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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 23, 2007

Villa chief outlines five-year plan of action

New chief executive Richard FitzGerald has set his sights on Aston Villa competing in the Champions League in five years time.

And FitzGerald, who took up his post on January 1, believes Villa can look to exploit the fast-growing soccer market in the United States.

FitzGerald, 44, brings a wealth of experience to the role and was formerly senior vice-president at leading sports marketing and media agency IMG.

He faces a daunting task to help Villa re-establish themselves as a leading Premiership club 11 years after their last trophy success - the League Cup in 1996 - but he is not lacking in ambition.

FitzGerald said: 'Actions speak louder than words but the board is committed to developing the club and providing the platform for Aston Villa to compete at the highest level of the Premier League and in Europe.

'In a year's time, we would like to see an infrastructure being built to support a club competing for top honours, competing in the top half of the Premier League and for a European place.

'In five years time, we aim to compete in the Champions League.

'My brief from the board is clear - to fill the stadium week in and week out, create an infrastructure to support a top club.'

FitzGerald aims for Villa to spread their commercial net far and wide once they have established strong links on a local basis.

He said: 'We are very aware the local population of 5.3million is a vast potential supporter base and we will focus the core of our commercial ambitions here.

'And, although the global growth of our fan base is not presently the club's most urgent priority, it is nevertheless of strategic importance to the long term.

'We will potentially look to the United States as we deem it a fast growing soccer market. Our US connections make it more achievable.

'There are also a lot of opportunities around Asia, particularly for the bigger clubs. The Premier League is incredibly popular.

'But international expansion at this moment will require strong partners that we do not currently have for it to work effectively - and a winning team.'

FitzGerald added: 'There is much to learn from other clubs. The English clubs are at the forefront of developments so, initially, we need to make sure we look and learn from clubs in the Premier League.

'But my key focus will be to bring a fresh commercial approach to the club and, in particular, reconnecting to the Birmingham business community.

'I also want to cultivate a `can do' culture and attract world-class partners to work with.'