Aston Villa in £400m race as V Sports' ambition put to ultimate test with FFP proposals

Nassef Sawiris has funded Aston Villa's ascent alongside Wes Edens
-Credit: (Image: Stephen Yang/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

After accomplishing their five-year plan to get Aston Villa back into Europe before Unai Emery's side then qualified for the Champions League last season, V Sports will continue to do all they can to ensure the club stays at the top.

Villa finished ahead of half of the 'big six' last season and above Tottenham and Chelsea the campaign before - now they want to form part of a 'great eight', but know it won't happen overnight, even if Villa's progress since 2018 has been remarkable. Their rise hasn't been without setbacks, of course, but Emery is the elite coach V Sports needed to put their ambition into practice.

Villa's football department, made up of Monchi, Damian Vidagany and Emery, plus their support staff, have helped fans realise what they thought were distant dreams at the point of Steven Gerrard's sacking, let alone when the club was languishing in the Championship not so long ago.

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Having secured Champions League football and reached a European semi-final last season, Nassef Sawiris was quick to hand Emery a contract extension, valid until 2029, once the campaign ended in May. He wants the Spaniard to lead a Sir Alex Ferguson-like tenure at Villa and continue to build on the progress made inside the last 20 months.

V Sports' aim is for Villa to become a regular feature in European competitions and of course, to win silverware. Clearly, Villa have their football department spot on and now, it's up to the business department to 'catch up' to the success Emery has enjoyed in a short space of time.

Simply put, Villa must continue to increase their revenue to allow the football department to enjoy more on-pitch success. This is nothing new, but while Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) have hit the headlines like never before in the past month, there is greater importance on a football club to succeed as a business more than ever before. Especially for a club like Villa, who have shown their capacity to break up the 'big six', but doing that season after season is an even greater challenge.

A greater challenge because just as Villa finished as the fourth-best team in the country, they have lost a key player due to the strain caused by PSR.

"We know what we are up against and we almost feel that we have to do this on our own because these rules are not set up to reward an ambitious club or a challenger," president of business operations Chris Heck told the Telegraph last month after Villa's proposal to increase the permitted allowed loses of £105m over three years to £135m was rejected at the Premier League AGM.

Heck predicts that it will take another three years for Villa to build revenue streams comparable to the 'big six'. He plans to boost their revenue to £400 million by 2027.

"We think it will take us another three years to build that sustainable business," he said. "In the meantime we have some pretty capable individuals on the sporting side who are working very similarly to how I am working on the business side.

“The first year we were successful. We generated £50 million more and that’s our plan to generate £50 million more each year. That has never been done before and we are doing it. We are already well on our way. We were [on] £219 million [annual turnover] so what is the magic number to get to? We think it’s £400 million to get into the game of sustainability. We have a path to get there."

From the 2025/26 season, Premier League clubs have agreed to trial Squad Cost Rules (SCR) and Top to Bottom Anchoring Rules (TBA), which will operate alongside the existing PSR on a "non-binding basis". This will enable the league and clubs to fully evaluate the system, including the operation of UEFA’s equivalent new financial regulations.

Teams will be allowed to spend no more than 85 per cent of their total revenues on squads under the new system. The TBA is an anchoring model based on the earnings of the bottom club, which the Premier League said is "designed to be a pre-emptive measure to protect the competitive balance of the Premier League".

If Villa are to continue qualifying for European football season-on-season, then they face even stricter financial restraints by UEFA, who already use SCR.

SCR limited spending on player and coach wages, transfers and agent fees to 90 per cent of club revenue last season, as it was first introduced as a progressive threshold. Next season, the threshold will drop to 80 per cent and then a 70 per cent ceiling will be applied permanently from 2025/26.

It is understood that Villa are currently under no pressure to raise additional funds to meet UEFA's squad cost rules after also complying with PSR last week.

So, it all means that from the 2025/26 season, clubs not in Europe would be allowed to spend 85 per cent of their club revenue on squad costs, whereas clubs that are in Europe would be allowed to spend a maximum of 70 per cent on squad costs.

Therefore, clubs playing in Europe would have less of their revenue to spend on squad costs. 'Big six' clubs already have huge revenue streams and will be able to spend more on their squad than clubs who are not in Europe, even if they are able to spend 85 per cent of their revenue, rather than 70 per cent of those in UEFA competitions.

The Premier League's solution to that problem is TBA, which means all clubs would only be able to spend a maximum of the multiple of what the bottom club earns in TV revenue.

Here lies the reason why Villa voted against the introduction of the Premier League's new spending rules. While they are catching up with the 'big six's revenue streams and are competing in Europe, they won't be able to spend as much money as the 'big six' and 15 per cent less of their revenue than clubs who aren't playing in Europe.

This is exactly why Villa must increase their revenue as quickly as they possibly can, so they can continue to back Emery, the manager who we all know is capable of keeping the club in the Champions League positions.

“He is truly our manager,” Heck said of Emery. “We have trust in Unai and we are working in conjunction with Unai. We have the same vision but he is leading this club to a place that we haven’t seen. You cannot underestimate this.

"He is a remarkable individual. Not only in how he works with players individually and as a team but also his support group with the coaches. We are running something that is transformational for the club. It really is."

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