Aston Villa fans everywhere rejoiced last week when the news broke that the club had finally been sold. Tony Xia and his Recon Group had negotiated the purchase of one of football’s grandest names for a sum of money which will eventually total approximately £100 million.

The outpouring of joy was almost tangible. The ill-fated Randy Lerner era was over. The shackles that had restricted the club for the last five years or so were finally removed. A new dawn could commence.

Our new owner went straight to work in appeasing the fans by outlining his plans: promotion as soon as possible, hopefully at the first attempt; getting Aston Villa back into the top six of the Premier League within five years; offering the new manager up to £50 million to spend this summer and being one of the top three clubs in the world within ten years.

The last objective is absolutely ridiculous of course. Nonetheless, the rest of his targets were exactly the sort of things we needed to hear as supporters starved for so long of anything to get excited about. Personally, I was quite happy just to enjoy this moment. Whether I believed it all or not, at this point in time I literally didn’t care: finally, there was something to give us a bit of hope and something to get us excited ahead of plying our trade in the Championship.

However, almost instantaneously, the celebrations on social media were infiltrated with negativity. Thoughts turned to questioning how much our new owner was worth. Was he even a billionaire? What did he actually own? Bank balances ranging from £200 million to £27 billion surfaced.

Suddenly, Villa fans in their hundreds became private investigators, digging around on the internet for any scrap of information they could find. Did Xia actually own as many companies as was stated? Who is behind the Recon Group?

I have been shocked to see the levels of effort people have been going to in an attempt to try and uncover some sort of truth about Xia. People do not even know what they are trying to uncover but are hell-bent on discovering some as yet undiscovered corruption linked to our new owner.

Many of the comments have bordered on racism and have certainly been xenophobic. I have even seen a labelling of all Chinese businesses as being corrupt and people citing Carson Yeung and Vincent Tan as examples of shady Chinese businessmen, despite them being from Hong Kong and Malaysia respectively.

Xia, in an attempt to be transparent and alleviate any fears that fans may have, has even provided a reporter with a bank statement, which shows an account with the equivalent of £430 million in it, which apparently came from the sale of a company called Teamax. Xia also went as far as to say that this was money being held in a separate account literally waiting to be spent.

Whilst this was quite the gesture from our new owner, the cynical amongst us merely took it as an invitation to snoop further and dig around on the internet for the credentials of this company. When people couldn’t find the answers they were looking for, they ran wild with the fraudster accusations ran. People even took it upon themselves to begin magnifying the statement, looking for signs of doctoring and trying to ‘prove’ that it was a fake.

Even writing this seems absolutely absurd. What have we become? I completely understand a feeling of apprehension regarding a new owner, especially an unknown such as Xia is, but it is not the job of the supporters to try and dig so vigorously in matters that they do not understand. It has become an embarrassment. Suddenly, everyone is an expert in business and finance. The fact is that nobody knows how these companies are set up. Nobody knows in whose names they may be. Business isn’t as straightforward as owning something outright under one name: there are holding companies, partner companies and subsidiaries of firms. A business can be privately owned rather than publicly listed and therefore virtually untraceable. It’s absolutely ridiculous to do a bit of googling and expect to uncover some sort of super villain empire.

A piece in ‘The Financial Times’ perhaps kicked things off with its somewhat negative look at Xia’s business interests last Thursday, which created some waves of worry. There followed a revelation that the Recon Group in fact only has one listed company under its umbrella rather than the five stated previously. ‘The Telegraph’ added to the mad mix yesterday with suggestions that Xia has fabricated his academic record and provided false information to gain a certificate for one of his companies. To me, the article serves little purpose other than to scaremonger. In fact, the basis of the allegation of a falsified academic document cannot, by the reporter’s own admission, even be verified. The article lazily ends with the comparison to Carson Yeung. It’s pretty shameful to be honest.

There seems to be a desperation to catch Xia out but there is no evidence that any wrongdoing has occurred.

The fans supposedly made a huge impression on Xia at the last home game of the season against Newcastle United. I can only imagine what his thoughts about the claret and army would be now and he is probably even less enamoured with the English press. The man himself has already expressed that he didn’t expect such levels of attention. Why should he have done? Chinese investment in European football has occurred at Manchester City already, with a consortium owning 13% of the club. Atletico Madrid is part owned by Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man. Yet these investments have been welcomed. They are not controlling stakes, but I have not seen or heard, or been able to find, any carcass picking regarding those deals.

Xia has done nothing to warrant such negative scrutiny.

One name that has come into play which does create cause for concern. Chris Samuelson was previously at Reading and involved in an unsavoury period in the Royals’ recent history during Anton Zingarevich’s ownership of the club. By all accounts, Samuelson was on the board during a perilous and somewhat dodgy stint which left Reading Football Club in serious financial trouble. Accusations range from being responsible for bringing in Zingarevich in the first place to trying, when the Russian disappeared, to broker new takeover deals that involved agreements which would see him remain on the board. Rumours also suggest that his Switzerland-based company, Mutal Trust International, would also receive a monthly £40,000 windfall on a consultancy basis.

Reading fans have nothing positive to say about him and the words ‘crook’, ‘conman’ and ‘snake’ appear frequently in posts involving his name. It’s a big worry.

Fans are absolutely correct to question the wisdom of allowing people such as Samuelson, with such chequered histories, into the club. I am concerned about his involvement, certainly. The reality, however, is that there was always a real risk of someone involved in this deal having a past which was either unsuccessful or questionable. The business world is full of people of this nature. Indeed, it can be argued it is the very nature of business itself. Obviously if we had a choice then we wouldn’t risk a guy with a dubious reputation being on the board. But we don’t have a choice. It isn’t a democracy. Trying to expose people like we’re Roger Cooks (kids, ask your parents…) serves little purpose.

For Xia, the mere fact that he is unknown is not cause for the reactions that we have seen over the last six days. The man has been seemingly open so far, admitting that one of his firms, Lotus Health Group, is currently loss making, another point which many fans made a big deal out of. There is a sense of our fans never being happy. As a friend of mine said, we now have more dough than Hovis. Until something begins to go wrong or there is a reason to show cause for concern over our new owner then let’s try to be positive and enjoy the thought of Xia spending a lot of money this summer without having to sell a bunch of players first, financial fair play allowing.

There is an element of the unknown and there are no guarantees that any new owner will do his best by the club but we must remember that owners and investors can only make money if Aston Villa is a successful club. We need to realise that Aston Villa may simply be a vehicle to make money for the new man. Success in cups and the leagues will merely be a by-product of that. That’s modern football, unfortunately. After such a depressing season and desperate longing for new, mega-rich owners for several years, we should just see what happens first before we wallow in any further negativity.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I couldn’t agree more!!

    Lets enjoy the ride.

    We will soon find out.

    We wanted a buyer now we have one they’re all dodgy .

    villajohn from Dorset

  2. No one wants to reach the point of repeating the recent protests at Villa Park so surely it makes sense to make concerns known and have them quashed before the deal is approved. Once it’s approved it’ll be too late. As they say about marriage, “marry in haste, repent at leisure,” and this is potentially a significant marriage of heritage and investment. Hopefully Dr Xia passes relevant tests the deal goes through and Villa can find some stability to build on.

  3. Great, grounded post – finally. The Internet whipping machine is full of drama-whores that really need to just sit back, relax and stop trying so damn hard to pretend they’re working for the dispatches research team.

    The only gripe I have is the guy makes MSG (the whole reason I can’t stop popping, damn you Xia).

    Apart from that, the pleasant waft of excitement in the air is welcome as far as I’m concerned. Change that’s cutting through the stagnant shit pile that has festered over the last five years – what’s not to like?

  4. I fully agree with you. Time will tell, it is sad that what may be the dream ticket for A V is being treated with so cynical suspicion. As to fears about Chinese investors, or any investor from overseas, well where are all the investors from the UK?? It’s a shame the UK is for sale but I for one am glad to have someone who appears to have vision and belief in restoring A V to where they should be and A V could be in the right hands. Lets see how it plays out. Good luck Tony Xia, take good care of our great club. From a Villa fan of many years since living in Trinity Road in the 1960s now in Devon but still travel to see Villa.

  5. To be fair a lot of this negativity was caused by the press and that still remains the case even now, they all feed us with false information about potential buyers, potential managers and potential staff when, to be honest, as it was proved, they all knew nothing at all. Now it has turned to a campaign of “slaughter the new owner” and the press have systematically tried to search under every rock for something bad to print to destroy this man and what they can’t find they join the dots and make up. The same rubbish is being printed now about the potential manager, each paper claiming that they know who it will be and when that turns out not to be true then come the claims of “snubbed” without any sort of proof that the job was offered in the first place.

    I do pity the England squad going into the Euro’s because the newspapers will again be printing any garbage they can get away with just to make sales and even should we manage to win the trophy the press would still be looking to find some scandal or dirt to print instead of celebrating the fact, and they wonder why journalists are so hated…

  6. Please don’t upset us Villa fans anymore. Don’t think our fans can take any more ❤️ache. So we have to give a new chairman a chance. Up the Villa.

  7. I am 82 ears old and supported villa since 1944 you can imagine how I feel!!!!! those people who pulled dear DOUG to pieces well what more can I say

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