Yesterday, Paul Faulkner’s resignation was announced by Aston Villa Football Club via an official statement. Many of us are not surprised by Paul Faulkner’s resignation as we knew he would most likely have been replaced by a new owner. However, what did surprise me was the unconventional timing of the resignation. Rumours regarding potential buyers have dwindled and a club statement issued by Randy Lerner on Monday merely confirmed what most of us feared: that we are not close to a sale. In his statement, Lerner declared, “Given that no agreement has as of yet been reached, I feel that it is time now to turn my full attention back to Villa matters at hand.” In light of this, we must question why Faulkner chose to leave at this peculiar time.
Unfortunately, a clear answer cannot be given as to why Faulkner left during this transitional period at the club. Only a select few at Aston Villa Football Club know and, like many journalists, I can only offer my own views and opinions on the subject.
There may be two key factors to consider:
1) We are close to a sale and new owners will be announced soon;
2) We aren’t close to a sale and Faulkner’s resignation is unrelated to one.
Of course, things may be more complicated.
Let’s start off with the more positive scenario – that the club is close to being sold. In the statement, there is reference to how agreement could not be reached on allowing Faulkner to be involved in an non-operational role at the club. Lerner, having enjoyed a close working relationship with Faulkner over the years, simply would not offer his Chief Executive Officer a lesser role without good reason. There is a possibility of ongoing talks with potential owners, who have gone further than stating an interest in purchasing the club. They may have suggested to Lerner that he talk to Faulkner about the upcoming changes to the Villa board to ease the pressure of the takeover.
New owners usually like to keep some members of the club’s board in order to ease the transition. David Gill was Manchester United’s Chief Executive from 2003 right up until summer 2013, surviving the Glazer takeover of 2005 which saw Glazer family members take on many executive positions at United. Ian Ayre, formerly the Commercial Director at Liverpool, was promoted to Chief Executive Officer after John Henry’s takeover of the club in 2010. However, Faulkner possibly wasn’t offered an extension to his current role at the club but a non-operational role instead. This could potentially mean that an announcement regarding new ownership of Aston Villa is on the horizon. While there might have been more personal issues involved in Faulkner’s resignation, that won’t stop fans wondering whether there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Lerner could be just as far away from selling Aston Villa Football Club as he was in May. Lerner has had to make cuts recently, especially within the transfer market and with players’ contracts. Lerner simply doesn’t want to splash the cash at the club any longer so has been less generous and has to ensure that he has a board on his side as he rides the rough waves ahead of the new season. Lerner also knows that the club’s supporters are frustrated by the current situation and he probably knows the supporters have been frustrated by Faulkner himself. Lerner is perhaps trying to appease the Villa supporters in whichever way he can. After all, the club is all about the supporters and it is those supporters who bring in a considerable proportion of the revenue.
Overall, this is a very complicated situation and this one resignation could easily have been blown out of proportion. Faulkner has left the club and a sale, according to Lerner’s statement, is no closer than before Faulkner said his farewells. Robin Russell has taken over responsibility as ‘acting Chief Executive’. I find the word ‘acting’ very interesting since it suggests that Russell is not going to be the next permanent Chief Executive, just a stand in until Lerner or a new owner finds a new one. If Lerner himself replaces Russell with a new Chief Executive in the next few weeks, he will in all probability have confirmed himself as the owner of Aston Villa for next season. If he keeps him on, there is a chance a sale could be close.