In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, Blackburn Rovers have gone from being an established Premier League side to a club who are languishing in the Championship, with the only direction they’re set to go being down.
Why? Well, a host of reasons, but one of the main issues has been the ownership of the club by the Venky family.
They purchased the club back in November 2010, paying £23 million to end the club’s long standing and successful association with the Jack Walker Trust.
At the time, former Chairman John Williams claimed:
There is an opportunity to take the club forward, to consolidate our position in the league and look for year-on-year improvement.
It is a cliché but standing still is going backwards, certainly that is the case in football and we must focus on the new challenges and opportunities ahead.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Once upon a time, Rovers was run by Jack Walker, who made the club financially secure (or as far as it was possible for them to be) and the club of course won the Premier League, with Alan Shearer leading their line.
Now, they’re in ruin, with a revolving managerial merry-go-round, players being sold left, right and centre, and loyal fans at their wits end.
There have been plenty of protests during the stewardship of the Venky’s, but now a JustGiving page has been set up for fans to donate £2 to support the ‘Venky’s Out’ campaign – with all the money being raised going to The East Lancashire Hospice.
The page was set up by Matthew McDonough, who wrote:
As founder members of the football league and of the premier league our club, Blackburn Rovers has had the heart and soul removed by mismanagement on a level rarely seen before.
From a steady and stable, highly respected club in the Premier League we have been reduced to a relegation fighting Championship club. All this under the watch of the hopeless owners Venky’s.
We, the supporters of the club ask for nothing less than to be released from the terrible chains of perpetual misery of Venky’s ownership.
I've had a ST for 23 years in a row. Me and my family are really questioning if we will renew. #VenkysOut your a disgrace
— Teacake Design (@teacakedesign) June 2, 2016
Proud history, what future? #venkysout you will not break the fans.
— RoversTweet (@RoversTweet) June 2, 2016
Rovers are not the only club to suffer from bad ownership, that’s a theme we are seeing more and more, as Blackpool supporters will attest to, and one Rovers fan who donated to the cause put it perfectly, saying ‘we simply want our club back and pride in the Blue & White halves again’.
The campaign already has 4,000 signatures, and #VenkysOut has trended worldwide on Twitter more than once over the last couple of years, with the Venky’s doing everything from appointing former Burnley manager Owen Coyle (a move the fans called a ‘disgrace’ and protested) to allowing contracts to expire or be run down to the extent that there were only 15 players under contract past the end of last season.
That’s before the decision to sack Sam Allardyce and replace him with Steve Kean (who reportedly claimed he could get Rovers into the Champions League, while Allardyce claimed a top ten finish would be a huge coup for the club) is even taken into consideration, along with the leaked documents from the Kean era.
Said documents showed that Rovers were paying agents around four times more than they were paying in transfer fees. Case in point would be the transfer of Ruben Rochina, who cost the club £370,000, yet the same deal saw more than £1,650,000 paid in agents fees.
The club are now in a huge amount of debt – with a figure of £104.2 million quoted in May.
This is despite the Venkys only taking on £10 million worth of said debt when they purchased the club, and selling the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Chris Samba, Rudy Gestede, Steven N’Zonzi, Tom Cairney and Grant Hanley – not to mention many, many more players over the last six years.
They’re now entrenched in a huge amount of debt, with little hope of paying it off while owners who arguably do not have the club’s best interests at heart are at the helm doing God knows what with the little money Rovers do have.
After relegation from the Premier League and its devastating impact, the Venkys claimed they were badly advised and faced some ‘very valuable and costly lessons’.
Given one of said advisers was Jerome Anderson, who just so happened to be Steve Kean’s agent, it’s not exactly shocking things went so wrong for a family who knew very little about the club and the league they were buying into.
Longtime supporters Ian Battersby and Ian Currie, through their company Seneca Partners, have made repeated offers to the Venky’s to invest in the club and take 51% of ownership and thus control, initially reaching out in 2013, and now trying to initiate contact with the family once again, though as of yet it does not seem to have elicited a response.
To see what was once such a proud club, with a rich history be degraded to the level they are now at under the stewardship of the Venky’s is distressing for any football fan – no matter where your allegiances lie – and it also serves as a reminder that it can happen to any club, any set of fans, anyone.
Another question you have to ask is just what the FA are doing in terms of reassessing their criteria for those who can buy clubs, with far stricter quotas desperately needed given the ‘Fit and Proper Person’s Test’ is anything but, to at least try and prevent this happening to other clubs, with Rovers far from the only ones to suffer.
You can donate to the #VenkysOut campaign here or text VENK77 to 70070, and do some good for charity while you’re at it.