Chris Heck reveals Villa Park 'vision', speaks out on FFP and makes Champions League admission

Villa Park
Villa Park -Credit:Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Aston Villa's president of business operations Chris Heck has confirmed the club has no plans to leave Villa Park while also explaining his short-term plans to improve the matchday experience and merchandising among other topics in a wide-ranging interview on VillaTV.

Here’s every word he said to the club's media channel earlier this week…

You’ve been in charge for over a year, how have you found it?

“It’s been a learning experience. I do a lot of listening and there’s still more to come from the listening factor. It’s been a lifetime of thrills of watching this team evolve and this coach really orchestrate something special. Also, getting to appreciate how unique our fans are, the Villans, they are like no other.”

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How big are the ambitions of this club?

"Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens have set their sights on the top. We've been talking about how our performance has been amongst the best, not only in the Premier League but in the world. That isn't something that is a one and done - it's a long-term plan. Unai is executing that plan. Our players are playing magnificent football and we need to follow that trend on the business side and continue to support them. Their growth and success has been so strong and earlier than we expected."

What have you been focusing on in particular?

“On the business side, sponsorship in particular. The growth of sponsorship has doubled, in the sense of our three big assets - the front of shirt, the kit provider and the sleeve sponsor. Those deals are massive. We're really excited about getting those deals going in the summer, and we'll have a foundation to build on this business with those sponsors. As we add on more sponsors, we add on more nuances with the stadium and premium seating and merchandising.”

What about FFP?

"It's a factor which affects the product on the pitch. It affects every fan. We have a real focus on tackling that problem, but it'll take a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of changes as we grow our business. We use the analogy with FFP that we have a train which is the football side, and a train on the business side.

"The train on the football side is going lightning fast and that's a good thing. The business side has to catch that train. We're working around the clock trying to do sponsorship deals, changing the stadium to be beneficial to Financial Fair Play, find new revenue streams, take in our merchandise in-house and things of that nature.”

Will these impact season ticket prices for the fans?

"Everything affects one another. I think it affects it positively on our fanbase. Our plan is to go out with renewals with our general admission adult ticket at a five per cent increase, which is fairly modest. The success of other revenue streams can alleviate some of the difficulties that many clubs can have with their fans."

The Holte End is a special stand…

“I have spent time watching the Holte End every single game and it is truly extraordinary. What they bring to Villa Park makes this place so unique and so special, and what I've learned is that you know leave it alone. So we haven’t had that conversation [about moving]. There is nothing planned, and I don't expect to see it in my lifetime.”

“We are going to do a little bit of work. We are going to put in rail seating and we're going to put in new seats, but we are not going to change any of the banners or anything else, other than just cleaning things up a little bit.

There was speculation Villa could move stadium, can you give us an update?

“I love this place. I don't think we should ever leave. Villa Park is iconic. It's unique, and we can make it better. This is our home and I think it's the greatest home field advantage in the Premier League, so the plans are to stay at Villa Park.”

What improvements will be made to Villa Park

“Over the next two summers, we are going to continue to clean it up and reimagine all of our premium seating. We are working on a concert venue that is for pre- and post-game, and we're going to have an entertainment zone which will welcome the team buses every game. It will turn into an entertainment zone and that’s the vision we have for this summer and next. And now we want to put on a big stage, let’s bring an MC, former players, legends to share it with the fans. It’s going to be a big component moving forward. You'll also have a new superstore. That’s the vision.

“We’re also working heavily on transportation. We are doing the shuttle services to get people here early and working with the politicians to get the train station situation progressing. We are creating an environment where you can come two hours before and tow hours after to have an experience like no other. We are entering something really, really special.”

What would Champions League qualification mean for the club?

"It would be fantastic and that’s certainly the goal. Everything that we are going for it so get to the Champions League, whether that’s this year or in the future. We are going to be striving for that same goal. As the Champions League is set up now, if we are able to enter into that realm, it changes everything."

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