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Changes: Villa Park Expansion and Price Hike
Firstly, before we get started, you have received this email/newsletter because in some shape or form you have been a friend or supportive of My Old Man Said in recent years.
Since this season marks the 10th anniversary of My Old Man Said, I thought it was time for something a little extra and slightly separate from My Old Man Said.
A few weeks ago, I happened upon the domain ‘astonvilla.wtf’, it raised a chuckle, as it’s a sentiment that I’m sure many a Villa supporter has thought at least on half-a-dozen of occasions over the past decade. I’d been meaning to do a Substack for the past couple of years and finally thought this would be a fun title (but far from frivolous) to do a personal style newsletter under.
The goal of astonvilla.wtf is simple…
Initially, it aims to give you a once-a-week shot into your inbox of real Villa supporter news, insight and opinion (my personal column, if you will), something that cuts out the clickbait crap and constant social media Villa farts.
A lean and mean read that’ll keep you in the know and won’t waste your precious time.
So, let’s begin…
It’s finally happening…
Going back a few years to the days of Randy Lerner’s ownership of Aston Villa, the then Villa CEO, Paul Faulkner, once summed up to me the process of rebuilding the North Stand at Villa Park, by summarising that, “it needs a wrecking ball through it”.
Well, finally, it seems we have a date for when the wrecking ball will swing into B6 (Miley Cyrus tbc).
A couple of weeks ago, I was given further insight into the rebuilding of the North Stand by someone that has been actively involved in the consultation mix on the project.
Aston Villa will have one more full season with the existing stadium set-up before the North Stand is expected to be completely demolished in the summer of 2023.
Until now, the only real information in the public domain, after years of speculation and false promises (due to ownership changes), has been the statement in the recent publication of the club’s accounts:
‘Preliminary designs have been created to transform our iconic home at Villa Park.
It includes building a new North Stand, upgrading and expanding our hospitality facilities and creating an entirely new venue to bring our retail and merchandising activities, as well as other entertainment activities, into the 21st century.
Capacity of the stadium would increase to over 50,000 upon completion of the first phase.’
It was confirmed to me that indeed the whole North Stand will be levelled, along with the buildings that surround the carpark on that side of the ground - from the Villa Village to the Academy building.
As well as revamping that commercial infrastructure, there will be an increased corporate offering, including a hotel.
The new North Stand will potentially house in the region of 16,000 seats.
In terms of the ‘over 50,000’ estimate of Villa Park’s overall capacity after the North Stand redevelopment is completed, I’m told it will be comfortably over 50,000 and potentially anywhere up to 58,000.
Of course, recently much has been rightly made of the poor travel infrastructure to and from Villa Park, but it’s a part of the process that a traffic management plan will need to be satisfied before planning permission is granted. That’s a given.
On top of the possibility of more train carriages and additional ‘specials’, there maybe additional initiatives ala the redeveloped Alexander Stadium, where they’ll be a shuttle bus service to ferry people to and from the main stadium for the Commonwealth Games.
Villa have already purposely appointed Julian Bowran as the Head of Security and Match Day Safety for Villa Park, with the remit of overseeing the North Stand development.
Bowran has previously worked at both Burnley and Sunderland, but before that, he gained a wealth of experience during almost three decades with the Northumbria Police force, where he had experience of big event management of both NATO and Olympics events.
There is a Villa Fan Consultation Group meeting with Villa CEO Christian Purslow on April 7th, that I’ll be attending, where Purslow will outlay the development plans in more detail.
In a previous FCG meeting, the Villa CEO floated the idea of naming a stand at Villa Park ‘The Ron Saunders Stand’. He, like the fans present at the meeting, felt the current North Stand wouldn’t be do the ex-Villa manager’s legacy justice, so it’ll be interesting to see if the idea is still on the table for the new North Stand?
If it’s something that supporters would endorse, it should be. After all, Purslow did state at that meeting, that if Villa fans wanted it, he could rename the Trinity Road stand, ‘The Ron Saunders Stand’ tomorrow.
The Trinity Road stand has an identity of its own, but the new North Stand surely would be a great fit for honouring Villa’s former manager, who built Villa’s most decorated team.
Price Hike & Secondary Ticket Market
At the forthcoming FCG meeting with Purslow, season ticket pricing options will also be discussed. A rise is expected and the extent of which will no doubt be confirmed.
While social media is awash with rumours of a substantial price hike, let’s wait until we hear confirmation from the Villa CEO.
In the last FCG meeting, it was announced that Aston Villa are likely to take up the sponsorship offer of an outside company Seat Unique to deal with the secondary ticket market for Villa Park tickets and season ticket resells.
Judging by Seat Unique’s website (linked above), they already have a deal in place when it comes to hospitality packages.
You will no doubt remember Villa’s recent previous secondary ticket partners like Seatwave and Viagogo. Back then, they were useful for fans to snag a cheap ticket, sometimes around £10. Demand and supply has dramatically transformed since those days though, when a season ticket waiting list would have been regarded as a pipe dream.
While the club will benefit from a circa million pound deal with Seat Unique, it does throw up the ethical question of fans profiteering off other fans. There’s also the irony that the club brought in harsh warnings and measures to prevent the resale of tickets this season by fans, yet seem ok with it, if they’re getting an upfront financial sweetener.
Will a secondary ticket agent be any more unfair than the current in-house model?
For example, a face value adult ticket in K4 of the Upper Holte for the upcoming Spurs game is £49.50. However, if a £615 season ticket holder (in Zone 2) couldn’t attend the game and then sold on their ticket via the in-house seat sale method, they would only get £25.89 back.
£600/19 games = £31.58, then the season ticket holder only gets 80% of that amount.
So, as a result, the club overall makes a healthy profit on the resell of the ticket, while the ticket holder takes a loss.
If that’s how such a system is going to work in-house, then you’re better off with the devil that allows you to set the price and at least claim the match day ticket value back.
On the Pitch
We’ll talk more about what’s happening on the pitch for Villa in future wtf’s. I’ve pretty much mapped out my feelings and insights in the latest batch of My Old Man Said podcasts (latest one below).
I think eyes have already turned to next season and to make the jump into a European places challenging side, it’ll take more than Villa just getting in ‘the missing link’ defensive midfielder they’ve been chasing.
I’m thinking the transformative key is two decent central midfielders that will bring both discipline and character to Villa’s midfield. Giving it a new identity and enabling the team to control certain games more and be less open to the counter.
I’m also thinking that Steven Gerrard may have to revaluate his reliance on his full-backs for width, if he doesn’t get the above two midfielders in to give the team a foundation to execute his current plan.
Anyway, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of that later.
In the meantime, expect the next newsletter to give you an insight into the Christian Purslow meeting and hopefully the answers to all the questions posed above.