Back to News

Orc no.3: Christian Purslow, CEO, Aston Villa

What did Christian say?

“Everything good in football sits in the Premier League”

We could almost stop there, couldn’t we, and just dwell on those nine crass, self-entitled words. But Christian didn’t stop there. Nobody had heard of him until that week so he was determined to enjoy his day in the limelight, touring all the big media studios, pumping his fists as he spoke to emphasise that here was a Very Important Alpha Male speaking. In the same interview he said we don’t need a regulator because “we’ve got the FA, we’ve got Rick Parry at the EFL, we’ve got Richard Masters…these are highly experienced people, they can probably figure it out“

Fed a line at Sky, he was happy to agree that appointing a regulator risked “killing the golden goose if we over-regulate a highly successful financial and commercial operation.“

Well, with that last comment he may at least have made a good point. Assuming, that is, that he and the rest of us are thinking of the same thing when he talks about the “golden goose“. As we’ll explain below, this may turn out to be a heroic assumption

Why is Christian wrong?

Well, “if everything good in football sits in the Premier League“, we can all just forget about our clubs in the pyramid. We can forget about the third tier of English football, which this season has seen crowds in excess of 30,000 regularly at Sunderland, nearly that at Ipswich last week, 26,000 at Charlton and 20,000 plus at Portsmouth. Can you name us another third tier that attracts these crowds, Christian, anywhere in the world? Can you recall Villa in the third tier, Christian? Some of us can. And the fans of the four clubs mentioned above can certainly remember victories over Villa in the Premier League!

What you surely really mean, Christian, is that nearly all the TV money is retained by the Premier League as if it is some closed franchise which disburses alms to the pauper clubs in a different franchise, and makes sure that it hoovers up all the talent these clubs produce, due to the way the EPPP system has been rigged up. And when it comes to those alms, Christian, you forgot to mention that half of the money you bragged about giving to the paupers actually goes in parachute payments to three clubs per season, thus creating worse financial imbalances every season. For years politicians who also happen to be genuine football fans have watched in mounting exasperation as your “highly experienced people“ completely failed to remedy these imbalances, and they have now quite simply lost patience.

But finally and most tellingly, this excoriating Twitter thread shows that no one associated with Aston Villa football club is in any position whatsoever to lecture anyone about financial success or even financial probity…

Christian‘s career profile

Christian’s low profile before he came out all guns blazing to defend his golden goose has seen our headhunter colleague using his experience to pore over the sketchy public details of Christian’s CV. His LinkedIN page is moribund, so we have to rely on his Wikipedia page. There we learn that he is a Harvard MBA, which is certainly worthy of respect; our headhunter was, though, a little concerned that the two citations supposed to back up this statement do not actually refer to Christian’s MBA at all. This might have been discreetly probed in any interview.

In 2009 he left his job as MD of private equity company Mid-Ocean Partners to become MD of Liverpool, where he was apparently already a season-ticket holder. (There is no evidence though, that Christian has any affinity to the city. He went to school in Aylesbury). His Wikipedia presents his short stay there as being related to specific finance deals which he completed, however our headhunter found intriguing details in the citations which suggest over-reach and confrontation with colleagues which are so often the mark of the modern football CEO. On his appointment, this optimistic article in the Telegraph spoke of his good relationship with Kenny Dalgleish, and the fluency in Spanish which was helping him build a relationship with Rafael Benitez. Just a year later, he was stepping down, accompanied by something less than a glowing reference from Benitez :

“After 86 points and a second place (in 2009) in the Premier League, many things changed,” said Benitez, now in charge of Inter Milan. “Within Liverpool they decided to take a new managing director (Purslow) who in turn changed many things within the club. “He changed the lawyer, the head of press, the manager, nine players, even the fitness coach and the medical sector. He was the one responsible for the decisions. All these decisions changed many things within the club.”

Oh dear..still, Christian was now on the EPL gravy train, and in 2014 joined Chelsea as Head of Global Commercial Activities . However that leaves three years after leaving Liverpool unaccounted for, and career gaps like that always bother headhunters. Indeed he starts to look like a bit of a job -hopper, as he left Chelsea less than three years later.

At least this time another employer quickly came along to help him pay his bills, even if in normal business terms Aston Villa might look like a step down from Liverpool or Chelsea. Christian won’t worry about that because Aston Villa clearly appreciate his many talents and achievements. The latest Villa accounts indicate his remuneration to season end May 2020 to have been £1,536,255…. and that, friends, is the real Golden Goose that Christian and his fellow Orcs are desperate to protect; their right to command million pound p.a salaries that we doubt they could possibly earn outside football, without anyone questioning whether it’s right that they earn more than the entire squad of many fourth tier clubs.