Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the Premier League season at neutral venues as their chief executive, Christian Purslow, warned clubs would not support measures that increased the risk of the “£200m catastrophe” that is relegation.
It is understood Premier League clubs have been told the only way to complete the season is for the remaining 92 matches to be played at neutral venues, but Purslow said that would punish clubs such as Villa, who have taken 17 of their 25 points at home. Concluding the season would bring in television revenue but he pointed out that the financial cost of being relegated after playing all games away from Villa Park could be far greater.
“At the bottom end of the table there’s a much smaller revenue base but the risk of relegation is probably a £200m catastrophe for any club that mathematically could still go down,” Purslow told TalkSport. “When you say to any club, ‘We want you to agree to a bunch of rule changes that may make it more likely that you get relegated’, they’re not thinking about TV money, they’re thinking: ‘My goodness, am I going to agree to something that results in me being relegated and losing £200m?”’
Addressing the prospect of neutral grounds Purslow added: “Personally I’m against it. We’re a club that prides itself on home form. Two-thirds of our wins this season have come at home [five of seven]. We’ve got six home games left to play and I think any Villa fan would agree that giving up that advantage is a massive decision for somebody running Aston Villa and I certainly wouldn’t agree to that unless those circumstances are right.”
Villa are second from bottom, two points behind 17-placed Watford with a game in hand. Purslow’s warning about relegation came a day after the EFL chairman, Rick Parry, said things would get “very messy” if the Premier League tried to block promotion from the Championship this season.
Purslow responded with a damning verdict on the finances of the Football League, saying the Premier League needed to be protected first and foremost because the money it generates is vital for the entire pyramid. “The EFL has grave financial problems and those problems predate Covid-19,” he said. “I think what Covid has done is expose the fact the league is unsustainable at every level. One of the reasons I feel very strongly that we need to complete the season and protect TV revenue is that the Premier League really is the driver of revenue that filters throughout English football.”
Parry feels the trickle-down benefit of Premier League money is exaggerated. He said on Tuesday: “We have six clubs in the Championship receiving parachute payments which means on average they get £40m per club; the other 18 get £4.5m each. So they’re then struggling to try to keep up. Lower down [in Leagues One and Two] solidarity money is welcome but becomes very small.”