Interference cited as two top Villa directors quit

LONDON • Aston Villa's season of crisis plunged to new depths on Monday when two senior directors resigned and accused Randy Lerner, the owner, of interfering in their work, including the hunt for a new manager.

David Bernstein and Mervyn King were recent high-profile appointments picked to help lead a transformation of the relegated club. But both stood down with immediate effect with complaints that their roles had been made untenable. Their departures left Villa in renewed chaos only two days after their drop into the Championship was confirmed.

Bernstein and King were brought in to sit on a new football board whose duties were said to include finding a successor to Remi Garde. But Bernstein claims that the new structure had become unworkable.

The former FA chairman wrote: "For this new structure to work it required all at the club to accept new disciplines, clear reporting lines and adhere to the authority delegated to the new football board.

"Unfortunately it has proved impossible to implement the agreed structure and my position has quickly become untenable."

Problems over control and Lerner's involvement were confirmed in King's resignation letter to Steve Hollis, the chairman.

"You will be aware of recent communications between the owner of Aston Villa and members of the football board," he wrote. "Following these, I am sure you will understand that it is with real sorrow that I am writing to tender my resignation as a director with immediate effect."

King added that a change of owner was essential for Villa to move forward. "It is clear that a sale of the club to a new owner must be brought about as soon as possible," he wrote.

Lerner, an American billionaire, has been trying to sell Villa for more than two years.

King, the former Bank of England governor and a lifelong fan, joined the board in February. Bernstein, a former Manchester City director, was appointed to the board little more than a month ago.

The club are also without a manager, having parted company with Garde last month.

A statement from Villa read: "A search to appoint a new manager remains a priority. The chairman, Steve Hollis, is currently engaged in extensive negotiations in relation to the sale of the club."

Yesterday, the club suspended striker Gabby Agbonlahor pending an investigation following a report by the Sun that he "went on a laughing gas and booze binge on the day his club were relegated from the Premier League".

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Interference cited as two top Villa directors quit'. Print Edition | Subscribe