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CB Search, North Stand Issue, Futuristic Beers & Restrictive Views
Welcome to the second astonvilla.wtf newsletter of the past week, as I catch up on things new and old. If you haven’t read this before, please do subscribe to get a dose of real Villa news and insight directly into your inbox. Think of it as a break from the battery hen style of clickbait that passes for journalism nowadays and the hysteria of Twitter.
Yesterday evening, I attended the latest Villa Fan Consultation Group meeting at Villa Park. It lasted over three hours, as we discussed a host of topics, including: the potential new Villa crest and general aesthetic of the club, an update on the North Stand development and what went wrong - catering wise - at the first home game of the season.
The Villa CEO Christian Purslow wasn’t present, as it wasn’t one of his allotted meetings, so there was no direct conversation about the playing side of things.
That said, without being able to say too much, rest assured Villa are actively on the hunt for the right deal/s.
With less than a week to go of the transfer window, Aston Villa are indeed looking to improve matters player-wise, but they are obviously faced with the dilemma of availability of players to upgrade the first XI. Steven Gerrard already labeled it a “bloated squad”, so that’s the clue they’re not in the market for squad filler.
Ahead of this summer window, the centre-back position was identified as a key position. To get in one player that would be a likely starter, you would not only upgrade that position, but increase the competition for the other centre-back spot and thus sharpen the focus of Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Calum Chambers. A win-win.
That is why Villa acted early and spent £26m to get a head of the pack and bring in Diego Carlos. With the Brazilian centre-back being 29-years-old, and very much bought for this season, his unfortunate long-term injury means the club have seen a large chunk of the value of their sizeable outlay literally vanish.
Whatever the expectations of transfer hungry fans on Twitter is, in the real world, losing millions of pounds isn’t an easy pill to swallow. Obviously, the owners will be cautious to throw good money after bad.
That said, it was indicted that Villa are actively still searching for a centre-back solution, but there is a problem…
From the original due diligence and research into the centre-back position, the club did when they bought Carlos, from the initial list of potential centre-backs compiled, all of them have since signed for new clubs. The two that didn’t, signed new contracts with their existing clubs during this window.
We’re talking a comprehensive list of centre-backs too. So, the question is, can Villa unearth any viable options in a short time frame that make sense?
North Stand Bigger Picture Concern
While the new images of the North Stand development (see above) are very exciting, there’s an underlining concern from the club about the current marco economic factors that are impacting the construction industry.
With rising inflation in developing countries, there’s been a dramatic knock-on effect in the construction industry. Supply chains have been compromised, as prices of building materials, machine hire, consultation and labour, are significantly rising.
The uncertainty in terms of pricing makes it difficult to quote and budget for major projects, so a lot of risk has entered the industry.
Economically speaking, you could say, it’s one of the most difficult times in the last few decades to undergo such a major construction project as the North Stand redevelopment.
So, do bare that in mind, if there are delays in the North Stand redevelopment…or Villa aren’t dropping another £26m to replace Diego Carlos!
If you went to the first home game of the season at Villa Park against Everton, there’s a good chance you’d have encountered a catering or drinks issues on the Villa Park concourses and kiosks (those that were actually open).
Suffice to say, the club are not best pleased with the incompetence demonstrated by Levy (the company who run the kiosks around the ground).
While they may have suffered from not having a Villa Park preseason friendly this summer to get back in the swing of things, there’s no excuse for some of the malpractice that supporters had to endure on an especially hot day (closed kiosks, chronic queues, poor beer quality, wrong pricing, lack of water etc, etc, etc).
I’ve read the statement that the club will issue (you may have already read it by the time you see this) and I was particularly interested in the mention of a few things, that are long overdue in terms of actively trying to address queue times at kiosks.
Never mind the Everton game, these Fan Consultation Group meetings have been venting supporter frustrations about kiosk queues for years now, without seeing any real visible attempts to find solutions. I also reiterated at the latest meeting, the concern that supporters are paying premium prices for a poor standard of beer. Which simply isn’t good enough.
It seems judging by the statement, action will finally be taken.
The beer quality is being reviewed (and hopefully improved), while pre-poured beer is being introduced to concourse kiosks.
As well, as a bunch of other measures (as indicated in the forthcoming statement), the most interesting development is the introduction of ‘Frictionless ‘Tap + Go’ payment and self-service technology.
The self-service technology has already been introduced by Levy at Leicester City’s King Power stadium, a video of which, I posted up on the My Old Man Said Facebook page a week ago (talk about willing it into Villa Park existence!)
In terms of self-service technology, think those new Amazon Fresh stores, where there is no checkouts. You enter a zone. Tap in, with your debit/credit card, and then take what you want. A series of cameras picks up what you’ve taken and you are automatically charged as you leave.
I’m curious to see this in action. It’s expected to be rolled out sometime this season (I think the Lower Holte concourse maybe the initial guinea pig site).
New Restrictive View Policy
Look at the below picture...what do you think? Is this a restrictive view?
All last season, this was my new season ticket seat, which cost £615. It was sold to me with zero warning of any potential restriction.
Originally, at the start of the season, after I emailed the above picture in, asking them politely, wtf? The club offered to move me. But, I asked them would they mark it up as a restricted view in the future? The interesting thing was, at every turn, they failed to acknowledge there was even a restriction. It was soon apparent, that the same seat would continue to be sold on to other fans without any warnings, as it continually had been over the years (no doubt like other seats around the ground).
The Villa supporter who sat next to me, who has been there for 15 years, told me, that no season ticket holder ever stays in the seat.
I kept the seat during the season to essentially to fight the good fight.
At one stage, the stadium Green Guide was quoted at me, which stated, that as long as you can see the corner flags and goal posts, it’s not officially a restricted view.
The seat immediately to the left of me the pitch isn’t restricted by the rail, but you can't see the bottom right corner flag from it. So, according to the Green Guide, this would be a restricted view. Bonkers.
I wondered what the common sense guide stated on these seating matters?
Pretty much any large venue you go to in Birmingham - for example, the Arena or the Symphony Hall - will always be very transparent, when you buy a ticket, about there being a hand rail in view (even if it doesn't offer a price reduction). Such transparency is pretty much standard practise for most good theatres or music venues in the world. It’s a pretty basic expectation.
So why should football fans be treated differently? I mean, they even have a ‘Green Guide’ to justify the mistreatment!
Anyway, onto the good news.
Long story, short. After discussing the situation directly with the club’s directors at a previous FCG meeting, they made the commitment and actioned the process of assessing all the stadium’s seats and flagging any with a restricted view on their website seating maps for ticket purchases. So in the future, all Villa fans will know what to expect from the the seat they purchase.
As well as the club’s commitment to better communication of rescheduled fixtures (that I detailed previously), it’s a positive step in the right direction of providing a better level of ‘customer service’ to supporters.
Now, let’s hope matters improve on the pitch.
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