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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Villa blasts City over share plunge
Steve Staunton (foreground)
Steve Staunton: Irish international among Aston Villa assets
Aston Villa is reviewing its relationship with the City over the club's share price, which has plunged by almost 90% since its debut.

Doug Ellis, chairman of the Premiership club, said he was "extremely disappointed" at the decline in Aston Villa shares to 102.5p on Monday, from more than 900p after their first day of trading in August 1997.

Doug Ellis, chairman, Aston Villa
Doug Ellis: English football has "pulling power"
"It is inconceivable that our market capitalisation is so low when compared to our net asset value," Mr Ellis said.

Besides a squad including England international Darius Vassell and Irish star Steve Staunton, Aston Villa boasts a property portfolio with potential for "substantial uplift" in value.

Mr Ellis pledged to "fully explore" with advisers how the share price decline could be "best rectified".

'Pulling power'

The statement followed reports that listed clubs including Newcastle United may be being prepared for a return to private company status.

Clubs which listed in the late 1990s when football was seen as a growing business opportunity have found their share price has suffered as bills for player wages have grown faster than income.

But Mr Ellis slammed doom mongers who have warned that clubs faced financial crisis as TV firms, concerned over the future popularity of football programmes, cut broadcasting cash.

"I was at the World Cup in Korea and Japan and witnessed at first hand the worldwide appeal of English football," Mr Ellis said.

"Those cynics who forecast reduced commercial and TV contracts... must surely go back to their calculators and factor in the pulling power of our game at home and increasingly abroad."

Kit sales fall

The comments came as Aston Villa reported a pre-tax loss of 350,000 for the year to the end of May, compared with a 138,000 profit a year before.

The club saw gate receipts rise by 11% to 10.2m, as price cuts helped the average crowd figure surge from 31,600 to 35,000.

But sales of Aston Villa merchandise fell despite efforts to broaden the range of products and embrace internet sales.

And an increase of 3m in charges swallowed in accounting for player transfer costs was blamed primarily for dragging the club into the red.

Youth stress

Despite expressing "disappointment" at Aston Villa's finishing position of eighth in the Premiership last season, Mr Ellis said he was "excited" about the prospects for the club, which has been fielding an increasingly youthful teams.

"I was delighted to see that... the team that beat Chelsea in the last game of last season included seven players [aged] under 25," he said.

Deputy chief executive Mark Ansell also expressed hopes of a slowdown in the growth in players' salaries, which has been seen as a major drain on the sport.

"There are signs that the industry is finally heeding the warning noises about the continuing rises in players costs," Mr Ansell said.

In the City, Aston Villa shares stood 2p higher at 104.5p in afternoon trade on Tuesday.

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