Albeit Ambitious New Signings, Blackburn Rovers Remain in Deep Trouble
I don’t pretend to know all the ins-and-outs about the ongoing soap opera that is playing itself out at Ewood Park but I do know this: For any fan to take the bold decision to stop following their team, that is one big decision that will not have been taken lightly.
That hasn’t been much to cheer about for Blackburn Rovers fans for some time now. I think many will be comfortable with that. They will recall their third division days as well as their single Premier League success under those few heady days flushed with Jack Walker’s cash.
But nothing lasts forever. Blackburn’s title success came before the Premier League became the massive global brand it is now, so there was little impact to their support. Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton did not encourage kids in Singapore or Bangkok to rush out and buy those famous blue-and-white shirts. The title came five years too early!
Many Rovers fans will recall the days of lower league football. The name Simon Garner will probably mean as much to them as David Beckham does to 21st century Manchester United fans. They know football is not all about glory and they probably expect the odd, long, downturn more than another Premier League success.
Then came the chicken farmers. It doesn’t matter where the poultry peddlers came from, they started off with a massive PR blunder by saying they didn’t know anything about football and anyway they wanted to build their own brand.
As opening pitches to get fans and potential customers on your side it takes some beating.
From there on it gets murky. A manager is sacked, another brought in. An agent is operating behind the scenes, pulling strings and considered by many outside the club to be having an undue influence on the goings on. Communication from the club is perceived to be garbled at best, contradictory at worst.
Last season, Ewood Park echoed to the sound of ‘Kean Out.’ A plane flew overhead, trailing a banner saying ‘Kean Out.’ The team was relegated, the fans still chanted ‘Kean Out.’
Teams all over the place lose and fans turn on the manager. It’s part of the job and managers are thick-skinned enough not to let it worry them.
But these protests were not just about the manager and poor results. They are about foreign ownership in general. The way in which the Football Association allows itself to roll over and have its tummy tickled anytime some rich foreigner comes over with a thick wad of cash. Money is everything. Motives and experience don’t count.
At a time when football clubs are in the news for financial mismanagement (read: Portsmouth and Rangers), Blackburn are just being mismanaged. And no one is lifting a finger.
Manchester United are up to their eyeballs in debt and have taken a massive gamble on Robin van Persie. Arsenal rely on player sales to supplement TV and gate revenues.
Manchester City and Chelsea have their own private sugar daddy to push the prices up so only they can compete and anyone else who tries will surely bust. Cardiff City fans have had to see their club badge and club colors change to sate the whims of their investors whose target audience is far from the valleys of South Wales.
None of this seems to matter to the FA. With their head in the sand, who point to continued worldwide interest in the Premier League and say what problems?
During the summer, the fans continued with their theme: Kean Out. A global advisor was bought in and he just added to the confusion.
Against this backdrop, many fans decided to take the most extreme course of action available to them. Withhold their cash. A footballing seppuku. Stay away from games. Don’t buy merchandise. Hit the chicken farmers where it hurts the most.
Season ticket sales are half what they were last season and they in turn were down on previous seasons. Attendances in the early days of the new season have hovered around the 13,500 mark. A whopping 9,000 down on last season when they got relegated.
The club also have no sponsorship deals in place. They have no one on their club shirt, which may be no bad thing anyway, say traditionalists. And recently a stand sponsor refused to extend their deal.
The club is a mess. This is not just about money. The new owners have splashed some cash and the signing of Scottish striker Jordan Rhodes shows some ambition.
But the fans are not buying. They remain adamant they will not return to the club until Steve Kean and the owners have gone.