According to The Telegraph, Randy Lerner has reached an agreement to sell Aston Villa, provided the club stays in the Premier League. An unidentified American group fronted by “two billionaires” has agreed to pay $200 million for the Birmingham-based club, a possibility that heightens the importance of securing a 26th straight year in the first division.
With the club in 14th place, Villa will likely stay up, securing all the financial perks that go with the top-flight status in the process. With four straight losses, however, the club’s survival is back in doubt, with the potential owners set to pass on the purchase if the club falls into the second division.
From Matt Law’s reporting:
It is understood an American consortium, fronted by two billionaires, wants to buy Villa but will withdraw from the deal if the team drop into the Championship …
Survival in the top flight would guarantee Villa at least £40 million in television revenue and would mean the club remains attractive to sponsors.
Early indications suggest the consortium would be prepared to invest heavily in trying to significantly improve Villa’s playing staff. It is unclear whether a takeover would affect the future of manager Paul Lambert.
The move would be a welcome one for fans who’ve come to question the club’s direction under Lerner. With Lambert also the becoming subject of supporter skepticism, the manager’s performance is sure to fall under increased scrutiny. If he fails, he’ll cost supporters the new ownership they’ve come to covet.
With 34 points, Villa are four points above the drop, but with three teams between themselves and 18th place Fulham, Lambert’s team a series of misfortunes would have to fall in place to send Villa down. If it can avoid all of those pitfalls, the club will likely turn away from a transfer policy based on value buys and youth purchases in its attempts resume a regular place in the top half of the table.
That place disappeared when Martin O’Neill left the club in 2010, with the Northern Ireland manager’s departure coinciding with a pair down of what had become a bloated payroll. After three consecutive sixth place finishes, Villa took up residence in the league’s bottom half, with Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, and Paul Lambert having failed to right the team’s course.
With a solid home venue and a history that includes a European Cup, Villa has the potential to be the dominant club in England’s second-largest population center. To this point, however, Lerner has been unable to capture that potential.
With new ownership coming in, Villa fans have reason to hope a more ambitious approach will try to tap into that possibility. All the team has to do is stay up.