Aston Villa is not a ‘brand’ — it’s a community, and it deserves better than BK8

Football clubs are businesses, right? They’re employers, have shareholders, CEOs, stocks, and assets worth millions at the top level.

Except that no one was outraged when Facebook changed its name to Meta, moving away from its classic blue-and-white colour scheme, the way people were with MK Dons. Few notice when private equity firms buy up small businesses, but attempts by those same firms to invest in football clubs are not only noticed but met with resistance. The fan-owned clubs of German’s top two divisions rejected proposals from PE firms for their international media rights, such is their reputation for profiteering.

Football clubs will have business interests in the modern day, but they are not and never have been purely private businesses. They are community assets. Aston Villa’s recent behaviour, however, has demonstrated that custodians of clubs often forget this.

What began under a gaslit lamp as a local cricket club in Aston looking to keep its players together during the winter has become a much more global community of fans. Many fans are local from the Midlands or have a familial connection to the club. Increasing TV coverage of England’s top flight has meant that Villa fans can be found around the world. Some, like me, were born in Birmingham into a Villa-supporting family before emigrating abroad. From personal experience, without being able to regularly go to matches, many fans will instead make time to watch matches at odd hours and put money into merchandise. Both at home and abroad we want to show off our fandom, to display to others that Aston Villa is our tribe, our community.

This is what makes a football clubs community assets, not just businesses; the usual rules of capitalist competition just do not apply. If our preferred supermarket closed or became too expensive, we would simply find another. No one exclusively wears one brand of clothing, and few would pay €57 (£49) for a branded outfit for their baby, but myself and many others do pay that (more, even) for a Villa kit. If, as almost became the case before the current ownership, Aston Villa were to simply disappear, we would not just give our support to another club. Few of us would ever wear the kit or merchandise of another English club, and those that do likely have personal reasons for doing so.

Aston Villa is a community, not just a brand we put on. That is why the behaviour of the club, its custodians, and partners matters; it reflects on all of us.

It has unfortunately become all too common to see passion and fandom like ours being exploited for profit, taken for granted, or demolished for not making enough of it in the current climate. In the last year, this very site’s parent company Vox Media recently shut down many of its MLS fan communities and podcasts blaming the current economic climate, with Premier League communities spared the axe for now. Not to mention how the people who poured their time into running these sites were treated before being laid off.

In 2016 @SBNation unceremoniously fired me because I was agitating about the way they covered soccer, the world’s sport.

Today @voxmedia, worth over a billion, is pulling funding for soccer blogs that have been around 10+ years. We make around $300 per month.

— Kirsten (@kdschlewitz) January 20, 2023


By: Dan Pritchard
Title: Aston Villa is not a ‘brand’ — it’s a community, and it deserves better than BK8
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Published Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2023 15:30:00 +0000