Aston Villa will play in the English Premier League next season, after defeating Derby County 2-1 in the Championship playoff at Wembley Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Prince William, a devoted Villa fan, looked on from a private box in the stadium and joyously celebrated after the final whistle as his team won what is billed as the world’s most lucrative match.
Dutch international Anwar El Ghazi scored for the Birmingham club just before halftime, while Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos bungled a save in the 59th minute that allowed John McGinn to head the ball out of his hands for the second goal.
A late goal by Martyn Waghorn gave Derby some life in the 81st minute, but it was too little too late.
“The fans are amazing,” El Ghazi said on Sky Sports about the Wembley crowd shortly after the final whistle. “If you can score there it’s unbelievable, it’s a dream that comes true for me. It’s not me that scored, the whole team scored, the fans scored, Aston Villa scored, we did it all together throughout the whole season.”
“We knew we had a great side, we just had to believe in each other and push each other,” added teammate Tammy Abraham, a striker on loan from Chelsea who scored 25 goals for Villa this season.
Villa is set to reap $215 million as a result of broadcasting and commercial revenue associated with entry into football’s richest league, according to Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
Since 1990, the third to sixth-placed teams in England’s second-tier have battled in a three-match playoff to determine promotion into the top flight.
Villa, which finished fifth in the Championship, defeated West Bromwich Albion on penalties to earn its spot in the playoff final in front of a capacity crowd in north London.
The win marks a return to the EPL for Villa after it was relegated in 2016. It also helps ease the heartache suffered last year after the team lost the 2018 Championship playoff final to Fulham.
Villa enjoyed nearly 30 years in England’s top division and in 1982 won the European Cup, but it will have its work cut out next season, given that four of the last five playoff champions have been relegated from the Premier League after just one year.
Last year’s winner Fulham finished 19th in the top flight this season – scoring less than one goal per match – and will return to Championship play.
Should it manage finish in the top 17 in the EPL, Villa will reap an additional $166 in revenue according to Deloitte.
“Promotion to the Premier League provides clubs with the financial resources to make strategic investments both on and off the pitch,” said Sam Boor, senior manager at Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
“And given the relatively equal distribution of revenue amongst Premier League clubs, it provides promoted clubs with a chance to avoid relegation when they get there.”
Even if the club is relegated after one season in the EPL, it will still receive parachute payments worth $95 million over the following two years, according to Deloitte.
Aston Villa is partly owned by American investor Wes Edens, who was redeemed after his other big sporting investment, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, were denied their first trip to the NBA finals in over four decades by the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
Edens – who spoke of meeting Prince William before the season – and co-owner Nassef Sawiris were on hand to celebrate their club’s promotion. Last July the pair took over from Chinese businessman Tony Xia, who in turn bought out American Randy Lerner in 2016.
“It just feels great to be able to do something for all these great fans behind us, the sky is the limit,” Sawiris said. “Our vision is not just to get promoted, but to do well in the Premier League.”
The match contained a bevy of subplots, with first-year Derby manager Frank Lampard facing former teammate and fellow Chelsea great John Terry, a Villa assistant.
The two former England internationals were fundamental in the meteoric rise of Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich era, winning three EPL titles together as well as a historic Champions League trophy in 2012.
Another former Chelsea teammate, Ashley Cole, featured in the match for Derby, though the 38-year-old left back did not have much of an impact.