The Holte End's Secret, Villa Park Meltdown and Monetising International Villans.
Welcome again to the newsletter that hopes to give Aston Villa supporters an alternative to the battery hen style of clickbait churnalism what passes for journalism nowadays.
Due to being busy on the myoldmansaid.com front for the 2022/23 season, this one has been on the backburner for a few weeks, so apologies for that. I’ll put out another edition next week to make up for the shortfall. I’ll save discussing what’s happening on the pitch for a future edition, as I’ve done plenty of that in the My Old Man Said podcast and also in my weekly Tuesday column for the BBC Sports website.
Make sure you’re subscribed and now let’s get up to date on a few matters…
Villa Park Meltdown
If you were at the opening game of the season against Everton at Villa Park, you’ll maybe be aware that the warm weather caused a few issues. There was a lack of drinks, water, staff and open kiosks, while seemingly poor planning and communication of the situation to Villa and Everton supporters.
Obviously, the Villa Fan Consultation Group (FCG) has been in touch with the club about this, and we were told they are investigating the situation and there will be a club statement on the matter very soon.
A Villa supporter left the following comment on My Old Man Said’s Facebook page regarding details of a call he had with the club regarding the situation, which provides some useful insights ahead of any statement.
‘Had a call off the club on Tuesday, a wholehearted apology and they agreed they need to do better, I was told 55 staff never even turned in for work & on a normal 12.30 kick the stadium usually sells around 8,000 bottles of soft drinks, over 13,000 were sold last weekend, beer coolers couldn’t handle the heat, hopefully this was just a one off and there will be improvements for West Ham.’
I’m due to attend a FCG meeting next week at Villa Park, regarding a couple of other matters, so no doubt we will get some further insights then.
The Holte End Future
You may have read that the Premier League have given the green light to Premier League clubs to install safe standing/railing seating, after it was trialed from the beginning of the year at a handful of grounds.
Now, while Villa have fallen behind in being active on the issue (having been the first Premier League club, back in the Randy Lerner days, to offer to trial it), an interesting factoid popped up in the recent Villa FCG meeting about the North Stand redevelopment. For the eagle eared of you, I’ve already mentioned this previously on the MOMS podcast.
In terms of fitting rail seating in the Holte End, rather than simply replacing the current seats with the new ‘safe standing’ ones, there is another option, that could potentially expand Villa Park’s capacity further.
Apparently, according to Villa’s Head of Estates, around 35% of the rubble of the old Holte terrace is buried under the current Holte End.
It’ll probably come as no surprise to older fans, as it seems like the classic kind of move Deadly Doug (Ellis) would make to save on the cost of excavation!
Apparently, clearing this out could create the space to allow for a restructuring of the Holte and its lower concourse to potentially increase the capacity of the stand by 2000 to 3000 fans.
It’s an intriguing proposition, but any such work on the Holte would come in a phase after the North Stand has been rebuilt. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how Villa Park can potentially have a further increase in capacity without having to rebuild an entire stand.
Get ready though for the selling off of the Holte rubble… ‘Another chance to own a piece of the famous old Holte End’.
Maybe Ellis missed a trick there?
The Australian preseason tour looks to have been a big success. Of course, it helps strengthen ties with Villans based down under, some watching Villa in person for the first time. Having personally previously lived in Australia for a couple of years, I know the struggle of silly o’clock kick-off times, so the chance to watch Villa at a civilised time cannot be underestimated.
Photo: Daniel Njegich
Once upon a time, the focus of football clubs had been their season ticket holders and filling their respective stadiums. For Premier League clubs to truly thrive and expand nowadays (and meet their increasingly astronomical wage bills), their international fanbase is king, as it offers an upside not restricted by a seating capacity.
Premier League clubs like Villa have been frustrated in recent years due to the fact they have millions of social media followers, but because they don’t own the social platforms, they can’t directly monetarise them or collect the data off them. Beyond vanity and using them as a reference to show would be sponsors and advertisers, they are limited in use.
The Covid-19 lockdown period certainly focused football clubs minds on utilising this international social media following. How could they migrate them onto in-house platforms and - to put it bluntly - harvest them for financial gain?
Currently, Villa have taken a more cautious approach, which is not a bad thing.
Beyond concentrating on their membership offerings and improving their OTT offering of Villa TV, the club did agree to a sponsorship deal with Socios to run their AVL fan tokens.
Currently, beyond ‘VIP experiences’ and meaningless polls, these tokens offer very little utility to fans. The true motivation for the club was simply the upfront sponsorship money to offset some of their Covid losses, and to use it as a learning curve on such products going forward.
Fan tokens with proper utility could provide a potential gateway for international fans to interact with the club, especially when it comes to future metaverse offerings (more of that later).
Socios mistake was perhaps using the term ‘fan engagement’, which in the English game is very much a political term. Due to this, it’s triggered the Football Supporters Association and a slightly hackneyed pitchfork brigade to regard all crypto, NFT’s and Web 3 in football, as bad and akin to gambling.
The technology and software side of it all is not, it is inevitable evolution. To put it simply, it is the next stage of the internet and the world’s financial system.
Villa have been wise to sit on the sidelines and exercise restraint so far in the NFT space (Non-Fundgible Token’s are essentially digital assets, which can collected, bought and sold). The NFT market very much had a bubble of extreme interest in 2021, before it quieten down due to the recent crypto market downturn (echoing other financial markets).
Last month, Barcelona sold a one of a kind NFT via a Southby’s auction for a incredible $695,000. The NFT is a 40 second golden animation of Johan Cruyff’s iconic flying goal against Atletico Madrid in 1973 (pictured above), which allegedly took over 10,000 hours to make.
You can imagine the Villa hierarchy thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder what we could get for an NFT of Peter Withe’s European Cup winning goal?'“
If they haven’t thought that yet, they certainly will after reading this!
Maybe you will get a free chunk of old Holte rubble with the purchase of a future NFT of the former Holte End terrace?
At the moment, the Barca NFT is a best case example, while others haven’t fared so well. Liverpool recently brought out their first NFT range earlier in the year, and as someone who has a knowledge of the market, it looked a little crass and mismarketed to me.
Liverpool players made up as cartoon superheroes?
They released a run of 171,072 randomly generated ‘Hero’ tokens (priced at £57.20 each), while a further 24 unique ‘Legendary’ tokens were put up for auction through Sotheby’s.
Liverpool were projecting they could raise more than £8.5 million through sales.
With a poorly realised concept - too many tokens released, lack of current mainstream adoption of NFTs, poor art aimed at the wrong demographic (I don’t think kids are really going around dropping their pocket money on NFTs) - it was no surprise when they only sold 5% of its ‘Hero’ tokens on release (a good NFT project of standard 6,000 to 10,000 allocation, normally sells out in a matter of hours).
The sales of the 24 ‘Legendary’ images raised close to £100,000, with half of the money going to the Liverpool Foundation.
All in, Liverpool raised roughly around the £500,000 mark for their NFT collection, but you then have the costs of creation, marketing and Sotheby’s fee to factor in.
Anyway, currently, while the crypto savvy might know how to buy and store NFTs, the vast majority of a club’s millions of social media followers won’t. So better mainstream understanding and easier interfacing of such digital assets is something clubs are no doubt willing along, so they can fully take advantage of it.
Currently, Villa have time on their side, but they’ll see the potential is there.
In short, with no need for international postage, expect digital merchandise to become a big thing for overseas fans, whether it’s a collectable (ala digital Panini stickers like Sorare) or an online flex, like a Villa shirt for your Fortnite gaming character.
Virtual Villa Park
Then there’s the potential of the Metaverse and Web 3 for clubs to sell unique viewing opportunities for their international fans.
Imagine being able to watch an actual Villa game live in a virtual Villa Park, standing on a virtual Holte next to your friends from around the world. Then at half-time, walk around virtual concourses to meet up with other friends. Maybe even go to a virtual Villa Store without any queues to buy merchandise (digital and real) and then a music concert after the final whistle, hosted at the virtual version of the proposed new ‘Villa Live’ building.
Whatever the interface this ends up being through, whether it’s virtual reality goggles or some other system, the possibilities are endless. And if they add the possibility of queuing 20 minutes for a virtual beer at half-time, it will be a very realistic experience too.
In match reports of Villa games there would be no doubt two attendances reported - the actual stadium’s and the metaverse stadium’s (which could be unlimited or have a capacity cap to drive demand and price).
Manchester City recently signed a three-year deal with Sony to develop their metaverse stadium, so this is something that is happening in the now, as apposed to the distant future.
All of this is predominately being fast-tracked to capitalise on increasing numbers of international supporters and the expansion of oversea’s markets. Football as we know it is changing.
Be warned…the Modern Game 2.0 is coming.