Aston Villa may have a new manager in Martin O'Neill but their financial performance last season should set alarm bells ringing, as John Revill reports
It was not a season to be proud of on or off the pitch.
Finishing 16th was not what Villa fans expected. Plunging attendances and minus signs on the balance sheets was not what directors expected.
According to Ian Gould, a partner at the Birmingham office of accountancy firm PKF, Villa are paying the penalty for gambling on the prospect of a successful season.
Not only did they lose that particular bet but the losses are unsustainable in the medium to long term and a major cause for concern if the trend isn't reversed.
"Playing performance can affect the financial performance. The bottom line of the club is directly related to how the team performs; Villa are a perfect example of this," said Mr Gould.
"The wage figure is also a major cause for concern. It is certainly a very high figure for any sort of business.
"But perhaps more worrying is the reduction in attendance. The largest amount of money coming into clubs still comes from their gate receipts."
Falling attendances could also have damaging effects on non-gate receipts such as sponsorship deals. "The downturn would not be sustainable if it continued for two to three more years.
"I wouldn't say that Villa are badly run, although they have acquired a massive debt, and losses like that are not sustainable by any kind of business.
"Football is like a gamble these days; they gambled last season on players and lost.
"Now they must either gamble again and invest in more players to get out of it, chase their losses as it were, or scale back and not gamble at all.
"You cannot stand still. A performance like this is not sustainable in the longer or medium term unless you have someone like Roman Abramovich around."
Jonathan Fear, chairman of Aston Villa Shareholders' Association, said the figures were no great surprise and rejected claims that it was a blip mirroring the team's lacklustre form in the Premiership.
"Quite often Mr Ellis would say we've not got a penny of debt, at least we are not Leeds, but the accounts show the real story," he said.
"He has been chairman for long enough to sort it out and Villa should be growing now instead of facing these problems.
"How many years and how many 'blips' are we going to have?"
Mr Fear said the mismanagement extended beyond the managerial appointment, but also the structure of the squad and marketing.
"The club needs new ideas and new marketing to bring fans back into the fold. They are the lifeblood.
"Martin O'Neill is the first part of the jigsaw, but he cannot do it on his own."
He added: "The whole thing is very hard to fathom, but there is no leadership and the club has lurched from one mistake to the next.
"I am extremely worried about the future. We have got one of the smallest squads in the Premiership, but the wage bill has increased and the team is not performing.
"The only hope we have is if one of the bidders comes in with a good offer and Ellis sells.
"We are in such a financial mess. In the past we used to be compared to Arsenal, but now we are not even in the same league as them, and have let Bolton and Charlton catch up with us and in some ways overtake us.
"The current board is not capable of sorting out the problems, and Ellis should have stood aside a fair while ago. We pray the takeover comes true and a new and dynamic board can manage the club."
Steve Kind, a non-executive director at Villa, was more positive.
"The club is not badly run," he said, "this was just a blip. The response to our new manager has been very positive and the air of apathy has lifted from the club. I expect him to turn it around."