ASTON VILLA have had a mixed season in 2022-23; comfortably placed in mid-table in the Premier at present, but they have also sacked manager Steven Gerrard and tumbled out of the FA Cup to League Two side Stevenage on their own ground. Any hopes of building on the previous season’s campaign in which they finished 14th haven’t fully been realised, although they could finish in the top half of the Premier League, which would be some sort of progress.
From a financial perspective, the 2021-22 season saw them significantly benefit from the sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £ 100 million in August 2021. Villa, after making accumulated pre=tax losses of £ 420 million between 2013 and 2021, made a small profit of £ 0.4 million in 2021-22, but it was the sale of Grealish that turned operating losses of £ 96 million into profit. In some respects, the timing of the sale couldn’t have been better or more appropriate for Villa. In addition, since the end of the 2021-22 financial year, their owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, have invested a further £ 98 million in the form of share issues.
Turnover in 2021-22 went down by 2.8% to £ 178.4 million, mainly due to a fall in broadcasting revenues of 21.6% to £ 123. 2 million. In 2020-21 they totalled £ 183.6 million, but this was attributable to the greater number of games played. Matchday earnings totalled £ 16.1 million, a massive return to normality after the wipe-out of the previous covid-affected campaign. Commercial income went up by 49% to a record £ 39.1 million. Villa’s revenues have only been bettered once before, the £ 183.6 million generated in 2020-21. Unsurprisingly, Villa’s profit from player sales was also at a record £ 97.4 million, higher than the combined profits made across the past decade.
Villa were very active in the transfer market. They spent some £ 204 million and recouped £ 103 million from sales. Among the new signings were Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City for £ 33 million, Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen (£ 30 million), Southampton striker Danny Ings (£25 million) and Everton’s Lucas Digne (£ 25 million). Of these notable acquisitions, Ings has already left for West Ham United for £ 12 million.
Gerrard was hired in November 2021 and lasted just over a year and 40 games, with a very mediocre win rate of 32.5%. Former Arsenal and Villareal coach Unai Emery was his replacement and so far his win rate is 50%.
Villa’s wage bill in 2021-22 totalled £ 137 million slightly less than the previous season, consuming 77% of income. In 2020-21, the ratio was 75%, a big improvement on 2019-20 (97%) and a pleasing development from the excesses of Villa’s championship years when wages outstripped earnings by 175% in 2019. The pursuit of Premier League football has prompted many Championship clubs to spend far more than they can ever afford. This situation is unsustainable and represents a big gamble on the part of clubs who desperately covet a place in the top flight.
Villa Park is one of the oldest stadiums in Britain and Villa enjoy strong support. Their average attendances in 2021-22 were 41,670 but the club is aiming to expand their home and take the capacity up to 50,000 through the rebuilding of the north stand, the oldest part of Villa Park. The club has a 28,000 waiting list for season tickets.
It is well documented that Aston Villa’s golden era was the period between 1887 and 1900 when the club won five Football League championships and three FA Cups. Their last trophy was the Football League Cup in 1995-96, 27 years ago. This is the second longest period in the club’s history without a piece of silverware, the longest was between 1920 and 1957. Villa are a big club that could become a contender for major honours on a regular basis. But in order to move up the ladder, the club has to find ways to increase its revenue streams and move turnover way beyond £ 200 million. Leicester City have shown that the Midlands, which has a plethora of medium-sized entities with loyal support, can produce clubs that win prizes. A visit to the winners’ podium is long overdue for one of football’s grand old names.