Writer: Glen Mullan and Simon Littler
Date:Monday January 9 2012
The following are the details of the latest press release from the protest organisers aiming to address numerous issues at the club -
A static 24 hour protest has been organised to take place at 12pm on the 13th January 2012 at Ewood Park, Blackburn. This will be the second non match day protest following the static protest which was held at Brockhall, the training ground for Blackburn Rovers. One Local MP has already confirmed his attendance during this peaceful protest which will carry the message, "Venkys please engage with the clubs stakeholders, or sell the club". This protest will run until 12pm the following day.
Blackburn Rovers Supporters planned protest March 14th January 2012
The supporters of Blackburn Rovers intend to stage a double protest march on Saturday 14th January 2012 prior to the home match against Fulham. Protest organisers agreed a truce with the club on the 3rd December 2011 to stage NO organised protest, on the promise the club would organise meetings with a group of supporters to discuss supporter concerns. The club asked the supporters to provide an agenda for this meeting, which was issued to the club on the 19th November 2011 which is documented in full below:
1a). Why did Venkys buy Blackburn?
1b). What money was paid for the club's shares and what sums was contractually committed for future investment? And have these sums been honoured?
1c). What money has been invested by Venkys in cash since the takeover? And what firm commitments can Venkys make - in precise cash terms - about investment in January / and in 2012 / and in the next three years?
1d). Media reports say Barclays asked for £10m by 31 December. Is this correct? If so, why was this money requested? Will it be paid?
2a). What is Jerome Anderson`s role at the club, officially or unofficially?
2b). Is it true Jerome Anderson's involvement alienated the incumbent directors (including John Williams and Tom Finn and perhaps others) to such an extent that they
felt marginalised and unable to remain at the club?
2c). is it true Steve Kean was appointed on Jerome Anderson's say-so?
3a). Who is identifying player targets for the club?
3b). who has identified the players brought to the club during the Venky's era?
3c). is it true that Steve Kean has been peripheral to choosing some targets? If so, why?
4.) Why has the amount we spend agents' fees reached similar levels to Manchester United despite spending far less on players and buying players of a far lower calibre?
5.) Why does no-one employed by Venkys in England, including the board, seen not to know what is happening at Blackburn Rovers - from a strategic point of view - on a daily basis?
6. How cut adrift at the bottom of the league does our club have to be before Steve Kean is removed as manager of Blackburn Rovers?
7. Mrs A Desai seems to have control of all major decisions at Ewood Park despite not having been to the club on more than one occasion. If Mrs Desai does not make the decisions, who does?
8. Why do we not have a chairman? When will this role be filled? Are we actively searching for one?
9. Why do we not have a chief executive? Why was a deputy appointed? Who is Paul Hunt deputy to?
10. What is Paul Hunt`s role at the club? What day to day decisions is he allowed to make without asking the family first?
11. Why does no member of the Rao family, who apparently own the club, hold a director role at Blackburn Rovers?
12. Who owns Ewood Park and the training ground, and is it mortgaged and if so why?
13. Who owns the land which Ewood Park and the training ground / centre of excellence is built upon?
14. Newspaper reports insist there was a bid for the club from a Qatari group. Is this true?
15. What is the club's contingency plan should we get relegated? Do the owners even appreciate income will drop by c. £40m year on year and how do they plan to fill that hole if relegation happens?
16. Why have the club not made public the minutes of an interim meeting which took place on the 2nd November with supporters?
17. Why have the questions which were asked in this meeting not been answered?
18· Why did Venky's agree to refund a few supporters who travelled to Pune independently during their exhibition tour, but not (to date) refund those fans?
19· Is it true that Crown Paints ceased to be club sponsors because Mrs Desai unilaterally ditched them, believing (wrongly) that a sponsor paying more money would be easy to obtain? And is it true that the Prince's Trust deal was an 11th-hour face saver?
20· Why has the club been saying for five months that Junior Hoillet`s contract is as good as signed and still it appears no closer?
21· Why does Venky's have no daily presence here in the UK involved in the day to day running of the club?
22· Why did the owners leave at half-time during the recent Wigan Athletic fixture?
23· Why was Steve Kean rewarded with a new contract, when our league position and his performance of just 6 wins in 34 games, which he had at the time of signing it, is one of the worst the league has ever witnessed?
24. When will the club accounts for 2010-11 be published?
25. Why have the club owners had no board meeting with the board since buying the club?
26. Why has there been no explanation about board and staff members leaving Ewood Park, including John Jensen?
27. Why has the club not looked at the poor PR which is coming out of the club and not looked to improve this?
28. Why is Vineeth Rao, who has no football experience, as good as, running the club (according to reports)?
29. What are the owners' plan for the January window in terms of play sales and purchases?
30. Why did the fans forum go to Pune and why was it advertised as the disgruntled section of supporters? What was the purpose of this trip? What was the result of the trip? Why has no acceptable feedback on the trip been reported either by the club or the fans forum?
31. Why has Venky's taken out mortgages on future income and put none of their own wealth into the club?
32. If Jerome Anderson has no role, why was he at the meeting with Mr Battersby and Mr Curry on the last day of the Pune trip?
33. Why does the manager insist on saying a majority of supporters are fully behind him when all evidence suggests otherwise?
34. Why have the club planted seeds with statements that have brought violence to the stands at Ewood Park? For example the manager makes statements on a weekly basis asking non-protesting supporters to tell protestors not to protest. This is inciting the crowd and despite this being discussed on numerous occasions he still appears not to be being advised to do otherwise.
35· Why has our principle sponsor had to go public about his concerns and the club's lack of communication?
36· what is the role of Steve Kean at Ewood Park, as the club have confirmed he does not communicate with them and answers directly to Pune? Why is Steve Kean not disclosing things to the board? Why does his role appear much more senior than any of the board at Ewood Park?
37· Why have all our accounts been removed from the UK and moved over to India?
38. Why does it appear that Blackburn Rovers are marketing Venky's instead of Venky's marketing Blackburn Rovers here in the UK?
39. Why is the club website so poorly run?
40. What plans are in place to open up a clear communication channel with supporters in the form of an action group democratically picked where things can be openly debated and discussed to allow concerns to be answered if and as they arise?
41. Can you arrange the meeting with Steve Kean as he has twice publicly said he will meet the disgruntled section of supporters?
42. Will Venky's have a meeting here in Blackburn with some supporters who have been democratically picked?
43. Can you explain the roles of all new employees hired in the Venky's era, i.e. Paul Hunt, Simon Hunt, and how the decision-making process works on a day-to-day basis at the club?
44. Why have these new employees not been publicly introduced / announced to fans, even via the website of programme, or given any TV or radio interviews about their roles? Most supporters would not know these people if they passed them in the street and know very little about their background or qualifications to hold such roles.
45. How big is the actual overdraft today and is it true Barclays want it to be reduced to zero by the end of the year/season?
46. Was the overdraft held by Venky's London which is still secured against all Rovers' physical assets discussed and has that also now got an accelerated repayment schedule?
47. Are the overdrafts financing other Venky's group activities besides the Rovers?
48. If Venky's cannot meet Barclay`s new repayment requirements, are they going to sell the club?
49. How many games has Kean been given before the axe swings again?
50. is it true Kean and Samba are not talking to each other?
51. Are Hoilett and Robinson also likely to leave in January as well?
52. Why have players like Dann been bought on the drip, when we brought in more net income from sales this past transfer window?
53. Why was the club shirt changed from its traditional design?
54. Why do the club owners say the club is their baby, despite them spending little time at the club and not interacting with the club's supporters or listening to supporters concerns?
55. Why do so many supporters concerns via email end with a generated email response?
56. Who is the point of contact for concerns and what is the time scale for answering concerns set out in the clubs customer service charter?
57. Can the club explain why season tickets have dropped significantly since the takeover and why hundreds of supporters with season tickets will no longer attend games despite their seats being paid for?
58. Because the club is being run from Pune I fear that the club is failing to react to emerging situations quickly enough. The executives at Rovers appear to have no autonomy or power whatsoever when it comes to making short-term decisions. Why?
59. Why are Rovers persisting with a manager who will relegate the club? Will the club come out with reasons why he is still in the job for us fans who find the decision completely insane?
60. There are concerns about the quality of coaching at the club. Players don't look as fit as they should be, several players are suffering or have suffered from hamstring injuries at the same time (sometimes an indicator of poor fitness levels/coaching). The lack of clean sheets is also a major concern. Can you explain this?
61. There are major concerns about the transfer window in January. Rovers need investment in January but with the talk of the debts the club has, there are fears that the only way money will be spent is if key players are sold. The poor level of performance on the field also could have a major impact on the transfer front and attracting suitable players. Are the owners concerned about this?
62. If Rovers are relegated are Venky's going to provide funds and make managerial decisions in order to try and get straight back up?
63. The majority of supporters will not be content until the supporters have dialogue with the owners. Why don't the owners engage with the fans?
64. The owners, board and management have treated the supporters with contempt for more than 12 months. Customer satisfaction and customer service are non-existent. Respect is earned not demanded. Why do the owners not realise this? Supporters would like to see:
*1. a credible, experienced chairman and chief executive appointed.
*2. That those appointed are allowed to make the decisions on behalf of the owners but within reason using their experience to make decision.
*3. Steve Kean or any future manager answering solely to the board here in Blackburn and for his monthly trips to India to cease.
*4. The owners to stop making promises or telling lies, and for the manager to do likewise.
*5. That any advice given to the owners comes from professionals within the field they are offering advice on. This means people like Jerome Anderson not offering advice on how to run a football club.
*6. When someone takes over a football club, one would expect that person or persons to invest the necessary money and time into the club. This hasn't happened. This needs to happen in order for us to move forward.
*7. Actions speak louder than words. When the owners start to fulfil their promises that is when we should support them. What has happened at the club is not a mistake. It's negligence.
*8. Media interviews criticising supporters must stop.
*9. Clarification of the chain of command is needed. Who makes the ultimate decisions? And sliding down the scale how does the chain of command work?
*10. Generated emails to stop, they are non-personal and a generated email just won`t do for every question asked.
*11. The owners need to earn a trust by interacting with the supporters and the town, by making public appearances, for example at local hospitals.
*12. The general opinion is nothing can be repaired until the manager is replaced; too much has happened for the supporters to ever accept Steve Kean as manager.
*13. We would like Venky's to have an audience with a group of supporters here in Blackburn so they can answer some of the questions the board of directors can`t and also so they can tell supporters first hand in person their plans for Blackburn Rovers.
*14. An action group to be set up elected by the supporters to work with the club on issues which arise. With a least a couple of these members becoming full time liaison officers within the club. The liaison officers will be paid roles by the club.
*15. The club to endorse the BRST who will work as an independent body, and liaise with the newly formed action group.
*16. The current fans forum to be looked at, as it does not appear to have been picked democratically and none of the members have been elected by the supporters and therefore are not representative of the supporter`s opinions.
*17. Due to Venkys and Steve Kean splitting the fan base it`s vital that the owners make the effort to get over to Blackburn and spend a sustained amount of time here to address both on and off the pitch issues. It`s important they connect with the supporters now, before the point of no return is crossed, which is getting very close, with opinion polls currently standing at 70 per cent of supporters wanting Venky's out.
*18. A meeting must be set up were people who can make decisions are present.
*19. There should be a TOTAL severance between the club's decision makers and ANY party who is not legally contracted to the club in a transparent role. The club must only be run by those legally and fully contracted to run it full time, as it is only a person who is employed in such a role that can be trusted by the supporters to have the clubs best interests at heart. No further dealings should be done with Jerome Anderson.
*20. For the manager to pick his own transfer targets.
*21. Once the solid foundations of an experienced board that ONLY have the interests of the football club in mind are set, we would ask for TOTAL transparency in the way the club is being run, and at least one representative of the Rao/Desai family to be in Blackburn so that this is possible. We as fans feel the owners are hiding in India, and making decisions based on little or no knowledge of how a football club should be well run. The problems with this are clear from our league position and the fans anger.
*22. A statement of recognition from Venky's that the way they have attempted to run this football club up until now has been entirely unacceptable. I would ask that they assure us as fans that they plan to rectify all mistakes (which they will have pointed out to them by a new, experienced and unbiased chairman), and release a public action statement to show how they will pull the club out of the mire it now sits in.
*23. There has to be a sign from within the club that Steve Kean isn't unsackable. Giving him a new contract in the middle of a disastrous run was like spitting in the face of the fans. All we hear is this 'full support' message, regardless of the situation. It is this which has led to some fans wanting us to lose; people feel like Venky's are looking for an excuse to keep him, rather than judging him as any other owner would.
*24. The fans protesting now are the very same fans that have been wonderful supporters to the club for many years. If you want to find blame then look at what has changed since supporters' attitudes started to change. If Venky's and Kean do not like what is happening in the stands on match days then they have to look directly at themselves and how they will rectify it. It's gone far beyond the point where a few good results will fix the relationship.
*25. Deliver the promises made at the time of purchase both on and off the pitch.
*26. Publish the club accounts in the manner we have become used to under the Trust.
*27. Commit to making the financial resources for players and management (not Kean if we go down) available to mount a serious promotion challenge in the event of relegation.
*28. Refund the supporters who went to the Cardiff match or at least offer them a free ticket for an away game later in the season. This is vital and shows goodwill.
*29. Blackburn Rovers must be run from Blackburn. If Venky's can`t physically manage it, they then appoint people who can and let them make the day to day decisions?
*30. Start running the club professionally and with the family tradition it has been built on.
*31. Replace Paul Agnew. For years his PR has been atrocious, and with his antics over the last 12 months, has put Venky's and Steve Kean on the verge of losing the club's supporters forever. His unprofessionalism in a conversation he had with protest organiser Glen Mullan was at best gross negligence as an advisor of Blackburn Rovers.
*32. Employ a new PR Company that can highlight the pluses whilst working hard to help with the negatives.
*33. The board needs to stand up to the owners and make it clear how a football team is supposed to be run. Outside influences should never have more power than the board.
In addition to this meeting the club also agreed to set up a meeting with First Team Manager Steve Kean to discuss football matters only, however despite the protest organisers arranging NO protests for the last seven matches the club has failed to deliver on the promises and pledges they made.
This protest will be aimed at Venkys the legal owners of Blackburn Rovers football club.
Sadly despite efforts from Club sponsor WEC Managing director Wayne Wild, Jack Straw MP, Ian Battersby, various national and local media and the supporters to open a communication line with the owners, these efforts have fallen on deaf ears whilst the owners have been absent from the UK since the 19th November 2011. Supporters are deeply concerned by many media reports suggesting the clubs financial structure and credit line with Barclays bank is under serious scrutiny. Documents held at companies house show the clubs debts are heavily mortgaged against the clubs assets and future income, whilst reports of key players leaving in January to address the clubs growing debt is of deep concern. Reports of players being injured only for players like Michel Salgado and Jason Roberts to deny these allegations is of equal concern, especially as both players have gone public that their reasons for not being available are financial and contractual issues.
At the end of December the club recorded record losses on their annual turnover which was up by 1000% on the previous year, this coupled with the documentation that pointed out the clubs payments to agents through transfer activity was excessive for the net spend on bringing new players to the club, and was in line with clubs of the stature of Manchester United who had spent 5 times the amount on players but with similar agent fee`s.
There has been no word from Venkys for over 3 months and supporters are seriously questioning their honour, integrity and intentions. It is also a worry that Venkys passed the fit and proper test by the league prior to the success of their takeover bid from the Walkers Trust in November 2010. Supporters fear that Blackburn Rovers may fall foul like Portsmouth did, if the league does not get clarification of the intentions Venkys have for Blackburn Rovers long term. Although Blackburn Rovers is a private business, supporters are still stakeholders of both the club and league and are somewhat amazed that a regulatory body has not intervened due to the long drawn out process of the concerns already highlighted.
Listed Below (Taken from the Blackburn Rovers official website) are the proposals and promises which were put to the shareholders, board of directors and supporters when Venkys were recommended as viable purchasers of Blackburn Rovers in November 2010.
On the 19th November 2010 Venkys completed their takeover of the club and as part of the deal laid down these foundations for the future direction of the club
The Venky's Board has given assurances to BRFCI that Venky's:
(a) Will commit funds on a consistent and systematic basis to future transfer and/or loan activity;
(b) intends to continue to support the existing management team and staff, and that it is committed to the future development of, and investment in, the Club`s academy and youth infrastructure;
(c) Will continue to support, promote and extend the Club`s local community and CSR activities (VH and its subsidiaries have their own trust engaged in significant charitable work);
(d) Will seek to extend the Blackburn Rovers name and brand into India, the rest of south-east Asia and beyond;
(e) Will seek to develop and improve commercial performance across sponsorship, the Club's kit deal and general merchandising activity;
(f) Will seek to enhance the fan experience at Ewood Park itself on match days (and non-match days) and to maximise season ticket sales and any remaining match day ticket sales;
(g) Intends to improve the Club`s media platforms (for example the Club's TV channel) and to become more active in the social media space).
In line with this, pursuant to the terms of the Share Purchase Agreement, Venky's also has entered into the following contractual commitments with BRFCI and the Club:
* The principal activity of Blackburn Rovers will continue at all times to be that of a professional football club;
* The current President, Vice Presidents and Honorary Vice Presidents of Blackburn Rovers will not be removed from those positions before June 2011 without the prior written consent of those individuals;
* The statue of Jack Walker outside Ewood Park will be kept in a good state of repair and will not be moved to a different location, obscured or have its prominence diluted without BRFCI`s prior Written consent; and
* The name of the stand at Ewood Park currently known as the Jack Walker Stand will not be changed without BRFCI's prior written consent.
After reading these intentions time and time again, it is quite evident that none of these promises have been kept, or honoured:
* To date the club has received more in transfer fee`s than they have actually spent.
* Within a few weeks of completing the takeover the club removed the Manager who had 18 months earlier saved the club from relegation against the odds, and the previous season had secured a top 10 finish with very little investment into the squad. In addition other members of the back room team were also removed including the assistant Manager. Our experienced management team was then replaced by a Rookie Manager with no previous Managerial experience.
* Systematically each and every member of the old board which was the most successful in the clubs history has left the club, under a cloud of confusion. No explanations have been made by the club; whilst their replacements are inexperienced in the roles they have been given.
* The club has refused to communicate with fans, To date the owners have not done a press conference and given the fans answers to why our operations are being run from Pune with no daily presence at the club from the owners in person
* Public relations have been non-existent, the communication to the fans has been non existent
Protest Organisers Statement
"It`s with deep regret that we find ourselves in a position that the organised element of protest has had to return to our match day experience. As organisers who only have the long term future of the club at heart, we have done all we possibly can to allow Venkys and the Board of directors to engage with its supporters and stakeholders. Following an agreement with senior members of the board the last 7 fixtures have seen no organised protest as our word is our bond, Unfortunately organic protest have been beyond our control as Rovers currently sit bottom of the Premier League, whilst media reports over the clubs financial difficulties have seen supporters concerns go from one extreme to another. We have maintained throughout this process that protesting has come about due to all other avenue`s being exhausted. All conversations we have had with the club have delivered the same message, we do not want to protest but want our club to be truthful and the owners to show honour and integrity regarding the pledges they made when they purchased the club. We wish for the clubs heritage and legacy left by the late Jack Walker to be respected and for the club to embrace its supporters in the same way generations of supporters have embraced the club for 137 years. Supporters want to work with the club to bring an end to these concerns and for the Owners, Board and supporters to be as one, Sadly its becoming increasingly apparent that only the supporters wish to talk, and the silence and lack of action from the owners is jeopardising the clubs long term future. The attendance against Stoke City was the clubs lowest in the Premier League for over three years as more and more supporters lose the appetite to watch as our club disappears into the abyss. The players of Blackburn Rovers have the supporters 100% support, but Venkys continued absence is seeing the team caught in the cross fire, as the only voice we have is from the stands on match days. We maintain it`s in the owners, club and supporters best interest for open communication and the owners intentions to be clear, so that supporters can concentrate on giving the team its 100% support during these challenging times"
Date:Monday January 9 2012
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