Aston Villa warn of future player clearout as losses soar

LONDON: Aston Villa manager David O'Leary could lose up to nine members of his first-team squad at the end of next season as part of a cost-cutting drive by the English Premier League club. 

Villa revealed full-year pre-tax losses of £11.6mil (US$18.60mil) on Friday, up from £400,000 the previous year, and finance director Mark Ansell said that nine players whose contracts expire in June 2004 would either not be replaced or replaced cheaply. 

“Aston Villa can no longer rely on profits on player sales to absorb excess player costs and has embarked on a strategy of reducing salary and amortisation (transfer payment) costs,” Ansell said in a plc statement. 

“However we still have to deal with players under continuing contracts. Nine players in the first-team squad come out of contract in July 2004, some of whom will not be replaced and some will be replaced with reduced amortisation and salary costs,” he said. 

“Recent and future purchases will be made with a strategy of reducing total player costs as soon as it is commercially practicable,” he added. 

The club did not name the players whose contracts end next season. 

The losses at Villa, who finished fifth from bottom of the Premier League last season, were due to a combination of poor performances on the pitch, which reduced television income, and the declining value of players in a tough transfer market. 

Wages and salaries also rose. 

Villa chairman Doug Ellis said first-team performances had been “extremely disappointing” last season. 

“It was unacceptable to directors and supporters alike that, given the investment in the squad in recent years, not only was the team not in the top half of the table alongside clubs of similar investment, but it was only in the final weeks of the season that we secured our place in the premiership for the 2003/04 season,” he said. 

The poor results on the pitch led manager Graham Taylor to resign. He was replaced by former Leeds United manager O'Leary on May 20. 

Ellis said at a time when a few clubs had been able to afford 'mega transfers', the challenge for a club such as Villa to compete for honours while operating within its resources was extremely difficult. – Reuters 

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