Las Vegas is closing in of getting it’s own Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, with Villa’s owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris reported to be the clubs likely owners.
Whilst the term “franchise” isn’t one that sits particularly comfortably with football fans, this is a standard US model for sports teams and one which the MLS adopts.
In June of this year (2021), NSWE filed a trademark for ‘Las Vegas Villains’ and the latest developments suggest that their plans are now coming to fruition.
“Villains” or “Villans”? We’ll leave that for you to decide.
This new club would be the 30th team to enter the rapidly growing and now well established MLS. Such franchise’s don’t come cheap, with the city of Charlotte understood to have paid up to $325m to have it’s own side, which enters the league in 2022. Las Vegas Villains are thought to be likely to enter in 2024, following the construction of a stadium, with the cost of joining unknown.
The news follows the recent change of Villa’s ownership structure and name, with V Sports now adopted as part of a broader commercial growth strategy.
For a club that fellow American and former CEO Tom Fox once described as “parochial” to this blog in a closed meeting of Aston Villa supporters, it’s a radical departure.
Villa have made significant strides to improve the football club in terms of players, coaches and infrastructure since Edens and Sawiris’s arrived. This of course followed the club being brought to the brink of administration on the watch of Recon Group’s Tony Xia and then CEO Keith Wyness.
These improvements have seen the club lift itself from 3 seasons languishing in the Championship, sustaining itself in the top flight and looking to acquire talent/developing youth to lift the club into the upper echelons of the division.
This is an eyebrow raiser, there’s no doubt about it. We want our football club to be progressive, commercially sound and doing things that are exciting. However, there is always the nagging feeling that we risk sacrificing or diluting what is one of the most unique histories and heritage within the game.
With that said, if we are to be taken seriously or be relevant in the modern era, we need to raise our profile and achieve success both on and off the field. Financially, Villa for all its regional size and longevity in the game, ranked 2nd last in Premier League turnover in 2019/20. Our last major piece of silverware was secured in 1996, for many of our younger supporters, well before they were born.
Domestically, we need to re-establish ourselves amongst the top sides of English football and win something. Our proud history, year on year, sadly gets further away.
This is turn means that we may need to come to terms with an approach that we aren’t familiar nor necessarily comfortable with. Ultimately, the current custodians are incredibly wealthy. They have treaded carefully with Villa to date, but their ambitions in regards to continuous improvement are becoming clearer by the day. Closer to home they employ Christian Purslow (CEO) to make the big calls. Purslow appears lazer focused and no-nonsense, with a clear remit for success from his employers.
It remains to be seen how an MLS franchise would function or work within the structure. Would it operate in a Manchester City style model that now includes 8 teams? Or might this merely be our owners taking advantage of one of the worlds tourist hotspots missing a trick in not having a lucrative ‘soccer’ team? We shall see.
For now though, we will have to watch and wait to see what becomes of Las Vegas Villains, which looks set to potentially open a chapter quite different to anything we’ve experienced before.
As has been announced, or has been leaked, in Las Vegas. We’re excited about the market, as are all the other leagues here in North America… Wes is a guy we all have a long-standing relationships with. He has looked at other MLS clubs over the years. We will continue those discussions and continue to try get something done with our 30th team within the next 10 months.DON GARBER, MLS COMMISSIONER