The Venky's Reign of Error: Protests - A fans letter that has been sent to various football authorities
Below is a letter that has been sent to various footballing authorities summarising Blackburn Rovers' fans views.
I feel that I have to write to you to express my utter dismay at the situation happening at my club, Blackburn Rovers. The appalling and seemingly uncontrollable demise of Rovers is a truly frightening and harrowing nightmare for anyone who has a connection to what was widely considered to be one of the best run clubs in England. Blackburn Rovers, in the last decade since the sad death of Jack Walker, has symbolised everything that was good about English football. A small town club, steeped in history and tradition could compete at the top table through excellent management both on and off the field, loyal supporters and the fostering of a heart-warming, “in-it-together” family feel. In the last 18 months, this has been systematically destroyed from the top to the bottom.
The fans embraced, in good faith, the Venky’s Group upon buying the club in November 2010. We had come to realise that without new investment, Blackburn Rovers’ long-term ability to compete in the Premier League would be limited. A great amount of positivity surrounded their takeover as they talked about continuing the proud traditions of the club so beautifully crafted by Jack Walker’s devotion and passion for his home town club.
However, soon things began to turn sour not through our own volition. The sacking of Sam Allardyce was greeted with dismay and confusion by the fans and the existing board. Whilst it seemed an utterly nonsensical decision, even at this stage some of us were ready to accept that it was a foolish and misinformed decision borne out of inexperience in running a football club. However, their conduct since this time has left the supporters in no doubt that our current ownership is destroying every element of the club’s structure which so many people have worked so hard to put in place over such a long period of time.
The board which included such long-serving and respected figures as John Williams and Tom Finn has been rapidly dismantled by the Venky’s, with decisions about team and club affairs seemingly being made from India with very little consultation or inclusion of the remaining Ewood Park board. This is absolutely unacceptable and no way to run a successful football club. In many ways, these were the two most disturbing departures at the club. Both men were excellent at responding to fans’ comments and concerns and fostered great communication and mutual respect between fans and club officials. Fans get no response to any concerns that they express about the club. This desperately needs to be reinstated.
The letter from three board members including Williams and Finn, exposed last year, highlighted many of the concerns we had as supporters including the role played by Sports Agency Kentaro in player transfers at the club. As with everything else, these pleas for clarification and communication have fallen on deaf ears. Further to this, deputy chief executive Paul Hunt’s sacking following a leaked letter expressing similar concerns about the direction of the club has added greater dismay to an already out-of-control situation at Ewood Park. How can there be no control over such mismanagement?
Performances on the field have been, for the most part, appalling, with Steve Kean’s stewardship leading us to second tier football next season. Apart from dreadful tactics, few and poor signings not equipped for the Premier League, the loss of numerous experienced Premier League players and rumours of player/manager disputes, the fans have been continuously lied to over a prolonged period of time. For example, on many occasions it has been claimed that players were injured and unavailable when in fact it is highly likely they were involved with contractual disputes or had simply been frozen out of first team affairs. The Rovers supporters have often, wrongly, been vilified in the media, but I feel this is beginning to change as others realise the downward spiral on which Blackburn Rovers has been set. Since relegation we have been told by Steve Kean that these are ‘exciting times’ to be connected with Rovers whilst the silence from India is deafening.
Our current plight is about so much more than relegation from the Premier League. This is a fate which has befallen us before, yet in 1999 the circumstances were so different. The goalless draw with Manchester United which consigned us to Division One saw tears abound around Ewood Park coming so soon after our 1995 success, but Jack Walker proclaimed that we would be back. Supporters believed and come back we did.
How different the situation was when we were relegated this season after our dismal home defeat to Wigan Athletic. The poisonous atmosphere which engulfed Ewood in that moment after the final whistle was an outpouring of 18 months of despair and betrayal which everybody connected with Blackburn Rovers has felt in equal measure. Fans running onto the pitch and supporters staging sit-in protests and other protests throughout the season, apart from anything else, are cries for help. We feel powerless to prevent what is happening to our club, but are determined not to stand by and let it happen. I am convinced that any supporter of any club in a similar situation would feel and act in the same way.
Blackburn Rovers is at the very heart of its community and has put Blackburn, a humble but hard-working former textile town, on the map. Our club motto Arte et Labore – “through skill and hardwork” – adorns the town crest as well as that of the football club. It encapsulates everything that the town has always stood for and symbolises yet another link between the football club and the social fabric and history of the town. Like so many other small, former industrial settlements across the country, Blackburn faces enormous social challenges at present and in the future. The football team has always and will continue to have a crucial role to play in the social and cultural well-being of Blackburn and wider parts of East Lancashire. We do not expect or feel we have a divine right to play in the football league’s upper echelons, but we do expect the club and its fans to be treated with the respect that it and we deserve. Since the Venky’s took over this has simply not happened.
It comes to something when the only solution the supporters are seeing is to completely boycott home matches at Ewood Park next season until major changes are made. For generations, whole families, members old and young have stood on the terraces at Ewood cheering their team in the famous blue and white halves. No matter the pressures and difficulties they experienced in their working lives, seeing their team represent the town on a weekend was a constant and pleasurable experience in which they could take great pride. This is a terrible state of affairs if we are to be faced with a near empty Ewood Park next season.
As a life-long Rovers fan, I fear that Blackburn, a founder member of the football league is destined for obscurity or even non-existence if the current running of the club is not changed. Even with a change of manager, we are still left with serious issues and a fear that matters on and off the field will not improve. As supporters it is our ultimate goal to put the club back in the hands of those for which it matters.