Monday, November 16, 2020

Venky's and Rovers - 10 years on - what I've changed my mind about

It's been ten years now since my football club, Blackburn Rovers, were taken over by Venky's, an Indian business conglomerate. There's been some very smart commentary about this over the course of the last few days, notably the Sporf podcast (above) with Nick Harris of Sporting Intelligence and on Lancashire Live by my podcasting chum Mike Delap.

I was always a sceptic, as nearly all Rovers fans were, but here are a few things I've changed my mind on, and a few home truths.

I was massively critical of the way the fans hounded Steve Kean. Maybe I'm just too soft, but it felt wrong. In hindsight he really did take us for a ride, took us down and played the Venky's for fools. I do not forget, or forgive.

The worst stuff happened early on. Those early couple of years were absolutely bat shit mad. All of it; rinsed by Kentaro and SEM, Jerome Anderson, the clear out of the board, Jerome Anderson's son, Steve Kean, Paul Agnew and Derek Shaw, Shebby Singh. All of it. It was so unbelievable, that anything actually became believable, even who really owned the club. You could make up a plot line for a film where a consortium of gangsters bought it and put their mate in charge, as part of a bizarre money laundering enterprise, in exchange for a gambling debt over the relegation. Even that fantasy scenario would be more plausible than the reality that Nick Harris tells in the podcast.

There's a theory I have heard, and never managed to discount, that the ownership of Rovers actually saved them a ton of money due to EU quotas and tariffs on imported chicken from India to the EU, due to their ownership of an EU domiciled business. Maybe Brexit cuts that off.  

At one time I may have described Venky's as the worst owners in football. You don't have to look very far to see far worse ones now. Bolton, Oldham, Blackpool and Wigan have all fallen further than we have. Local boys made good don't seem to cut it any more either. 

There are plenty of terrible owners, but I don't readily see a better model. It's a horrendous gamble that British football has hocked itself to the global oligarchs and you just have to hope you get a rich one, or one with an attention span. I'm sure it would have been very dignified to have had a group of local business people in charge, including friends of mine, but it's hard to sustain the levels of investment while every other club is playing such a high stakes game. Bizarrely, the way things have gone, they're probably amongst the best owners a club could want. However, if you think I'm going to thank them for it, then obviously I won't. 

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