Trust you are well.
Welcome to you latest dose of proper Aston Villa news and insight directly into your inbox.
A decent return from Villa’s the last two games - both at Villa Park - now makes the international break bearable and hopefully lays the foundations for further improvement in October. The six games in that month will no doubt go along way to defining what type of season Villa will have.
The injuries to the club’s two main new signings, Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara, are a concern, but if the likes of Coutinho, Buendia, Bailey, Luiz, McGinn, Watkins, Ings, Mings and Konsa all improve on their offerings of last season, then we should still see improvement.
Currently, regardless of the injuries, the buck rests with Steven Gerrard and his coaching staff, as there’s still enough talent to choose from, so let’s see what October brings.
In the meantime, let’s look at a trio of off the pitch issues.
New Crest Design
A few weeks ago, I attended a Villa Fan Consultation Group meeting on the new Villa Crest and overall aesthetic of Aston Villa’s future branding. Also present, was a designer, who will be working on the project.
As you know, a couple of days prior to the meeting, the club had released a survey for supporters to have their say on the design (which you would have probably filled in). That survey, I personally thought, wasn’t too constructive in the information it sought to collect, as it funnelled the aspirations of supporters into token marketing buzz words like ‘fun’, ‘energetic’, ‘premium’, which ultimately aren’t too useful in informing the process.
Asking fans to pick their favourite single opposition badge from the Premier League and Championship - were tribal influences potentially interfere with judgment - was also a fairly limited exercise.
The actual meeting however was a lot more constructive and substantial and other FCG members were surprisingly open-minded in terms of the approach to the crest design.
Like many Villa supporters (and many at the meeting), I have a lot of fondness for the round badge from the eighties, that was used between 1974-1992. It was my first Villa badge and it symbolises a golden age of Villa, when they achieved their greatest glory. In my opinion, it’s better than any badge that came after it.
However, it’s in the past, from an era that has been and gone. It’s important for the club not to keep looking back or to be lost in the stasis of fan sentiment.
While those at the meeting were also champions of the round badge, they also largely shared the view, that the club should explore every possibility and take a ‘Green Hat’ approach - revaluate what were seen as core elements and be open to fresh concepts and ideas.
I personally stressed, that to simply do a design that sought to appease as many fans as possible (and avoid a Twitter backlash) was a recipe for a run of the mill conservative badge.
To give you an idea of some of the key things that were discussed, lets start with the obvious approach to appease the social media masses. Take the current lion with a star, throw it into a round badge and swap AVFC with ‘Aston Villa Football Club’ in a modern font. That would pretty much be considered job done.
The reality, this is a lazy approach (IMO), which would leave you with a badge following the current direction of Chelsea, Manchester City, Brentford, Brighton et al. In fact, it would potentially be a little too close to Chelsea’s latest design.
Wouldn’t this be wasting an opportunity to set Villa apart from other clubs.
At the meeting, there was an interesting debate regarding the star within the badge. One person suggested it was disposable, implying that the star shouldn’t define us and the fact that it is immortalised within the actual badge, seemed to suggest a lack of aspiration and implied it’ll never be achieved again.
Throw in the fact that the likes of Nottingham Forest and Chelsea have won it twice, also makes Villa look a little small time.
There was the suggestion, it should only be included on the shirt - above or below the badge - when Villa play in European competitions. Again, a train of thought with merit.
Personally, I’ve been swayed from the thinking it was an element essential to be included within the badge, and now prefer the approach that it should be used outside the badge.
As it stands, I prefer the away shirt badge, when the star is the same claret colour as the lion. The white star on the home badge with a yellow lion, makes it come across as if the lion is following the star of Bethlehem.
About that yellow lion…I’m not a fan. It should be claret in principle and to also make it stand out better.
In terms of connecting with the club’s history and roots, the rampaging lion (of Scottish decent) is the one key singular element. Now, I would argue that Villa haven’t really found a satisfactory and definitive lion in any of their badges.
Does the current one actually look like a ‘rampaging lion’? Does it look like it’s fearless or full of pride?
I’d argue it could be improved.
Now, the interesting consideration in this respect is sometimes it doesn’t take much to transform the feel and look of a badge.
Look at the below redesign of the Tottenham Hotspur badge.
I had joked in the meeting that the Spurs cockerel in their former badge looked like a depressed chicken. All the designer literally did was adjust the bird’s posture by puffing its chest out, and it dramatically transforms the feel and message of the badge.
With it’s posture adjusted, the Spurs cockerel now looks a lot more formidable and beams with pride.
Maybe a small tweak or two on Villa’s lion is all that is needed.
As previously mentioned, if there is to be a lion, it has to be claret to connect it to the club and to be used out of a badge context (more of that later).
Aston Villa vs AVFC
The sentiment at the meeting was largely that if you’ve got one of the best and unique names in English football, then it should be on the crest, over a hashtag-like abbreviated form that is distinctly underselling the club. That viewpoint seems to have played out in the club’s fan survey too.
If nothing is off the table in this design process though, then it’s worth coming up with an option that dispenses with both the lion and name altogether.
Let’s get minimalist…
A & V
One avenue I thought was definitely worth exploring was to look at the possibilities of what could be done with the letters A & V. From a design point of view, they are great letters to design with and have an inherent symmetrical nature coupled together. They are iconic across the Villa spectrum - from the former unique and fabulous A & V floodlights to younger Villa fans making A and V signs with their fingers in social media pictures.
Perhaps the A and V are currently under utilised in Villa’s branding.
Whether you use it in the actual crest in an inventive way - ala Borrussia Dortmund, Juventus or Fulham - or, at least, by going down the route of creating a more personalised typography with an emphasis on the A & V within that, it could be used in the overall branding of the club.
You can also use A & V as a frame for the badge: lion in the middle, with an A shape on the top and a V one on the bottom.
There’s certainly the danger of overthinking the badge and trying to cram in as many symbolic gestures as possible, when a more minimalist approach can be more profound and effective.
That said, going back to the lion, if the design team can get an improved lion design down, then that opens up more dynamic design options.
Think Liverpool and Spurs - where they don’t actually have the full club crest on their shirts. Instead, they take the key element from the crest - Spurs use their cockerel, while Liverpool just have the Liver bird.
It looks good and that key element of the club’s identity can be used in a more dynamic fashion as a logo (as opposed to a crest) to better effect aesthetically on shirts.
Leave the crest to the stadium, the gates, letter headed paper, badges etc.
Also, why not get creative with the third kit? Incorporate the new lion into old style badges of yesteryear? Make key elements malleable to Villa’s branding.
Or, in terms of third kits, even just rerun the old badges. Anniversary of the European Cup? Have the round badge on the third kit. Anniversary of the founding of the club, use the first ever Villa badge. There’s plenty of possibilities to make third kits more significant.
I will be attending a follow-up Fan Consultation Group meeting this week to potentially view some early designs, so I’ll update you accordingly.
New Sponsor Ahead?
After a strategic review of their European operations, Cazoo, Aston Villa’s current shirt sponsors, have announced they are proposing to "‘wind down operations in mainland Europe to focus on core UK market’.
The company had earlier this year announced cutting 15% of its workforce (thought to be 750 jobs) in an attempt to save them £200m. Plus, after sponsoring Everton for two-years, they were unable to negotiate an acceptable extension to that deal.
Cazoo’s withdrawal from the EU market is ultimately motivated by further cost-cutting and downsizing. It will remove the need to potentially overextend themselves in propping up European operations with further funding. It is estimated to result in net savings of £100m by the end of next year. With a focus on cash preservation during a difficult macro-economic backdrop, boosted by record UK revenues, the Company is now expecting to breakeven by the end of 2023.
You’d expect them to potentially retreat from the expensive practice of football team shirt sponsorship (Villa are reported to obtain circa £6m-a-season), after an outlay of millions across several European football clubs.
So, all roads seem to lead to a new Villa shirt sponsor next season.
Speaking of shirts…
Early Shirt Sales
The normal Aston Villa shirt price of £65 had seen a head-shaking 14% price increase on last season. I discussed in an earlier myoldmansaid article how Aston Villa shirt prices stacked up against the rest of the Premier League. Only Spurs (£115) and Chelsea (£114.95) charged more than Villa (£110) for a pro-fit version of their shirt.
Interestingly, since the 2022/23 season kicked off, Villa supporters only had to wait a matter of weeks before shirts were being offered up at substantial discount prices of 25% off.
Now, Fanatics control sales offers and obviously have well-oiled price reduction formulas to shift stock levels, so are these earlier than normal sales, an indication that perhaps the club got the initial pricing wrong?
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Great piece David and totally hear you on the badge designs. It seems tempting to perhaps throw all sorts of nostalgic or historical elements to the badge but with danger of it being too complicated and losing the message or impact. I love what Spurs have done with their badge, a lesson in modern branding. Look how powerful the Arsenal cannon looks on its own. If we can make it simple and stylish yet instantly recognizable then we’re on onto a winner.
Really good read. As graphic design student this would have to be my dream job ! Brillant insights into the process, I love that the club is open to all of the proposals and ultimately the inclusion of fans in such meetings will likely end up with a much more profond, meaningful and relatable crest to bring the club in to a much needed new era. UTV, I look forward to more info on the process.