Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An open letter to Balaji Rao and the Venky's people

Let's go round again. In June I wrote an open and welcoming letter to Saurin Shah, one of the supposed bidders for Blackburn Rovers. In August, I wrote a slightly updated one to Ahsan Ali Syed. Even then I had a natural suspicion of anyone who blabs before a takeover is complete and felt something wasn't right. Bizarrely, he has been probed, prodded and investigated and looks like he has not been able to complete the deal afterall. However, he has made some very generous donations to Blackburn charities.

Here's an open letter to the latest bidder, reported as Venky's, an Indian-based poultry company. And here is Alan Nixon's story in the Mirror, detailing the strategy. There is talk of a tie up with an international agency. This is a worry. But, hey, forever positive, here goes.

Good luck in your efforts to buy our wonderful football club! I just wanted to mention a few things that might not pop up in your commercial due diligence.

First of all, thank you for conducting your negotiations with grace and privacy. The other lot made a mockery of our club by sounding off. Your interviews have also been polite and respectful, without bravado. That is the way of our club and I think it puts a positive marker down.

Fans are realists, we know football is changing. We know football is a global industry with television audiences expanding in your home country. But don't be fooled into thinking anyone will want to come and play in front of empty seats. Make sure the club is looked after too.

Our fans are the future of this club. Their loyal support has kept this club in a special place. To make it work for you, you need to engage with them and help that support grow even more. That doesn't mean walking round the pitch shaking hands and signing autographs, it means involving supporters in the running of the club as a community asset. Be open to any positive suggestions that may come your way on this.

The fans are frustrated at the moment because there haven't been any new signings. The manager is frustrated too. But make sure we sign the right players.

Exciting young players connected with an emerging sports agency are one thing, players who play with pride are another altogether. Don't let agents and middlemen turn your head. And please don't use this club as a feeder club or be used as a commission earner for these sharks.

Be patient. Our local talisman, David Dunn, is an injury prone genius. Our goalkeeper was a reject who was written off but has missed out on the World Cup because he plays for an unfashionable club. But they are stars. Our stars. So is Phil Jones - a teenager from Chorley. They are adored. And Steven N'Zonzi, our player of the year, is a young man plucked from obscurity, who has just signed a new contract.

Our fans are usually right. When Jack Walker owned the club he didn't like a certain type of flash player and blocked some transfers. There are players who just aren't Rovers players, learn about that and treasure it as a core value. Rovers fans like a solid centre pair, a free scoring forward and attacking football. We're not getting that at the moment, which is frustrating the fans.

The season can seem long and a grind. When we lose at Liverpool, draw at home to Sunderland and lose at Stoke it tests your faith. We're fourth from bottom. So, you will look at these wealthy players who don't seem to be able to perform and despair. But you have to stick with it. Form can dip, the manager can seem negative and grumpy, but at heart he's a good man. There are voices amongst the fans who want him out, Don't listen to them. Stick with it. He has a good scouting network, he finds gems, like our player of the year. Don't get your head turned by younger managers with fancy methods, something good is building at Rovers. The Academy at Brockhall is a treasure trove. Extend it. Make it the place the best kids want to come to. That's the place where investment is needed.

Blackburn is a multi-racial town, but Rovers supporters are mainly white working class men. This has changed a bit over the years, but don't expect to see much of an affinity with the local Asian population without a long hard effort to win hearts and minds and don't expect them flocking overnight. The current marketing and management team have been focused on shoring up what we have, but with your help greater links with India, with Asian communities and with other sports can expand Rovers as a brand.

You will have seen other owners of football clubs in the Premier League see their dreams shattered because they splash the money and lose it. Rovers have a heart and soul and a family spirit that is very much in touch with the roots of East Lancashire life. But it is just one aspect of our community. Build on that, extend deeper into that, and build the links with your own heritage - it could well yield commercial rewards and enable this club to move further forward.

Be realistic about what that could be. Be modest, be strong, value quality and there is a good chance that in the future there could be a statue of you next to the one of Uncle Jack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well put sir. You should write for a living!