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.
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.
Going to the game tonight in anticipation and trepidation combined.
Anticipating a positive response from the team and fans following the appointment of Tony Mowbray.
In trepidation because losing football matches has become a habit for Blacburn Rovers , during Coyle;s fateful tenure.
Some on this forum post of 6/7 wins under Mowbray in the 15 games left to him. Totally unrealistic in my view.
Rovers only won 7 games from 31 under Coyle. How is it possible for this team to to improve by what would be 50%.
Not even Jose Mourinho could extract that
sort of improvement from a team in such a short space of time.
Rovers are averaging a league win every four and a half games. To increase that to a win every 2 games is a bridge to far for this squad of players.
Let us be realistic.
I have no doubt Mowbray will lift the mood and the toxic atmosphere hanging over Ewood.
He will lift the crowd and players alike. He will also prowl the touchline , giving the sense we are all in this mess together. Unlike the elusive Coyle.
Under Coyle we averaged just less than a point per game. Relegation form in anyone's language.
Mowbray has to lift that to one and half points per game to beat the drop. Some ask.
If Mowbray does keep us in the Championship it will be some achievment . Certainly not the given some are expecting.
Coyle got us in a mess , he should have been long gone.
It is now apparant there was nobody at the club to do it.
Enter Paul Senior, who in less than 6 weeks assessed what was wrong and acted.
Maybe to late.
But with Coyle gone we have a chance. Under Coyle we had no chance at all. Surprised at those who thought we did.
With Coyle gone will some of the missing fans return tonight?
We shall see.
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.
BLACKBURN Rovers head coach Tony Mowbray believes he can lead the club to Championship safety and wants that to be the start of an exciting new Ewood era.
Mowbray takes charge of Rovers for the first time tonight at Burton Albion (7.45pm) having being appointed as head coach on an 18 month deal on Wednesday following the departure of Owen Coyle.
The 53-year-old has 15 games to save Rovers from relegation to League One but is confident in his ability to turn things around.
“We’re second bottom of the Championship and we have to win some matches,” Mowbray said. “I have to respect that’s why I’m sitting here.
“My job is to win some games and get us away from the situation we’re in and then look to try and build a team that can try and compete at the other end of the table.
“I believe that if we can get the club going in the right direction then it will take some stopping.
“But the situation we find ourselves in reswe have to get ults.
"I’m not here to play pretty football and to do things other than find the best balance with these players and win some games.
“Football is in my blood and the Championship is a league I think I can work well in. I know I can build football teams and win games and I’m looking forward to that challenge.
“I truly believe I can help this club win games and, looking forward, build a style that the supporters will enjoy and want to watch.
“I try and create an environment at the football club where players want to come to work.
“I’m looking forward to seeing if we can create some positive vibes at the football club.”
Mowbray takes charge of Rovers during a busy spell of games, with today’s trip to Burton the first of seven Championship fixtures in 22 days.
The former Celtic and Middlesbrough boss has been out of work since resigning from Coventry City in September.
The Sky Blues job was one he took on in March 2015 with the club in a not too dissimilar position to Rovers.
Mowbray led them to League One safety in the final months of the 2014/15 season, before finishing the calendar year with his side top of the table.
And he’s hoping for a similar revival for Rovers.
He added: “My last club, Coventry City, have some problems and some issues and the full season I had there, there were no issues. The fanbase were solely behind the football club and it helped because the football club were winning and we were at the top end of the table.
“The team on the pitch galvanised the football club and as a coach I want to try and galvanise this football club.
“How do you do that? I focus on the team and on the players. I want a guy who comes to the games on a Saturday to go in the pub that night and say to his mates ‘Rovers were good today, they scored some great goals’.
“The only way to have a positive vibe at a football club is by winning matches.
“If we can get some results then let’s try and build the club, turn it round and put it back in the right direction.
“All the other stuff on the outside is there until we hopefully put the club back to where it belongs, and even then it might not (go away), I understand that some things run deep, but for me as a football guy I want to create a team that the fans are proud of and this is a team that people want to come and watch.”
And Mowbray believes Rovers have all the ingredients to succeed, adding: “This is a Premier League set-up. I believe that if we can get it going in the right direction then it will take some stopping and people will want to come to this football club, have a look around and go, ‘I want some of that.
“I hope that the people who support this club respect that the lads on the pitch are giving everything for this club and hopefully find some unity to move forward.
“We can dream and think that will happen really fast, but first we have to win some games.
With acknowledgement to the Lancashire Telegraph