Aston Villa’s Chinese owner seeks to defy odds and return team to Premier League in 2 years
Tony Xia Jiantong, the Chinese owner of English Championshipleague Aston Villa, said he would return the team to the top-tier Premier League within two years at most, but observers said the mission was difficult and would become tougher if Villa misses the promotion window this season.
Forcing his way into the change room after a match – unheard of for an owner – Xia has made his presence known during team meetings ahead of and following matches, while calling the European soccer universe “an enclosed circle” where insiders “think with their feet”, not their brain. However, Xia said his approach would help realise the promotion in two years – although that means he would pay another £30 million in compensation to former owner Randy Lerner, in addition to the £52 million he already paid to take over the club.
“The team has relied on its achievements in the past 10 years and the fans suffered...I have found the problems and am working on fixing them,” Xia said.
“At the beginning of the season, I found they didn’t even prepare pre-match reports and post-game reports...some of the talent scouts we hired to spot European players actually live in Australia. Data analysis is absent from their recommend reports. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Xia took over Villa after it was relegated from the Premier League last season, and bragged to media earlier this year that the club would get back to the Premier League within one year.
But life in The Championship has so far been disappointing.
Zhang Yuqiang, founder and chief editor of Sports Money, a Beijing based sports business publication, said Aston Villa’s chances for promotion this season were becoming slimmer - and promotion would be even more difficult in the following season.
“Parachute payments for clubs relegated from the Premier League decrease in the three years after relegation. Also, the longer the team stays in The Championship, the more pressure they will face as commercial income decreases and fans leave the team,” he said.
Villa is currently 10 points adrift of the play-off positions and have not won a game since a 3-0 triumph over Rotherham on August 13.
The seven-time English champions fell to the second-tier league for the first time in early 2016, giving Xia a good window of opportunity to buy in at a lower price.
According to Xia, the £52 million purchase price was far lower than the £200 million target set by former owner Randy Lerner.