Owner Dr Tony Xia attempting to attract new investors and is prepared to offload club altogether, Sky Sports News understands
Wednesday 6 June 2018 16:57, UK
Aston Villa are facing the most important week in their 144-year history as owner Dr Tony Xia fights to keep the club out of the hands of administrators.
Huge investment in player wages and more than £70million in transfers in just two seasons has left the club facing an HMRC winding-up order, with the prospect of administration a real possibility.
Officially, Sky Sports News has been told the club is not for sale and that Dr Xia's financial problems are the result of cash-flow issues in China.
However, SSN understands the owner, who has been in China since the play-off final defeat, is attempting to attract new investors to share the burden, and would be prepared to cut his losses and sell the club for the right price.
Members of the executive board will meet on Wednesday to consider how to solve the club's financial crisis and discuss how to raise the funds needed to pay the £2m outstanding tax bill, which could prompt a winding-up order within days.
Of potentially greater concern, however, is the prospect of paying a series of bills due to be settled on June 23 including wages for players and staff, which is thought to total in excess of £8m.
Despite the club's motto being 'Prepared', few could have predicted the speed with which Dr Xia's gamble to reach the Premier League would appear to have come unstuck.
SSN understands the Midlands club have been taking insolvency advice for more than a week, with insolvency expert and former Chelsea CEO Trevor Birch continuing to advise the club.
The question Villa fans will have is whether Dr Xia has the resolve - and the resources - to continue funding a club that is believed to be costing him around £6m a month to run.
After suspending chief executive Keith Wyness for, according to the club, issues unrelated to the HMRC notice, it was announced that Dr Xia would take over the day-to-day running, but SSN understands he remains in Beijing and the meeting will be chaired by his assistant Rongtian Ho - known at Villa Park as 'Mr.Ho'.
Before Villa's tax problems became apparent, it was clear the club would have to undergo a cull of their highest earners to fulfil their Financial Fair Play (FFP) obligations. That would likely start with the sale of key assets, such as England Under-21 midfielder Jack Grealish.
In the last three years, the club have spent relatively large sums on the likes of Ross McCormack (£11.9m), Jonathan Kodjia, (£11 m) and Scott Hogan (£9m).
To date, more than 17,000 Villa supporters have renewed their season tickets for the 2018-19 Championship campaign. The club's biggest fear is that they could start next season in administration - and a 12-point deduction.
Following the play-off final defeat to Fulham, Dr Xia told fans the club faced significant pressure to comply with FFP regulations and would "need to change a lot of things".
He said: "I am an Aston Villa fan. But I am also a businessman. Under the current circumstances, I think the club needs to rethink not only the past two years but also the past 10 years. Villa needs to be a sustainable football club.
"We have been heavily investing for the past two seasons. However, the loss on Saturday means that we need to change a lot of things."