Shareholders Letter 1979 from Doug Ellis

Last updated : 26 February 2002 By

Shareholders Letter 1979 from Doug Ellis
(25th February 2002)

The Aston Villa Football Club Limited Extraordinary General Meeting 6:00pm 1st November 1979 At Villa Park

Aston Villa last won the First Division Championship 69 years ago in 1910. It is 22 years now since Eric Houghton led Aston Villa to the last F.A. Cup Final triumph in 1957. We are no nearer reaching those magic targets now than we were a decade ago - despite spending literally millions of £'s.

This is why I have called for an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Club - a meeting that could, and should, have been held at least two weeks sooner than the 1st November deadline. And before I go any further, let's have none of this nonsense about "Don't rock the boat". If I don't do something soon, the boat will capsize with the loss of all hands. I doubt the leadership and ability of my colleagues on the Board to put things right. They seem unable to see how badly matters have slipped. I would not forgive myself if I allowed the Club to continue its current slide into mediocrity.

I am seeking the shareholders help to remove from office three of my colleagues because, I regret to say, we are going backwards, not forwards. Genuine and recognisable improvement has been turned into a slump of alarming proportions. Consider the facts. We have sold, or tried to sell, almost all of our most valuable players. We have lost valuable staff, and we have lost equally valuable custom - our supporters - and we have lost goodwill.

I suspect that the vast majority of shareholders hold similar views to my own on many current issues concerning Aston Villa. Many of you have taken the time to write to me in support of my action. To do nothing about the departure of Andy Gray, Brian Little's proposed sale to Birmingham City, and the transfer of John Deehan to West Bromwich Albion would be an abdication of the faith which you, and many Villa fans, have placed in me as a servant of the Club for almost 11 years. I will not desert that faith.

When I resigned as Chair in September 1975, Aston Villa had just won the League Cup, we were in European football, we had been promoted back to the First Division and we had a very fat and healthy bank balance. We had a wonderful team, believing in themselves, working for each other and feared by every other team in the First Division, as recently confirmed by Emlyn Hughes on television. I did not resign voluntarily, although I said so publicly to avoid disharmony, in the best interests of the Club. My colleagues complained of the personal publicity I attracted. I have since tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid such publicity by adopting a low profile. I remained an enthusiastic Director and among other duties retained the sole responsibility of developing the Serpentine Car Park, which after five years of negotiation has become a small gold mine for Aston Villa.

I have opposed the transfer of many players including established senior players like Chris Nicholl, Bobby MacDonald, Steve Hunt, Leighton Phillips, John Gregory and Gordon Smith, apart from Andy Gray, Brian Little, John Gidman and John Deehan. This erosion of our assets seems to be gathering pace and that must be checked. Despite our finishing eighth in the First Division last season, this year, some 4,600 season ticket holders have not renewed their tickets - a loss of over £170,000 when compared with the 1978 figures. The supporters can see what is happening. They can't all be wrong.

Our team lacks flair, imagination and leadership - an unhappy state of affairs which has clearly fermented unrest among the players. Our supporters are becoming increasingly restless. I very much regret that there is disharmony in the boardroom, partly caused by my own unwillingness to accept anything but the best for Aston Villa. What hurts even more is that I know we can do better - and so do you, I know our players can play better - and so do you. I know our supporters will give us more if we give them more - and so do you. And I know, without false modesty, that I am better qualified to revive Aston Villa's potential for real success than any other serving member of the Board. Unless we have happiness at the top, generating the right spirit and high morale, we shall not succeed.

I have been concerned for some time at the size of the Bendall family shareholding. I promised you in 1969 that no one person or group of people would ever be allowed to control the Club. My own shareholding in Aston Villa is very much smaller than that of the Bendalls. I have never had a controlling shareholding in Aston Villa and have no wish to do so.

During the last 12 months, I have approached Mr Ron Bendall on no less than three separate occasions emphasizing the importance of the two of us being prepared to work together in harmony for the benefit of the Club. I have received no response whatever. If the Bendalls manage to defeat my resolutions, I can see nothing stopping them or their nominees from continuing to buy shares to the point where you, the other shareholders, have effectively lost you 'say' in the running of this Club for the foreseeable future.

To have the assurance that my action is in the best interests of the Club from someone like Eric Houghton has heartened me immensely, and was the final encouragement I needed to take the drastic action that will bring us all together on November the 1st.

If I am successful I shall reconstitute a Board of five directors, which I believe to be the ideal working number. Apart from Mr. Houghton, I cannot tell you at this stage who would be my colleagues on a newly-constituted Board. No-one has yet been asked to serve on that Board. There is no shadow board. I have no wish to control the Club by means of a monopolistic shareholding. I simply wish to chair the Board of Directors of Aston Villa all of whom are answerable to the Club's 8,300 shareholders. It is you the shareholders, not my colleagues on the Board, to whom I have a greater responsibility.