight into how supporters are feeling at the moment.
Since it was their first few days at the club, it was unrealistic to put them on the spot to get answers on the burning issues of FFP or whether Jack Grealish and James Chester would be staying (Bruce has since announced the owners don’t want anyone to leave).
In terms of current Villa affairs, they did confirm that Steve Bruce was staying, shortly before the club broke the news officially, although keeping the Villa boss was pretty much to be expected under the circumstances.
Getting a Feel
MOMS did get a chance to ask them about whether they had been proactive in looking to buy a football club. They had for over a couple of years been surveying the landscape, initially in the MLS, but they ultimately preferred the scope of success that teams in Europe could potentially have with the Champions League etc.
Also, MOMS asked Edens what he had learnt from his experiences of co-owning the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, which may help him at Villa. Villa will no doubt benefit from crossovers with the Bucks, especially from a sporting science stand point and the owners have already made strides in that direction as well as instigating ways to improve the development of Villa players. We’ll let the club announce those moves, if and when they see fit.
Regarding the bigger picture, they clearly know the key appointments they need to make at the club off the pitch to get the club heading in the right direction. Whilst our time was short (around 10-15 minutes or so), we certainly got an insight into their considered and measured manner, plus, their welcome lack of hyperbole.
With the business relationship the pair already share with their company NSWE (the pair’s initials), it will hopefully lead to a ‘two heads being better than one’ scenario. They did indicate that they were here for the long haul.
Building Better Worlds
MOMS has met the previous owner and a few CEOs over the years, and despite some individual qualities, obviously, one thing they all had in common was reinforcing the adage that talk is cheap. In that context, since the new owner duo refrained from outlandish or pandering statements, there is certainly room for cautious optimism.
While MOMS isn’t totally convinced by the current manager and the team’s approach, at this stage it was very unlikely there would be any management changes so close to the start of the season. No doubt, keeping Bruce was deemed the sensible and safe option in the short-term.
Going into the new season, post financial meltdown, it’s certainly set a more muted tone than the wild statements that Tony Xia first offered up at the start of his ownership. MOMS suggested at the time, he was like the Wizard of Oz with all his promises and it was uncertain who or what was actually behind the curtain.
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) July 26, 2018
On Wednesday, to use another film analogy, with the sight of owner representatives and limousines at Bodymoor Heath, it was a little bit like meeting the calculating and meticulous Weyland Corporation, whose motto in the Alien film franchise is ‘Building Better Worlds’.
Lets hope that team NSWE can ultimately build a better Aston Villa…without the horrific side effects of those movies! UTV
Follow MOMS on Twitter at @oldmansaid