Yesterday, Aston Villa published their end of year accounts and with it, a ton of positive news surrounding the club began to pour out over social media. With Villa being relatively debt free and the ownership remaining committed to the project, Villa have arguably never been in a more exciting position. Amongst all this information came the news that plans to expand Villa Park, more specifically the North Stand, are indeed already underway. This really comes as no surprise given how many years now this very idea has been discussed, and with a season ticket waiting list of over 20,000 fans, it's become a case of when rather than if. With said waiting list in mind, a stadium expansion to Villa Park, increasing the capacity from the current 42,785 to a proposed 50,000 plus, will probably please more people than it will upset. But is this news all positive? Or are there some big potential negatives worth shining a light on? Here on all the pros and cons of a Villa Park stadium expansion.
Pro: Ticket Availability The most obvious pro is of course getting more fans into the stadium. From both a supporters point of view, and from a business standpoint, this is the biggest positive for all involved. The aforementioned waiting list will undoubtedly be the driving force behind the expansion, but even the fans who can only make it to a select few games could benefit. Ask any Villa fan without a season ticket how difficult it is to buy single matchday tickets and they will all tell you the same story, if you don't have a membership, you probably aren't getting in. Adding 7,000-10,000 extra seats should surely guarantee supporters who aren't lucky enough to afford a membership more of a chance to purchase tickets through general sale. Con: Transport and Infrastructure Quite frankly, unless massive improvements are made to the surrounding areas of Villa Park, then any talk of a stadium expansion should be put on hold. It's been a long-standing complaint by Villa supporters for years now, especially since the return to top flight football, that getting home after a game can take hours in some cases. We've all seen the images that show thousands of fans queued up for trains, cars gridlocked in standstill traffic, and even a select few now choosing to brave the hour long walk back to the city centre following games. The standard of transport around Villa Park compared to other grounds across the country is borderline archaic. Yes, we've been told that the hierarchy at Villa are working with the council to find solutions, but until they do, adding thousands more people to the mix will just make a nightmare situation for many even worse.
Pro: Branding It's no secret that the ownership, with the help of Christian Purslow, are targeting worldwide notoriety and having a bigger stadium will only help that vision. Bringing in names such as Steve Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho is only the first step to what appears to be a much larger plan. Make no mistake, Villa's ambitions go beyond the pitch, and a larger stadium is all part of that plan. Advertisements for Foo Fighters playing at Villa Park this June are currently scattered all across the stadium, and more events like this are exactly what the higher-ups at Villa will be targeting and an improved stadium will only help this project.
Con: Losing Tradition It's fair to say that one of the proudest aspects of being a Villa fan is how traditional the club feels, and the classic four sided Villa Park certainly reflects that. In a modern era full of huge and soulless bowl stadiums, grounds like Villa Park and Goodison Park (for now at least) are the last standing structures that resemble a simpler and happier time for many. Although we are yet to see any plans for a new and improved North Stand, it's reasonable to assume that the sides will indeed be filled in and may end up resembling something akin to Old Trafford or St James Park. If so, it would surely only be a matter of time until the Holte End is also joined up to the Trinity Road and Doug Ellis stands. Yes, this would make Villa Park feel colossal as a result, but at what cost? It may have become a bastardised term now, but 'Proud History, Bright Future' is probably a phrase worth remembering when making any changes to Villa Park. Pro: Player Pull Now we as Villa supporters may see Villa Park as a sacred church to which no other stadium can even compete, but a bright young superstar from a far away land may have a completely different view when potentially picking between Aston Villa and one of the London clubs with gigantic modern stadiums for example. It may be a bit of a cliche but showing a new player around a stadium is the ultimate first impression, and although we as fans value history and tradition, players with no links to Villa won't always feel the same way. There's every chance that a new signing could be poached away at any time by another Premier League side who appears bigger to the player thanks to a quick Google search on stadium capacity. As the club grows and adapts, maybe we as fans need to as well? Especially if we want to be attracting the level of talent needed to get Villa back into Europe. If we want to act like a European giant, we also have to look like one.
Con: North Stand Season Ticket Holders
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will this new North Stand. At the time of writing, we are yet to find out for sure whether the plan is to build on the North Stand or simply knock it down and start over. If it is indeed the latter, then we're going to be looking at a very long period of time with only three stands, at least one season. Even if it's a more simple extension on what is already there, this project is very unlikely to be finished during the summer break. It means that longtime season ticket holders will be cast out during this period, and even membership holders will find it pretty much impossible to get tickets during this difficult building process.
Whether or not the proposed expansion to Villa Park is a good or a bad thing will ultimately come down to which of these pros and cons personally affects you the most. Let's not forget though that Villa are currently in great hands, as proved by the financial report this news sprouted from in the first place. So whatever happens in the near future, the chances are it will be what is best for Aston Villa football club going forward. UTV.