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Aston Villa fans disappointed at controversial plans for 'best seats at Villa Park'
“They’re the best seats in the house,” claim the hundreds of supporters who sit just above the dugouts in the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park. However, Aston Villa’s grand plans to improve their 125-year-old stadium include losing two blocks in favour of a new, high-end hospitality area.
Earlier this month, Villa put forward designs to Birmingham City Council which will see an entirely new North Stand built, taking capacity at the ground from 42,657 to 50,065. The current North Stand holds 6,537 with the redeveloped version set to have a capacity of 13,074. That will be just 500 seats fewer than the Holte End.
As for the Trinity Road Stand, Villa CEO Christian Purslow pointed out that “significant upgrades” will be made to hospitality and corporate offerings. And according to the plans, blocks C4 and C5 will make way for a new, pitchside “General Admission Plus” hospitality area. These blocks currently accommodate 440 supporters, with some seats used as overspill for opposition squads, match officials and medical staff.
Sarah Blister, from south Derbyshire, has been a season-ticket holder in C4 alongside her disabled brother, Nicholas, for the past 22 years, ever since the Trinity Road Stand was last redeveloped in 2000. The 57-year-old has spoken of her shock at Villa’s proposed plans to lose C4 in favour of hospitality seats, while a Twitter page has also been setup to alert other supporters to what is happening.
“For that to be buried in the plans without any consultation whatsoever is a bit of a disgrace,” said Sarah, who paid £677 for her season-ticket for the current campaign.
“I’ve been in my exact seat ever since the Trinity Road Stand was last redeveloped. They’re the best seats in the house. OK, the atmosphere isn’t as good as in the Holte but you’re bang on the halfway line, just above the pitch and right behind the managers and dugouts, and you can see everything. They’re amazing seats and the thought of being moved elsewhere without any consultation is wrong.
“My brother pays £531 as he’s disabled and has cerebral palsy. He’s been going down since 1975 and, if our seats are taken away from us, he said he won’t renew elsewhere. The seats around us rarely change hands and we’ve built friendships there for the past, what, 15 to 20 years. I get that things and times change, but it’s the fact Villa haven’t been in touch to warn us. We’ve been loyal fans going week in, week out for the past 20 years and stayed throughout the dark times.
“We probably mean zip to Villa. It’s all about hospitality now. I think they’re taking hospitality to something like 4,700 seats. I’m not sure what it is now.”
The proposed Trinity Road Stand hospitality upgrades form one of three parts of Villa Park’s part-redevelopment alongside a new North Stand and Villa Live, the latter a multi-purpose building, club shop and fan park.
Aldridge Villan Luke Hughes, who sits in the same block as Sarah, said: “The plans have left a section of supporters feeling very disassociated from the club. We believe those seats are the best seats in the house.
“Me and my old man moved here the season we got relegated. We’re fully settled in these blocks with a great group around us, many of whom have held these seats for 20-plus years with three generations going down together. It is really disappointing to see they’re just going to get rid of us to extend hospitality seats.”
Luke added: “Surely it isn’t a money thing because, in the grand scheme of things, our seats are pretty expensive anyway so for 200 seats to become hospitality isn’t going to make a massive difference revenue-wise. Also, we create a great atmosphere and are loyal supporters who are just getting tossed out for the prawn sandwich brigade who often have the tickets and don’t turn up, or aren’t even Villa fans! It’s a shame. I know it only effects 200 seats and the other 40,000 fans in the ground won’t care, but it is really disappointing and, if anything, is undoing the hard work the owners have done to connect the fans and the club.”
With regards to the Trinity Road Stand changes, Villa said in their planning proposal: “The upgrade will enable the club to provide an enhanced fan experience and hospitality offer.”
The Trinity Road Stand upgrades are intended to improve and increase the hospitality offerings at Villa Park; provide updated and more efficient catering facilities, while introducing a deluxe pitch terrace and to relocate the player tunnel towards the corner near the North Stand.
The new pitch terrace will see a redevelopment of the current directors’ box and corporate seats, while new ‘sky boxes’ will be introduced as part of upgrades to the current box offerings in the Trinity Road Stand.
High revenue-driving hospitality packages are becoming increasingly important to Premier League clubs with Villa perhaps looking to follow examples set by Manchetser City and Tottenham Hotspur. Both City and Spurs – said to be the best in the Premier League when it comes to hospitality – offer special ‘Tunnel Club’ experiences amongst others, which can cost match-goers £400 per game plus a £30,000 joining fee.
BirminghamLive approached Aston Villa for a comment on their plans to replace blocks C4 and C5 in favour of the new hospitality area. To view the Villa Park redevelopment plans in more detail, search for 2022/06776/PA on the Birmingham City Council planning portal page.