AVST Statement – Removal of Banners

When AVST met with Aston Villa officials two weeks ago, we discussed a number of things in great length.  We can only apologise if the length of the write up we put out on the website was not substantive enough for some, however, the meeting lasted almost three hours and therefore we felt it was best to abbreviate what was discussed, rather than give a word for word account.

One of the key objectives we were keen to discuss with the club though was the constant negative PR that has been swirling around Villa Park for some time now and, most importantly, ways that they could look to repair the fractured relationship between the club and its supporters.  Therefore, we were bitterly disappointed by events at the match yesterday, particularly given how well received the appointments of Messrs Little and Bernstein had been just a few days prior.

Watching Aston Villa has not been an enjoyable pastime for a number of years and the board have acknowledged this.  Regardless of anyone’s views on the relative merits of any protest campaign, we understand the feeling of helplessness of our supporters who simply want confidence that their views are being heard and that the club are doing everything in their power to turn this sliding oil tanker around.  After just three victories in the league this season, and with relegation an inevitability, it is little wonder that our supporters have simply had enough.

With this in mind, we felt we must contact the club after what transpired at Villa Park yesterday.  There has been plenty of press coverage of the removal of banners held by supporters with the message “Lerner Out” written on them.  In fact, similar complaints were made of the same during the previous home game with Everton. We asked the club to explain their reasoning for this and were informed that the individuals holding these up had been politely requested not to display the banners several times before eventual removal.  This is somewhat missing the point.

The clubs terms of ticket use specifically reference banners.  They note that unacceptable are “Abusive, offensive, racist or obscene” banners.  Quite right too.  We are struggling to see how anything that the supporters held up Sunday fits into any of those categories though and it is hard not to take the view that this is a form of censorship from the club.  Whilst we will doubtless hear that there are two sides to the story, and that the press tend to cover everything in the worst possible light, it is unfortunately yet another self-inflicted notch on the poor PR bedpost that leaves the bed in serious danger of collapse.

If such measures continue against peaceful protest then the club is at risk of inflaming the situation.  The last thing anyone needs at the moment is the supporters being further alienated.