Supporters don’t expect to see a revival in League One while the current board remain
9 May ~ With the trust set up by Jack Walker unable to maintain Premier League-level funding and his family intent on pulling out, the 2010 purchase of Blackburn Rovers by the Indian conglomerate Venky’s offered hope of financial investment and long-term stability. However, within days of the takeover ridiculous statements appeared about the new owners’ ambitions and manager Sam Allardyce was sacked without reference to the board.
This in turn prompted the capable chairman John Williams and managing director Tom Finn to depart. Although a warning of the serious trouble ahead, it was just the beginning of a transformation which has taken a well-run mid-table Premier League side to League One via nine managers, numerous directors, several court cases and the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds in just six and a half years.
The anonymously compiled 100,000,000 Holes alleges, in well-sourced detail, how the involvement of agent Jerome Anderson and his Sports Entertainment and Media group as club advisors led to numerous questionable player purchases and the hiring of managers with links to SEM and the Kentaro sports rights agency. The Indian owners resorted to ever more bizarre ways of running Rovers, including the employment of Malaysian TV pundit Shebby Singh as "Global Advisor"’ and the head of their Brazilian chicken outlet negotiating the purchase of Portuguese players.
Since then Venky’s have essentially withdrawn financial backing by reducing the team to loan signings while pocketing transfer income and parachute payments approaching £100 million. The BRFC Action Group presented a 400-page dossier asserting mismanagement to the FA, Premier League, EFL and to the sports minister but, with no action taken against Venky’s, supporters leaked documents appearing to show the activities of SEM/Kentaro within the club and thus breaching conflict of interest rules.
The day after the side’s Championship relegation, director of football Paul Senior resigned while Venky’s issued a statement thanking manager Tony Mowbray and the team, sympathising with supporters but pointedly promising no cash towards a promotion push next season. This is important because it serve as a warning that it could happen to any club, illustrating both that the "fit and proper ownership" regulations are meaningless and that neither the governing bodies nor the authorities are prepared to act even when seemingly presented with evidence of misdeeds.
The situation at Blackburn Rovers also shows how fan protests can now largely be ignored by foreign owners based thousands of miles away, leaving supporters with few outlets to express their concerns when things go wrong. The only positive might be that the drop unites previously divided fans towards support both for the team and the Venky’s Out campaign; most are now prepared to take the risk of future financial implosion if it means getting rid of the current regime. Bruce Wilkinson
Photo by Colin McPherson / WSC Photos: Venky's salute the crowd at their first game in charge of the club, a 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa