Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Author Q@A: Agents, Rovers and Cricket Loving Owners

Agents, Rovers and Cricket Loving Owners
Michael Blackburn
Grosvenor House Publishing

£12.99 or £7.99 direct from www.rovertaken.co.uk

In 2010 the Venky poultry manufacturing family from India bought Blackburn Rovers. After selling more than £40 million of playing talent, and witnessing key members of the club’s administration exiting, 18 months later the East Lancashire club was relegated. Meanwhile the new owners continued to put their trust in an inexperienced manager. Steve Kean’s recent resignation was wildly celebrated by fans and author Michael Blackburn. 

1) Why did you write this book?

Football used to be a laugh but in recent years I have become disillusioned with the game. After the Venky takeover I became frustrated with the way the club was heading and angry about how the story was being reported by career journalists who have little real passion for Rovers.

2) Surely Rovers relative lack of support means the second League is where they should be?

Football should never be about the numbers you get through the turnstiles. Rovers’ crowds are excellent considering the size of the town and the number of big clubs in the North West. We deserve to be in the Championship because we were relegated from the Premier League, but I have never had an inferiority complex about mixing at the top table with bigger cities with greater commercial appeal.

3) What’s wrong with agents in football?

It is important that any young person entering into contract negotiations with a multi-million pound corporation has some form of professional representation. But the financial rewards for agents, certainly at the top end, are just totally out of synch with the role they are fulfilling. Between October 2010 and September 2011 Premier League clubs paid £71.8 million to licenced agents. It is not good for the game or society or even the people they represent. 

4) Have you been able to work out why the Venkys bought Blackburn Rovers?

Mrs Desai, the Venkys driving force at Rovers, said the purchase was to gain recognition for the Indian brand in different international markets. That has worked and Venkys are now a household name. I doubt there are many Rovers fans eating chicken lollipops but I am sure there are fans of other clubs who do so.

5) What makes you believe football is a closed shop?

Football will always be great but if you want to challenge those in positions of power then don't expect a long list of people rushing to speak to you. Look at the difficulty Clarke Carlisle had when he made the recent BBC documentary "Is Football Racist?"  Carlisle is the Professional Footballers Chairman, a BBC pundit and a former Premier League player. Yet he really struggled to get people in the football world to speak publicly about the problem. I found the same thing with Rovers and no one involved with the club would answer my legitimate questions. It has been the same for the various Rovers fans groups who have emerged in the last 18 months.

6) Was the media’s portrayal of Steve Kean as a dignified man warranted? 

Anyone can be over-promoted. Anyone can lose football games. The driving ban, where his claim about having his drink spiked was unceremoniously rejected by the judge, left a bad taste and I remain totally unconvinced that he needed 24-hour bodyguard protection. He also constantly attempted to put out media messages that were clearly at odds with reality and in the end he made it really difficult for Rovers fans to do anything but dislike him.

7) Were the media accurate in reporting Rovers fans protests as foolish and violent?

The protests were justified, necessary and peaceful. It was never the organised campaign of hatred and vitriol that was reported.  It was proper football fans exasperated with the direction our club was heading. 100% of Rovers fans disliked Kean. 100% - think for a moment what that means. All the information is out there and I would urge people to read the facts and then try to tell me the protests were not justified.

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