BLACKBURN Rovers fans groups have called for an end to the Ewood Park ‘decline’ after relegation to the third tier for the first time in almost 40 years.
Rovers suffered their second relegation in five years under the ownership of the Rao family who purchased the club in November 2010.
Since then Rovers have dropped out of the Premier League and gradually slipped down the Championship table, culminating in relegation last weekend.
The last set of club accounts revealed that loans from the Rao family now total £110million, a figure that will only continue to rise as the club face up to the prospect of a huge drop in annual turnover which stood at £22million.
The Blackburn Rovers Action Group (BRAG) have been campaigning against the club’s owners since 2012 and they have again called on the Rao family to sell up.
A statement released in the wake of relegation from the Championship read: “Supporters and community groups have called for the club’s owners to communicate and begin to support their ‘baby’ and these calls have remained unheeded.
“Since that ill-fated day in November 2010 when Venkateshwara Hatcheries purchased Blackburn Rovers, this famous football club has been in a decline which the owners seem both unable and uninterested in halting.
“The statement released by the owners on Monday was an insult to the supporters of Blackburn Rovers, who are in agreement by a vast majority that these people are not fit and proper to run their football club.
“The supporters of Blackburn Rovers are issuing a vote of no confidence in the board of directors and the owners of their club and the only acceptable outcome for the supporters is for Venkateshwara Hatcheries to sell the club with immediate effect.”
Rovers finance director Mike Cheston admitted earlier this year that the club were reliant on funding from the Indian owners, and Rovers Trust chairman John Murray anticipates it will take even more capital in the 2017-18 season to keep the club on an even keel.
He said: “It’s been a decade of decline and destruction. We need a cash injection.
“It (the club’s financial position) is so stark that it almost needs the exhibition of the fierce loyalty of the Rovers supporters and the natural resilience of Lancashire people.
“The club is not just about the management or the team, it’s about the legacy, the history and the community.
“The team is going to need virtually dismantling and trying, as Owen Coyle did, to put a team together is going to be really difficult.
“Our club is poorly run, leading to dangerous decision-making. The owners of our club have no feel for the football business, and at best have been badly advised.
“No-one in the hierarchy at our club has a full appreciation of its heritage, and the fierce loyalty we have as fans.
“Rovers supporters are the only ones who will stand up to protect our legacy and future.”
It promises to be a summer of uncertainty at Ewood and the club’s director of football operations Paul Senior resigned from his role within 24 hours of relegation.
The Action Group believe that Cheston, who has been in his role since January 2014, should also stand down.
They said: “Within 24 hours of relegation we saw the departure of Paul Senior, director of football operations and yet another unnamed generic message from the owners.
“Employees are uncertain of their futures, local businesses are suffering and Ewood Park once again has an operating boardroom that consists of just Mike Cheston.
“We once again call for Mike Cheston to do the right thing and walk away from his position at the club.”
Trust chairman Murray was interviewed by BBC football programme Football Focus in the lead-up to the Brentford game which, despite a 3-1 victory, was where Rovers’ Championship fate was sealed.
But it was during that interview he said he truly appreciated the infrastructure that Jack Walker put in place at the club during his tenure.
He added: “Mark Clemmit was down from the BBC and we were standing outside the Jack Walker statue and he was astounded by the quality of the infrastructure at Ewood Park.
“The bricks, the club shop, the Blackburn End, the pictures, the TV screen, all that, and these are things on a matchday that you walk past without really noticing.
“When it’s completely empty you realise the legacy of Jack Walker.
“You are left feeling that all of that is being quietly dismantled by the owners at the moment.”
Murray says the Trust will now look to push forward something of a ‘regeneration programme’ and look at ways of inviting fans back to the club should the Venky’s walk away.
More than 15,000 Rovers fans watched the final home game of the season, a 1-0 win over Aston Villa, something which provided Murray with some hope for the future.
The two supporters groups are also joined in their backing of the work done by head coach Tony Mowbray since taking charge of the team in February.
“Head coach Tony Mowbray inherited a team that appeared low in confidence, belief, fitness and tactical awareness,” the Action Group added.
“Given just 15 games to pull off a great escape, the gap proved just too big with Rovers being relegated on goal difference despite losing just three of those 15 matches and picking up 11 points from the last five fixtures. If the season started the day Tony Mowbray took charge and ended on Sunday, Rovers would have been a top 10 team.
“Fans are left asking could this have been avoided if Owen Coyle had been dismissed when it became clear that his appointment was an abject failure?”
A Blackburn Rovers spokesman said: “A lot of hard work is going on behind the scenes and we hope to be able to comment further in due course.”
For more information on the Trust visit www.roverstrust.co.uk. For details on the Action Group visit their Twitter via @BRFCActionGroup.
Acknowledgement to Lancashire Telegraph
THERE will be sympathy for Rovers’ plight from many quarters, questions raised from others, but relegation will be tough to take for the club’s long-suffering fans who have been used to fighting above their weight.
From the fans’ reaction at the final whistle, it was clear where they point the finger of blame for the club’s relegation: owner’s Venky’s.
Since taking over six-and-a-half-years ago, the Rao family have now presided over relegations from the Premier League, in 2012, and now from the Championship.
Next season will be the first since 1979/80 that Rovers have plied their trade in English football’s third tier and just a sixth in their entire history.
The facts and statistics are worrying, the decline alarming, and the Rovers fans making the long journey back to East Lancashire yesterday will have been contemplating ‘what next’?
The outlook appears bleak. How can the club arrest a slide which is only continuing to accelerate?
Relegation will impact the entire club and the whole town. Jobs will be lost, further cuts made, and crowds at Ewood Park could plummet even further.
There will be an estimated six-figure drop in television revenue - another gap the club’s owners will need to plug.
Then comes the wage bill, incredibly Rovers were operating with the ninth highest in the Championship, and with wage costs exceeding annual turnover, it’s an unsustainable model.
Around £12million has been recouped in transfer fees this season but that will have done little to dent the club’s owed loans to the Rao family which now total more than £110 million, five times more than they inherited back in 2010.
Of the departures defensive duo Shane Duffy and Grant Hanley have already achieved promotion to the Premier League with Brighton and Newcastle respectively, while Jordan Rhodes and Tom Cairney will be battling it out to join them through the play-offs.
Any owners of clubs outside of the top flight will insist a place at English football’s top table is their aim, and the pre-written statements that are relayed to the fans from Venky’s always include such a reference. It’s starting to wear thin.
A return to the top flight is two promotions away and next season’s squad will once again be made up of free transfers, loan players and youngsters.
Brockhall, and the club’s Academy, remains something of a jewel in the crown.
It offers a slice of hope, but assets must be secured, and supplemented with quality in the form of permanent transfers.
And then there is the future of head coach Tony Mowbray. He will want assurances that he can build a side capable of launching an immediate push to return to the Championship.
You can point to missed opportunities in games, the number points thrown away late on and injuries to key players, but in truth, woeful mismanagement and decision making on and off the field, poor recruitment, and underperforming players have been the reasons for relegation.
Mowbray got the best out of the players in his 15 games in charge, losing only three, but the managerial change came too late.
Now is the time to give him all the tools necessary to lead a fightback.
With acknowledgement to Lancashire Telegraph.
WEDNESDAY lunchtime and the sun is shining in Blackburn. A glorious spring afternoon, the kind to leave you feeling hopeful, but optimism is in short supply round Ewood Park.
The club shop has huge posters advertising a kit sale but nobody is taking advantage. Other than club staff, there is not a soul to be seen. The silence around the stadium is dispiriting. This is what Blackburn Rovers have become.
It is a scene that jars when you look up to the Jack Walker Stand. Flanking the structure named after the benefactor who made a little club in Lancashire’s dreams come true is a timeline with historic photographs and the period from 1992 to 1995 leaps out.
In that spell, Blackburn went from the old second division to champions of England. Under Kenny Dalglish, they defied the odds and broke the transfer record twice to sign first Alan Shearer and then Chris Sutton.
‘It seems like yesterday,’ recalls Mike Newell, the man whose penalty at Wembley 25 years ago propelled Blackburn into the newly formed Premier League.
‘We wouldn’t have got Shearer if we hadn’t won at Wembley. It was difficult to attract superstars but Kenny had a magnetism and that is why we got Shearer.’
Now the one-time high-rollers stand on the brink of League One. Blackburn have not played in English football’s third tier since 1980 but they will be relegated on Sunday at Brentford if they cannot better Nottingham Forest’s result against Ipswich.
The bleakness of that scenario matches the despair among supporters about the way the club have been run since Venky’s Group bought the club in November 2010, with frequent manage- rial changes and little investment in the playing staff, and there will be economic implications if they are relegated. A sign of what the future may hold arrived last Saturday when cleaning staff at Ewood Park were laid off after the final home game against Aston Villa; the club’s debt is now £100million, five times what it was when the current owners arrived.
The drop in the number of fans turning up will impact on the fortunes of small local businesses, such as Leaver’s, the bakery across from the stadium. It was founded by Derek Leaver, who played for Blackburn in the 1950s, and still produces a chicken and bean pie in homage to Shearer’s favourite pre-match meal.
Locals believe crowds have dropped by more than 10,000 over the past six years. It is a sorry tale, one which has left Newell — a stalwart of the Walker era — in dismay at the Venky’s, who have not been to a game since 2014.
‘It hurts,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘The five years I had there were the best of my career and it’s galling to think where we were then and where they are going now.
‘Jack would be turning in his grave if he knew what was happening now. Anyone can get relegated but it is the state of the club that is so depressing.
‘I remember going there, before I signed in 1991. You were guaranteed a warm welcome; it’s the nature of the people. But when I’ve been back, the atmosphere’s gone. It’s torture for the fans.’
All, however, is not yet lost. A small glimmer of hope remains and tickets for the away section at Griffin Park have long since been sold. The diehards are not prepared to wave the white flag and that attitude is embodied by club captain Jason Lowe. Lowe has been at Blackburn for 13 years and knows what is at stake.
‘The result is going to have a huge impact on the club,’ he said. ‘We have to try and forget everything that is going on and get the result. We won’t give up.’
Acknowledgement to Dominic King Daily Mail.
Blackburn Rovers' demise has involved agents profiteering, perceived treachery, a bitter secret lawsuit, Gary Neville's 'Teletubbbies' house, baffled managers, jaw-dropping contracts and fan revolt. And that was just year one.
It should serve as a cautionary lesson about governance. History says it won't be heeded.
As Rovers teeter on the brink, 90 minutes from England's third tier and the first Premier League winners to fall so far, it can be revealed their 2010 takeover was subject to a formal Football Association investigation for years. Technically it could be re-opened.
That probe didn't focus on the Indian owners, headed by Anuradha Desai. Rather the FA looked at agent Jerome Anderson, (PIC ABOVE) his firm SEM, and global agency Kentaro.
SEM, now being liquidated, were corporate partners of Kentaro, now defunct themselves and under investigation in relation to the FIFA scandal. Kentaro were also commercial partners of the FA
The Premier League winners of 1995 are the odds-on favourites to go down on Sunday. It's them, Nottingham Forest or Birmingham but Rovers' fate is not in their own hands.
In some senses, it has not been for years. This newspaper has chronicled the 'Venky's years' from the start. As the only writer to travel to Pune to meet the Rao family, I visited their mansion, saw their collection of 74 luxury cars, had privileged access to their business empire to properly assess their £2billion-plus fortune and got to know them.
A few insights into their world may shed light. One afternoon in July 2011 my phone rings. It is Mrs Desai. 'Shall we buy Raul from Schalke in Germany?' she asks. The Spaniard was available, perhaps for nothing, on around £6m a year.
'If you don't trust your manager or CEO, get replacements you do trust to help,' I told her, not for the first time. She pressed for advice so I said Raul was unhappy because he rated his then manager, Ralf Rangnick, as not 'high-profile' enough. 'He's hardly going to rate Steve Kean,' I added. I said if she had £6m to spend, maybe Reading's Shane Long, age 24 and available for around £4.5m, might be a better fit. Mrs Desai thanked me, then made an offer for Raul which he rejected. Long went to West Brom.
The perception of Venky's as remote and uncaring was prevalent but early on at least, they cared. Before a match at Wolves in 2011, one of Mrs Desai's brothers, Venky Rao, texted seeking a suitable temple near Molineux to pray, pre-match. Rovers won 3-2 and stayed up.
Enamoured with England, buzzing with the escape, Venky's pondered opening a fast-food chicken outlet in London's Leicester Square, undeterred by £16m for small premises. That went on hold as football matters went downhill and costs spiralled.
They remained generous to those who helped them and while Premier League bigwigs were thrilled to receive Harrods hampers, Rovers' youth team were not so thrilled to be told to deliver them in vans.
Venky Rao asked me to meet him in summer 2011 at a Park Lane hotel. We took his limo around the corner to dinner at another five-star hotel. He confided they had bought a house. 'From a footballer, Gary Neville,' he said. 'For around £6m.' An architect was flown from India to make changes to the bathrooms, gold-plating them. The house was used less than envisaged as the atmosphere became hostile. The Rao brothers left a game at Wigan at half-time, spooked, and Venky Rao felt especially vulnerable because he'd been the victim of an attempted kidnap.
So why was Mrs Rao asking me for transfer advice in the first place? Because her faith in highly-paid football 'experts' was destroyed within months.
Anderson was one advisor, talking openly about being based at the training ground through January 2011's transfer window. He had also been involved, for a fee, in the introduction of Venky's to the Jack Walker Trust in 2010.
Separately, the day that takeover was complete, a contract came into play whereby Kentaro provided Venky's with 'consultancy services' including the hiring and firing of managers and players.
By spring 2011, Venky's believed they'd taken the wrong path. Anderson was put 'on the outside' and Venky's kept Kean on but embarked on a bitter secret legal dispute against Kentaro.
In March 2011 the FA had written asking who was running Blackburn. The Rovers secretary, Andrew Pincher, wrote to the FA's head of integrity, David Newton, to disclose the Kentaro contract.
Pincher also confided to the FA that Venky's received consultancy services on their takeover from Brunei-based firm Crescendo Sports Limited. He wrote: 'An officer of SEM Limited, Jerome Anderson, has a connection with Crescendo.'
Anderson's alleged involvement was a potential conflict of interest if acting both for a potential buyer of a club and the seller. He denied any link to Crescendo or any involvement in Kentaro's contract with Venky's.
The FA considered whether Anderson contravened regulations prohibiting agents from influencing club affairs. He denied the sacking of Sam Allardyce and hiring of Kean were his ideas, and said the signing of SEM players including his son, Myles, were nothing to do with him.
Allardyce in his autobiography last year provided new insight to the period around his sacking by saying it was clear from the start: 'Anderson was going to have a big say in the running of the club'. Anderson had summoned Allardyce to London early in Venky's tenure to present him with a list of players Anderson wanted Allardyce to sign. Allardyce declined.
Anderson said Rovers' owners signed off all decisions, and they did. For example, they sanctioned the signing of young striker Ruben Rochina for £400,000, with £1.65m paid to his agent, Manuel Salamanca Ferrer. Anderson admitted working on the deal but said he never received a penny.
As Blackburn were relegated to the Championship in 2012, Mrs Desai trusted nobody but employees from home. One of them, a trainee hatcheries manager, was even sent to France to knock on club doors to inquire about transfer targets, in order to avoid rip-off agents. The ploy failed.
Mrs Desai and her brothers were embarrassed by what was happening. 'Mortified and ashamed,' says one source. They were loathe to admit being so naive to let third parties effectively run their club, and reticent to complain to the authorities. 'Our club, our fault,' is how they themselves saw it.
The MoS obtained documents detailing Venky's legal battle with Kentaro, a fight both sides wanted kept secret. I took them to the FA's head of integrity, Newton, spreading them across his desk at Wembley Stadium in 2012.
'Where the hell did you get these?' he said, incredulous. He had no idea a club under the FA's jurisdiction was at war with an FA commercial partner. No action was taken.
Venky's settled out of court with Kentaro after several years.
So chaotic did matters become after Blackburn's relegation that a later manager phoned me on a Sunday morning to ask me what was going on at the club he was working for. 'Anyone's guess,' I said.
On and on the soap opera goes. Whatever happens on Sunday, it will run a while yet.
And the FA seem as far as ever from having effective structures around fit and proper owners and fit and proper de facto control of clubs.
With acknowledgement to Nick Harris Mail On Sunday.
News yesterday, that Jerome Anderson's Sport Entertainment @ Media Sports Agency , has been wound up in the High Court , following winding - up petitions from Valencia, Stoke City and Crystal Palace , should bring a warm glow to the heart's of every Rovers FAN.
Anderson finally got his come uppence after legal action by the three clubs for mismanagement and alleged malpractice.
But this begs two questions for Rovers fans.
1) Why were Venky's not involved in the action against Anderson ?
2) Why have the LT not reported any of this High Court action against Jerome(the man who ruined Blackburn Rovers ) Anderson ?
Can only assume the constant changing of Rovers reporter by the LT, leads to a lack of knowledge about the club's past.
Andy Cryer would have been all over this story like a rash.
However, my pursuit and accusations against Anderson over the past 7 years are now fully justified.
The story regarding Anderson's demise , appeared in yesterday's Daily Mail, (27.4.17 ) in Charles Sale Sports Agenda column.