In preparing myself for the Villa Trust AGM, I thought back to the tail end of the Doug Ellis era.
Ellis, and other directors, would suffer a yearly interrogation by fans at a time where Villa were floundering & listless.
The prospect of Fox & Hollis facing supporters in our current “crisis”, was never going to be without incident.
I had been worried that through the nature of AGMs that discussion could easily be contained through process. Further, given that neither Fox nor Hollis were under any strict requirement to contribute specifics, that it would be an opportunity for spin, rhetoric and soundbites to prevail.
Whilst there was certainly some of the above, what played out was a ill judged, divisive & often baffling set of exchanges between supporters and the clubs hierarchy.
I was caught off guard by how two seasoned company executives misjudged both the atmosphere and sentiment both in the room & from the wider fan-base. The initial mood was rightly cordial, but the opening remarks were casual & badly pitched during a period of abject failure at the football club.
Fox cut a figure personifying crisis. Personable, charming but self-absolved of blame and always placing hope in a seemingly endless period of change. He cut an increasingly isolated figure as the evening progressed, repeatedly veiling answers in broad brush management jargon rather than providing a straightforward response.
Hollis was an extraordinary character to observe, almost pantomime in his performance. He started clumsily, referring to fans as customers from the outset before a cringe-worthy apology was enforced. Hollis’ evening never recovered; with deluded positive anecdotes of Villa’s match-day “experience” & rambling boardroom honed statements.
The bizarre tearing of a single piece of A4 paper to record issues for discussion with Fox could quite equally have been a hurried draft resignation.
This was an opportunity to inspire confidence, launch a fresh initiative or renewed impetus for the football club. Unfortunately, very little was learned, aside from solidifying the concern that he now has the final say on matters impacting Aston Villa.
I was caught off guard by Fox & Hollis repeatedly. As I sat with the intention of live tweeting any minor snippets that might be remotely interesting [rare at an AGM], I found myself unable to keep up with a tsunami of ill prepared statements.
Indeed, most responses from the CEO and our new Chairman throughout the evening baffled to varying degrees. I appreciate that by the very nature of my approach, some quotes need greater context or possibly the benefit of more characters [Twitter restricts this of course]. However, I feel the sentiment and meaning as a whole comes through with accuracy. [**I have included each live tweet as a reference point below.]
Whilst at the time there were certainly alarm bells were ringing during the meeting; with reflection, it is a damning indictment of Aston Villa’s performances in the ongoing Randy Lerner era. It is beyond bad.
Our football club has been ill managed for years. Repeated mistakes, costly errors and the inevitable decline of what was once one of the biggest football clubs in domestic and European football. We are subject to ridicule because of this implosion, self inflicting a potentially irrecoverable fate upon ourselves.
How does Aston Villa find itself on such a precipice?
We are a football club that has implemented failed plans, botched fixes along the way and is now driving complex change management when only the obvious will do.
Football is not a complicated arena. Score more goals than an opposition side.
A simplistic view perhaps, but below the layers of commercial nonsense and management justifying doublespeak, all that remains is a football team that kicks a bag of air around a grass pitch. Whilst I accept we have executed many things poorly, I do not accept that smaller clubs who have passed up by did so in a fashion or approach that represents ours.
I was also struck by how truly out of touch with the supporters the hierarchy is. It’s key representatives in Fox & Hollis, genuinely, in my view, didn’t get the significance of our relegation, it’s meaning and what that means to Aston Villa.
Those supporters who voiced concerns received the reassurances one would expect, but without the understanding of that of anyone who grew up following football & crucially have Aston Villa coursing through their veins.
Much will be written, many opinions will be aired, but I left with a solemnity at our clubs resignation. Our orchestrated sleepwalking, year on year, under both Fox and his predecessors will pass without the hint of accountability.
We now also have a Chairman who has stated he will not fire a CEO that relegates one of England’s best supported & historic football clubs, in a time of unimaginable wealth & after a calamitous change of direction under his stewardship?
We have a proud history, one we should draw upon as the reality of our predicament dawns.
But what of our “bright future”? A laughable fallacy which was sold without any of the skill or endeavor with which it could be achieved. It never existed, other than in the imagination of one man.
As fans, we should support our football team, but by doing so we must open our eyes to the fact that nothing is changing for the better at our club. I saw little to inspire confidence, suggest and upturn or that any meticulous plan was on the verge of coming to fruition.
Until such a time as sanity, reason and football prevail as our priorities, Aston Villa will remain firmly on the course it has plotted for itself.
Live Tweet’s from Villa Trust AGM 21.01.2016:
“The only thing that will change things is how we learn. – Hollis
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