The consequences for Aston Villa of failing to win promotion to the Premier League could be quite severe and a period of stagnation is a very real prospect.
Any team relegated from the Premier League receives balloon payments which gives them a significant advantage over their Championship rivals. However, with every passing season, those balloon payments are reduced.
Since being relegated in the 2015/2016 season, Aston Villa have received £41m (for the 2016/2017 season) and £33m this season. That sum will fall to £15m next season.
What that means is that Villa will have just £15m in additional income in 2018/2019 and much of that, and more, will be swallowed by legacy wages for players on Premier League-weighted contracts.
Former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan, speaking on TalkSport radio this morning, estimated that the club needs to plug a shortfall of around £40m. With HMRC breathing down their necks, and the very real prospect of administration staring them in the face, Villa will have to modify their expectations and submit to some unpleasant restructuring.
Besides renegotiating player contracts, Villa’s most realistic option is to sell their best players. The sale of Jack Grealish, Jordan believes, will raise between £20m-£30m, while Ivory Coast international Jonathan Kodjia, bought from Bristol City in 2016, should fetch around £11m, approximately what he cost to buy. Offloading both players would balance Villa’s books at a stroke.
The combination of having to sell their best players, exist on a lower income and pay average salaries means that the former European Champions will find themselves on a far more level playing field next season and are unlikely to rank amongst the favourites for promotion.
Villa have missed their opportunity. The advantages they once enjoyed have now evaporated and the Championship will be a far tougher prospect next season than it was the last.