Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Huge cost of keeping Villa afloat revealed

By Robson Sharuko

The huge financial outlay which the Aston Villa owners are making to ensure the club service their financial obligations, including settling the salaries of stars like Marvelous Nakamba, has been revealed.

Aston Villa unveil Marvelous Nakamba, their 13th new signing. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
Aston Villa unveil Marvelous Nakamba, their 13th new signing. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

American businessman Wes Edens and Egyptian billionaire, Nassef Sawiris, are the joint owners of the English Premiership club.

And, this month alone, they injected another £10 million (about US$13,9 million), into the team’s coffers, to just balance the books.

This has taken the spending, by the two businessmen, to £97 million (about US$135 million), since the current season got underway, in September, last year.

The massive investment illustrates the huge cost that come with owning an English Premiership club, especially in this tough operating environment, complicated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Traditional revenue streams, like funds usually generated during match days, have been closed as the stadia have remained closed, to the fans, since the resumption of the game, after the initial decision to halt proceedings, when Covid-19 first struck.

Zimbabwe international midfielder, Nakamba, is one of the Villa first-team squad, with a weekly salary of about US$83 500.

And, to service such huge overheads, the Villa owners have been forced to keep digging into their pockets.

Nakamba was one of the players, who were brought in by Villa, during the English summer transfer window in 2019.

This was made possible by the £126,4 million (about US$175 million), which Edens and Sawiris, injected into the club, during that period.

Sawiris, with a net worth estimated to be about US$8.7 billion, in February this year, is considered the second richest African.

He emerged as a principal figure at Villa in July 2018, when it was announced he would replace Chinese businessman, Tony Xia, as the chairman of the Birmingham club.

This followed the purchase of a 55 percent controlling stake of the club by NSWE, the company he jointly owns with Edens, whose initials represent the names of the two owners.

The duo took full control of the club, after buying out Xia’s remaining shares, just two months after Villa secured their latest return to the Premiership, two years ago.

That huge jump in class, where their club would now face the elite of the game in England, forced Sawiris and Edens to open their cheque book and splash a huge investment, into virtually a new team.

About US$126,4 million was released, by the two businessmen, between May 31, 2019 and May 31, last year, to enable the club to bankroll the transfer spree.

It gave Villa the financial power to splash £155,9 million (about US$215,5 million), into the acquisition of 16 new players, as the club strengthened, to try and match the big boys, in the Premiership.

This recruitment brought in the likes of Nakamba, who was acquired from Belgian side Club Brugge, for about US$15,3 million, with the club’s full financial statements, released last week, giving a true picture of the massive investment by the two owners.

Last week, BirminghamLive showed Villa have spent £292,8m (about US$407,3m) in recruitment of players since Sawiris and Edens took over ownership of the club from Xia, three years ago.

This season, alone, Villa spent £105,7m (about US$147,6m) to bring in six more players — Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, Traore, Ross Barkley (loan) and Morgan Sanson

The five most expensive players, ever recruited by Villa, Watkins (£33m, about US$45,9m), Brazilian forward Wesley (£22,5m, about US$31,3m), Tyrone Mings (£20m, about US$27,8m) and Traore (£19m, about US$26,4m) have all come under the regime of Sawiris and Edens.

However, with Villa not getting anything substantial, in terms of players who were sold during the same period, it meant the Birmingham club were left top of the league’s net expenditure chart.

They even pushed giants like Arsenal’s net expenditure of £82,5m (about US$114.7m), Manchester City’s £76,7m (about US$106,7m) and Manchester United’s £74m (about US$102,9m), into the shade.

Sawiris’ joint ownership of Villa has seen the club also invest considerably in African players with Nakamba, Egyptian forward, Trezeguet, Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta and Burkinabe midfielder, Bertrand Traore, arriving at Villa Park.

Before Samatta, who became the first Tanzanian player to feature in the English Premiership, was shipped off on loan to Turkish side Fenerbahce, Villa had players from all the parts of the continent.

Nakamba represents the southern part of the continent, Samatta the eastern part, Traore the western part and Trezeguet and his counterpart, Ahmed Elmohamady, the northern part of the continent.

“Waving in the second city gusts, an Egyptian flag mast proudly perched on top of the Doug Ellis Stand, and with Ahmed Elmohamady and Trezeguet too representing their roots with a Villa badge sat on their chest, the club are building on strong relationships in North Africa and in the Middle East,’’ noted a club fan platform.

“An Arabic-devoted official Aston Villa Twitter account gained 7 000 followers in the first four days of its creation two years ago and, with over 44 000 followers as of April 2021, Villa have managed to unlock a new set of fans over 2,000 miles away from Witton. In fact, both Trezeguet and Elmohamady are followed by more accounts on Twitter and Instagram than Villa’s primary account on the platform.

“Egyptian football fans provided Stoke City with the highest increase of social media followers when they signed Ramadan Sobhi in 2017.

“Sawiris’ influence in Africa and the Middle East is capable of exporting the Villa brand across the world – and it’s a journey his compatriots Trezeguet and Elmohamady have both been a big part of.’’

Sawiris’ huge financial commitments, especially in this tough environment where income streams have been depressed, have come at a cost for Villa.

The club recorded a loss of £99,2m (about US$138m) for the last financial year.

This has meant the owners have had to dig deeper, into their financial reserves, to keep the club afloat and ensure the team meet all their obligations.

The two businessmen, according to the financial statements, injected £30m (about US$41,7m) in September last year, another £57m (about US$79,3m) in October before splashing another £10 million (about US$13,9m) this month. According to the figures, when the reconciliations are made, at the end of the season, next month, Sawiris and Eden would have injected, an average of US$12m (about US$16,7m) a month, in their drip-feeding exercise to, among other things, keep Nakamba and company getting their salaries. The Herald