A Case Study of Aston Villa Football Club

Danielle Sarver Coombs, Anne Osborne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


With his purchase of Aston Villa Football Club (AVFC) in 2006, Randy Lerner joined the growing ranks of foreign-and specifically American-owners in Barclays Premier League. During a year-long investigation spanning the 2008-2009 season, we conducted extensive participant observation among fans, interviews with a variety of sources (including club officials, journalists, and fans), and fan Web-site monitoring to understand the broader implications of Lerner's takeover. A consistently recurring theme during initial data analysis was the role of public relations in creating positive perceptions of Lerner as an owner. This ran contrary to the experiences of his American counterparts at other clubs. The British press, as well as academic researchers of sport globalization, has warned against the loss of localized rituals and institutions in the wake of the "foreign invasion" (Osborne & Coombs, 2009). Critics fear that foreign ownership of culturally rooted institutions such as English football clubs will create schisms between supporters' fan identities and their national or local identities. This article uses AVFC to examine the real-world context for two public relations theories-relationship management and excellence theory-to demonstrate that well-managed public relations may allow fans to maintain their commitment to their club while embracing globalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-221
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Public Relations Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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