Pop the Christmas jingle tune as our man discovers his unique role in saving the world
These days, Tom Barnes’s job title at Aston Villa is deputy CEO of football. But when he was handed the job on 9 July, 2016, he held a unique role. As an Aston Villa season ticket holder, he became vice-chairman of all aspects of the club, including the pitchside executive box, where he serves as vice-chairman.
That might not sound like much. However, it has received a warm welcome from the Premier League and Fifa, the world’s biggest and richest leagues.
Barnes, who turns 31 on Friday, has been putting his football experience into serious use. Four days after his appointment, he climbed to the top of the same second tier he grew up in to knock in a shot in Villa’s 1-0 win against Southampton.
His remote link-up was hailed by Villa’s boss, Steve Bruce, as a “seminal moment”. It has now been put to further use by his employers, who have put Barnes’s face in front of millions via the club’s matchday broadcasts on Sky and Vantage.
This means Barnes is in charge of the protection of the pitch for both Villa and Villa Villa and Villa and Sunderland, making sure the spaces under the stands and around the grass on the touchline are well protected to avoid damage from the mud and debris that flies through the air during games.
“From the day I was appointed, I made it clear that I will do whatever it takes to preserve our beautiful pitch,” Barnes says. “I will be a fierce advocate for taking the right decisions.”
Such protection is also vital to prevent Villa becoming the first big-name team to fall foul of the Premier League’s banner-at-stadium ban, which will come into force this season.
It means opposing teams will need a point to gain exemption. Barns is happy about that, saying he hopes the appeal can be heard within a year, and he is confident all hands will be on deck.
“It [ban] is important to us – not just on the pitch but also for the integrity of the competition,” he says. “It will protect the clubs from embarrassment and on-field problems when we’ve actually lost a game because a supporter can’t see the ball.
“This will all be designed to help preserve Villa’s iconic status and help us fulfil our role as a Premier League club. We will always defend our traditions with all the passion we have.”