The Venky's Reign of Error: Introduction
The dismantling of a legacy
There have been unacceptable levels of abuse aimed at Blackburn Rovers supporters from the national media, footballers, football managers and football fans throughout the country since the protest's against Steve Kean, The Venky's and Jerome Anderson began.
I hope that the information on this page will go some way towards redressing that.
- I am totally biased.
- There is nothing impartial in anything I write about Blackburn Rovers, the Protest Movement or Steve Kean, Jerome Anderson and The Venky's.
- I support the actions of the various protest groups 100%.
- I support the actions of any spontanious organic protests as and when they arise 100%.
- I support Blackburn Rovers Football Club 100%.
- 0% Steve Kean.
- 0% Jerome Anderson.
- 0% Venky's.
There has been too much disrespect shown, particularly in the corporate media towards the protestors, their aims and their objectives. Therefore, it is left to alternative media sources such as this to provide some perspective.
However, in some cases I have relied upon corporate media sources for some information as there have been honourable individual exceptions - but that does not alter the fact that the corporate media as an institution has in most cases treated the protesters with disdain.
It is an obvious though seldom acknowledged reality that Steve Kean had nine months as manager of Blackburn Rovers before a single protest began.
So, why did the protest movement begin?
This is an important question, to understand the protest movement we must first understand the context within which it arose.
Blackburn Rovers were once regarded as one of the most efficiently and well administered football clubs in English football. A model football club, a model to emulate and imitate - and many did try to "do a Blackburn" - but failed.
Above all, Blackburn Rovers represented something of an anomaly, regarded as a huge football club - in a small town; perhaps the only football club in world football to be thought of as such - a beacon of hope to 'under dogs' everywhere, yet resented at the same time: A well respected club within the game but despised by neutral fans jealous of the clubs stature and historical significance and disliked in the corporate media based largely in London, resentful of a small northern town football club's plucky resilience.
This is to be expected. England resents success. BRFC and its supporters have long been despised for winning The Premier League in 1995.
Four months before he died in 2001, Jack Walker gave an interview to reassure Blackburn Rovers supporters that he had made provision for the club. "A number of years ago I put in place a family trust structure to own my various business interests, including Blackburn Rovers," he explained. "This structure ensures continuity of management and provides the necessary financial support for all my businesses for the foreseeable future. I have made known my wishes to my colleagues, whom I am confident will carry forward the policies necessary to promote and enlarge all my business interests."
The trust, which was registered in Jersey, was run by a board of trustees. They rarely spoke publicly, but when Jack Walker died the trust chairman, the Jersey solicitor Paul Egerton-Vernon, did make a statement: "The club is provided for the foreseeable future."
The terms of the instructions Jack Walker left the trustees were never disclosed, but Egerton-Vernon explained that Rovers would be subsidised by other assets in the Walker portfolio, which included property and the Jersey-based airline, Flybe. "There seems to be a misunderstanding that there is an ever-shrinking pot of money available," he said. "That is not the case. There are other businesses apart from the club which generate profits which are available."
From 2002 the Walker Family Trust donated £3million a year to the club, helping to give it a competitive edge over similar sized clubs.
In 2005, with the £3m that was loaned interest-free to the club, the Walker investment in Blackburn Rovers had reached £97million.
Then, finally, the trustees decided they had spent enough.
Jack Walker had charged them with growing his businesses financially and, although they did not explain their decision, it is assumed they viewed the club as a drain. The family, although the beneficiaries of their father's estate, were not understood to have had any formal involvement in its administration.
And so in the summer of 2005 the trustees of the Jack Walker Settlement decided to sell the club, and appointed the bank Rothschild, which previously handled the disastrous sale of Liverpool to Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to find the right buyer for Rovers. Chris Ronnie, the chief executive of retailer JJB Sports, had publicly declared his interest and was said by informed sources to be ahead of any other parties that were looking at the club.
In 2006, Blackburn Rovers announced that Walker's trustees had converted £14m of loans into shares, then in January 2007 they converted a further £80m into shares.
In 2007 the Walker Family Trust stop funding the club.
It was a little-noticed paragraph in the club's accounts, published in January 2008, which announced that the trustees had stopped funding the club back in 2007.
The news was phrased somewhat obliquely by John Williams, the chairman, generally admired as a shrewd guiding force. He insisted the decision was not irreversible. "Given the new TV deal, the trustees see no immediate requirement to invest further (having donated £3m a year since 2002)," he wrote. "In a climate of emerging markets overseas, buoyant domestic TV revenues and rarity value leading to capital growth, they are in no hurry to sell. Focus is on finding a suitable investor to take the club forward beyond the Jack Walker dynasty."
John Williams hoped the search for a new owner would bring in a football enthusiast, prepared to take a bet on a club with potential, rather than a merchant bringing debt or eyeing a quick profit.
Enter the Venky's, SEM, Kentaro, Jerome Anderson and Steve Kean.
When the Venky's bought Blackburn Rovers in 2011, it was not a football club in free-fall, it was not a football club that was in decline; it was a progressive and steady football club skillfully guided by John Williams and his team.
After the Venky's takeover:
- 2010-2011 Season: Sam Allardyce sacked 13 Dec 2010
- 2010-2011 Season: Steve Kean appointed manager till the end of the season 22 Dec 2010
- 2010-2011 Season: Letter written by senior figures at Blackburn Rovers to the club’s co-owner expressing concerns at the way the club was being run. 4 Jan 2011
- 2010-2011 Season: With poor results and the threat of relegation, Kean handed 3 year contract. 20 Jan 2011
- 2010-2011 Season: Chairman John Williams resigns from Blackburn Rovers after 14 years. Feb 2011
- 2010-2011 Season: Managing Director Tom Finn resigns from Blackburn Rovers after 15 years. May 2011
- 2010-2011 Season: Blackburn Survive in the Premier League on the final day of the season. 22 May 2011
- During pre season: Manchester United confirmed that they had reached an agreement to sign promising Rovers starlet Phil Jones on a five-year deal for an undisclosed transfer fee, which was believed to be at least £16.5m. This was a huge blow the team and the fans; Phil Jones was a local Lancashire lad, Rovers fan and an integral part of the team and a product of Jack Walkers legacy - The Blackburn Rovers Youth Academy. 13 Jun 2011
- During pre season: Myles Anderson the son of Jerome Anderson (SEM/Kentaro), signs for Blackburn Rovers, no appearance to date.
- 2011-2012 Season: Steve Kean banned for drink driving blaming Rovers fans for lacing his drink. 15 Aug 2011
- 2011-2012 Season: Blackburn Rovers suffered their worst start to a league campaign in 60 years after 1-0 loss to Everton; Kean reveals in interview with the Lancashire Telegraph that he is untroubled by Blackburn Rovers' start to the season. 27 Aug 2011
- 2011-2012 Season: Fans Stage first Protest. 17 Sep 2011
All this in the context of what had hitherto been a well run football club with excellent lines of open communication with its fans and which was a symbol of pride to the community it represented; something of an oddity in today’s multiplatinum sophisticated world of corporate finance and obscene footballers wages and agent fees.
Some Rovers fans felt that the Venky's clearly knew how to run a business, having built up their own poultry and pharmaceutical empire in India and having passed the Premier League's due diligence test; it was also felt that the Walkers Family Trust would have administered their own due diligence on the Venky's and would not have sold the club to quick profit merchants, risking Jack Walkers legacy.
Opinions of the departure of Phil Jones were mixed but the general consensus was that the promising young player could at least have given Rovers one more season but would eventually have left no matter who was in charge and had at least moved to the biggest football club in the world.
At the same time it was felt by many that Jones' departure was the true end of the Walker Era, it was the final poke in the eye to Jack Walkers legacy; the feeling
being that Rovers had now become nothing more than a finishing school for Manchester United. Meanwhile, the national media where completely ignorant of who Phil Jones actually was and what his
symbolic and footballing importance to the club and its fans represented.
By now it was becoming increasingly clear that the club was entering a new era - but at least Rovers were playing a better brand of football. The Venky's also kept season ticket prices down, renamed the famous Blackburn End in honour of a club legend - Ronnie Clayton - and had donated the historic and famous Rovers shirt to a worthy charity - The Princes Trust - when it would have been much easier to drop their own brand name on top of the famous Blue 'n' white halves.
And so some Rovers fans were still prepared to give the Venky's a chance to prove themselves, believing that if guilty of anything, they had perhaps been naive: linking the club with footballing superstars was only going to result in mockery - that was not their fault - but that is football snobbery and the culture of the English. The London media does not react so snootily when small mediocre southern clubs like Portsmouth and Fulham are linked with Maradonna but they do when Blackburn Rovers are, because to them, Blackburn is a dirty northern slum town; cloth caps, whippets and cobbled streets.
However naive the Venky's were, it was felt that they needed to improve their PR by attended home games and speaking to the fans on BBC Radio Lancashire or through the Lancashire Telegraph about their vision for the club; even an open fans forum at Ewood Park was mooted - but despite repeated pleas from the fans for communication - silence.
The Venky's completely shunned the Rovers faithful, displaying that peculiarly Indian form of arrogance, hubris - completely ignoring the fans - whom they are there to serve.
It was also becoming increasingly clear that the Venky's felt that they could run the football club from India; summoning Steve Kean, a first time manager with no experience in the role, let alone at one of the most historic clubs in the game, competing in what is considered by many to be the best football league in the world to monthly meetings on the sub continent. Steve Kean was summoned to Pune, India, once a month to discuss progress with the Venky's. This was the only guidance Kean had and many fans felt some sympathy.
Initially, however, the focus of unrest on the slopes of Ewood Park were directed mainly at Steve Kean. After all, he buys the players, sells players, picks the team, chooses the tactics and substitutions and is the main interface between the club, the media and the fans.
It is against this backdrop that the protest movement was born.
For the majority of the fans the protests have become the norm at Ewood Park, as supporters of Blackburn Rovers have voiced their concerns over the direction of the football club that they have supported unconditionally throughout their lives.
Throughout this time the club - now in new hands - have manipulated the media by strategically implementing a smear campaign against its own supporters by painting Steve Kean as the victim.
The protestors have also beendemonised by Jerome Anderson on SKY Sports, Steve Kean and a significant minority of fellow Rovers supporters opposed to the protests; for their efforts, the Protestors have been blamed for the teams poor performances and bad results and labeled "disgusting", a "mob", "the worst fans in the country", and as Kevin Gallacher the former Rovers favourite, to his eternal shame wrote in The Telegraph, "an embarrassment".
The protestors have not only had to endure much ongoing ridicule from their loyal opposites in the national media - but
damning criticisms from fans of other clubs around the country - writing and phoning national radio stations, quivering and palpitating with sanctimonious indignation, wagging their fingers,
cluck-cluck clucking and tut-tuting at the "horrendous" behaviour of the Blackburn Rovers fans.
There has also been no shortage of pundits, journalists, footballers, ex-footballers, football managers and ex-football mangers queing up to robustly defend Steve Kean and smear the Blackburn Rovers supporters.
One can to some extent understand some of the criticisms from football fans of other clubs, after all, they have been subject to intense media brainwashing as the corporate clique's and their cronies have banded together against the protesting Rovers fans.
And that is the point. These protesting fans represent the 'little man', working-class people desperately trying to cling onto and protect the heritage of a footballing institution that was born in their town during footballs formative years.
This is David and Goliath stuff, the mega money men of SEM, Kentaro, The Venky's, SKY SPORTS, mediocre multi millionaire footballers and parasitic pundits on triple figure salaries who do not pay to watch Premier League football; the most expensive football matches in Europe and footballers who can earn more in one week than many do in 15 years and more in one month than many do in a life time.
To blame the fans of Blackburn Rovers for the plight of the football club is despicable.
It is against this backdrop that the protests continue.
It is time to set the record straight.