After a stellar season (at least since Unai Emery was appointed), Aston Villa looks like a club that is going places. And the appointment of former NBA team Philadelphia 76ers Chris Heck suggests those places could be anywhere in the world.
Under Heck’s leadership, the 76ers grew from a franchise worth $300 million to one valued at $3.15 billion. And success in the Premier League is now more dependent than ever on clubs having a solid financial footing – whether that comes from wealthy owners or savvy businesspeople.
Heck comes into the latter category. And he also has prior experience in football, having spent two years as president of business operation at the New York Red Bulls. He will take on the role immediately and assume complete responsibility for business and commercial matters.
With previous successes under his belt, fans, pundits and bookmakers are sure to be watching closely to see what Villa do in the summer transfer window. It won’t be enough to simply raise the profile and value of the club. Aston Villa haven’t won a trophy since picking up the League Cup (now EFL Cup) in 1996.
And it’s now 30 years since they went anything close to winning the league. Fans won’t be happy with a huge bank balance and increased sales of global merchandise. They’ll expect any business success to be reflected on the field.
That success will only be achieved by investment in the team. They’ll need to keep hold of Unai Emery and back him in the transfer market.
Harvey Barnes and Sporting Lisbon’s Manuel Ugarte are names already being linked with a move to Villa Park, with the manager seemingly focused on increasing his attacking options for an assault on the Champions League places.
In recent years Leicester and Tottenham have both tried to cement a place in the top four – and both Arsenal and Newcastle will aim to do that in the coming seasons.
Could Heck enable Villa to usurp them? Aston Villa fans will no doubt argue the club is bigger than Leicester based on the history of the two clubs. And Chris Heck appears to have more knowledge of how sport and business entwine than Daniel Levy, whose downfall in this area has been exposed over the past few years.
Newcastle, of course, have huge financial backing and an expectant fanbase. But there is no guarantee Arsenal will carry this season’s form into the next.
There is a huge opportunity for Heck to make an immediate impact and help the club make a push for the top four next season. The immediate start is a huge opportunity to leverage this season’s positivity, bring in some big-name players, and allow Emery to get off to a good start.
Let’s not forget he took over in November with the club having registered just two wins so far in the Premier League.
Announcing the appointment, Nassef Sawiris said Heck is a “world class talent” and that his arrival is “consistent with our philosophy on the pitch”.
2023/24 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting season for Aston Villa and their fans.