Bios

 Meet the Committee

WAYNE WILD – Chairman

I have been a committed supporter of BRFC for as long as I can remember. I guess I was about 8 when my dad took me to my first game and I was instantly hooked. We couldn't afford to go to many games so I would always listen to every game on the radio and try to grab any bits and pieces on tv. I was a 'pie seller' around the ground when I was 14 which meant I could watch the games and get paid!

I have been extremely lucky to be present at all the major games in our recent history. I was there at the Full Members Cup final, when we won promotion to the Premiership via Wembley including both semi-finals against Derby, winning the the Worthington Cup Final, and I was also at Anfield to see us famously finally win the Premiership.

Both my sons are BRFC fans. Luke, now 19, was a mascot at Aston Villa in 1994 and my youngest son, Maxxie, was mascot against Burnley in our famous 3-2 win in 2009.

My first corporate game was our 1-1 draw with Man Utd at Old Trafford in the first premiership season and my last visit to Old Trafford was to see us famously win 3-2 where I even had £20 on The Yak to score first. Through the rise in my career I was extremely proud as Group Director to champion our company, WEC Group, as Main Stand Sponsor of The Darwen End. Whilst the first couple of years were extremely proud and enjoyable times the last couple of years have been very difficult. I was asked many times to raise questions of the owners and offer to help bridge the gap. From my first offer I received contact from fans around the world with offers of help and eventually BRSIT was born in which a plan for the fans to own a share in the club was the core ideal.

Following a merger with BRST we now have Rovers Trust as the main organisational structure. I am very proud of all the voluntary work the entire steering committee do ultimately for the benefit of the community and supporters.

OLIVER JONES – Vice Chairman

Why I joined the Trust?

Because I believe there has to be an alternative. There HAS to be another way. If things don't change in football then everything that is good and laudable in the game will be gone for ever. The only way I can think of to stop this happening is to get of my arse and try and do something about it myself.

My professional qualifications relevant to the Trust are zero. But I will do my best to make a difference.

The Trust is the best way I know how to do that.

DAN GRABKO – Finance Officer

I am an American expatriate living and working in Sweden (Gothenburg)

I am 36 years old and have been a Blackburn Rovers supporter since I was nine, starting to follow the Club after discovering them on a late night English Football Highlight Show centered on the play-off matches to the old First Division. I fell in love with the team wearing the baby blue and white halves, and had to know more about them.  However, only way to follow the team then was through newsgroups and such on a fledgling Internet in the very late eighties/early nineties.

I have since been to Ewood Park on numerous occasions, the first time making the trip as a 17 year-old all alone in 1997, as well as going to away matches at Goodison and Elland Road that year, meeting great people and receiving unbelievable selfless hospitality. I had the honour of being given a tour of Ewood Park by the great Ronnie Clayton and have been a member of the BRFC mailing list almost since its inception in the mid-nineties.

Watching the club’s fall from grace has been extremely painful, and in January 2012, after enduring the infamous Jerome Anderson “dark forces” Sky interview, I decided to do something about it, and formulated the business proposal that has become the basis for what is today the Rovers Trust community ownership initiative, to buy back the club in whole or in part.

I have an education from a private Catholic university in Minneapolis MN, USA called The University of Saint Thomas Aquinas. I graduated cum laude in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science degree in financial accounting and business administration as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in the German language.

After graduation, I worked for 4 years as a Financial Statement Auditor (Firms include Larson Allen LLP and Moss Adams LLP) before taking a Senior Government Grant Compliance Officer position for a large not-for-profit organization called Father Joe's in San Diego, California in 2008. I met my Swedish Wife while she was on vacation in San Diego, and ended up following my heart to Sweden in 2009. After working 4 years as Finance Director for Jobtip Technologies Europe AB, I am currently the Founder and Managing Director of the Grabko Group AB, a Business Management, Finance, and Accounting Consultancy Firm based in Gothenburg Sweden. I also serve on the Board of Directors of several companies in Sweden. My wife Sara and I have a 4 year old son and a 6 year old daughter.

Neil Thornton - Media & Communications

1989 was a significant year in my football education. Crystal Palace in June was the day my football heart got broken for the first time. I went to Selhurst Park even though I didn't have a ticket and 'watched' the game through the gaps in the exit railings. I was completely convinced our 3-1 home win (thanks, Simon, for that late goal) would be plenty enough to see us through. I mean, completely, 100% cast iron convinced....

But, almost as important was another away trip a few weeks before the play off final. This was London to Tirana by coach (63 bloody hours! Almost as long as the coach trip to bloody Trelleborgs. I can pick 'em....) to bring fraternal greetings to our Albanian comrades on the occasion of the first football match to be played between England and Albania. Organised as a bit of a lark by the fanzine When Saturday Comes, it nonetheless showed that football, politics, decency and social awareness were not mutually exclusive.

Football as a force for good, for community and bringing people together. And for sticking two fingers up at the football authorities. For just knowing football could be supported differently, in a good way (this was also the year of Hillsborough, remember).

Money played no part in Rovers' three consecutive play-offs in the 1980s. Committed players, now fans like us, such as Simon Garner and Glenn Keeley did. Who also took us to our first cup final at Wembley since 1960, the Full Members Cup Final.

Now, Jack Walker changed things a bit and I loved every minute of that magic carpet ride, wouldn't have missed it for the world. But, I'd be just as happy to go back to seeing Blackburn Rovers skint and proud. Honest and rooted in the community. And if there's a few thousand less on Ewood than in the 1990s well that's OK, we'll just sing a bit louder.

I'm proud to be a part of a supporter led movement that wants to change Blackburn Rovers for the better.

No-one involved in the Rovers Trust has any motive other than to do what's right for our club and our town. It beats all the negativity surrounding Rovers since the Walker Trust sold us out. It makes me proud to be a Rover and reminds me, like Crystal Palace, that when things are as low as they can possibly be, there's always another season. And in 1990 Uncle Jack took over the club (presumably as frustrated as I was by the Palace débâcle) and we know how that turned out.

I’m proud the Rovers Trust has the support of legends like Garner and Keeley who also believe in a future where fans should have a say in the running of their club.

One of my roles in the Rovers Trust is to communicate our aims and ambitions to Rovers fans and let a little positivity lighten the current Palace-like gloom.

I believe we can succeed.

 Anthony Corry – Secretary

24th October 1987 Blackburn Rovers v Plymouth Argyle, Ewood Park K.O 3pm.

This was the date I would become a Rover for life. In typical Blue & White fashion we played poorly on that particular day in front of a crowd of around 9000 fans. We were 1-0 down for the majority of the game when we decided to leave the Blackburn End in the 89th  minute.  Suddenly a huge roar blasted from the stand followed by fans running back up the steps to see what had happened. Now there was no big screen back then but sure enough the ref had given a penalty in our favour and the responsibility was that of Scott Sellars to convert. Cool as you like he slotted the ball home and the best part of 9000 people sauntered along Bolton Road with a smile on their faces.  My heart was now filled with blue & white blood.

For me your club becomes part of your family, you will never turn your back on it despite bad results, managers or even owners. You will be with your club through the good and bad regardless of which Division they play in.

This is the main reason behind being part of the Rovers Trust. If a financial disaster happened to our beloved club there is an infrastructure in place to prevent the catastrophic scenario which is no Blackburn Rovers FC.

The Rovers Trust is committed and dedicated to ensure our Blackburn Rovers F.C will exist for generations to come.

MARK ASHWORTH – Social Media Officer

The reasons why? Only one reason: I was born a Rover, and it will take the death of either myself or Blackburn Rovers for that to come to an end.

I was born in 1986 in Blackburn to a Rovers supporting family, all of which, myself included, have worked and lived most of their lives in the Blackburn with Darwen area.

At around four, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to kick a ball around the old Ewood Park turf, sit in the directors’ chairs, frolic in the dug-out and enter through the players’ tunnel. My father was good friends with someone who worked down there, and I'll always treasure the photos of it, even if I can't remember it.

Shortly after, my parents would divorce. My Dad offered no financial support to the raising of me and my brother, so going to games was financially impossible, as was paying for Sky to watch them. Still, BRFC was etched into my heart and my brain, while my blood bled blue and white. God bless 1404am!

My first proper game inside Ewood Park (we did see the legends and the Premiership Winning XI face off at Ewood on the night of the title parade in 1995) was in 1998; a 2-1 win against Barnsley. Martin Dahlin and Kevin Gallacher were the scorers that day. I remember a promising Damien Duff coming on to replace Stuart Ripley, while Alan Fettis came on midway through the second half for Tim Flowers - something my Step-Dad wasn't too impressed about. I'd soon learn why.

I've revelled in the highs, and cried at the lows of following my home-town team, but under the guidance of 'Uncle' Jack, John Williams et al, remained 100% confident that we would be back in the big time, battling with some of the best teams in the world in the best league in the world.

I jumped through hoops with some of my fellow Rovers Trust colleagues to set up BRST under the guidance of Supporters Direct BEFORE Venky's took over at Blackburn Rovers because supporter ownership, part or otherwise, and fan representation at board level is very important to me and should be mandatory for British footballing institutions, even at a previously impeccably-ran club such as ours. With an uninterested set of Trustees, there was no telling what would happen as they sought the sale of the club.

Had this idea been put in place sooner, the past 2 years wouldn't have happened. But on the flip-side of that coin, a Supporters' Trust for BRFC wouldn't have been necessary back then, due to the club's efficiency on and off the field.

I applaud Supporters Direct in all their efforts to highlight the benefits of a supporter-based ownership model, along with all the 140-plus Supporters' Trusts up and down the UK doing what is right for the love of their football club.

I've never looked back from helping to set up BRST, was hugely in favour of merging with BRSIT, and I'm constantly looking forward to what we can achieve collectively as the Rovers Trust. I have met some fantastic people who share the same passion for BRFC as I do, and I'm proud to be a part of this professional, cohesive unit.

Football is a staple of British culture, dogged by money-hungry players and agents, while rich owners sit there and play with it like it is some sort of toy. Your average fan, the local community and the local economy suffers when these three are given as much freedom as they have been at clubs like ours. Your club’s Supporters' Trust is there to ensure that you have a voice.

Stuart Grimshaw - IT Officer

I've been a Rovers fan ever since the early eighties when I used to go and watch with my Dad, he used to push me & my brother through the turnstiles after paying for just 1 of us, luckily the new turnstiles don't let you do that any more.

My earliest memory of a Rovers match is against Burnley when I will have been about 8, we have friends who are Burnley fans and we used to sit together home and away each season. One particular game their son, a similar age to me tried to hang a Burnley flag over the side of the Riverside's upper tier until a few of the other fans, in good humour, suggested he didn't.

In terms of what I bring to the Trust, I have almost 20 years experience in various IT disciplines, I was an employee at the local council for a while looking after their library & leisure centre IT, and I've worked for small & large businesses writing websites that serve hundreds of thousands of customers a day. The Trust's infrastructure is more than just the website that you see and it's my job to make sure it all works when you need it.

Rovers Trust would like to thank the following people for their work with the Trust in the past, they may no longer be involved day to day but their help has been invaluable making the Trust what it is today.

 

SIMON BARNES – Secretary 2012-2015

I first moved to Blackburn in '84 and although I visited Ewood Park occasionally during the Jack Walker years, I was bought up a Palace fan (I have never made a secret of that fact!) but both my sons where bought up as Rovers fans (support your local team!). However almost 20 years and a divorce later saw me buying Season Tickets for the 3 of us in the Riverside Stand, after a season watching Rovers made me fall back in love with following football (I can't be accused of being a glory hunter!). A move to the Blackburn End and travelling to away games with Ewood Blues has cemented my love for this club and its fans. It is not easy to follow Rovers and given my background, I have always felt that I needed to demonstrate my commitment more than most fans. I started to attend the Fans Forum pre-meets when I found out how much good work they have done over the years.

I was early to sign up to the Investment Trust and therefore I was particularly interested when the merger with the Supporter Trust was announced. When I saw who was representing the new Rovers Trust, I felt that this was a team providing a good mix of level-headed Rovers Fans who could show professionalism and integrity. Chance had it that the position of Secretary was announced and I jumped at the opportunity. I felt it was time that I gave something back to the club, the fans and the town who, despite my past allegiance, have mostly welcomed me with open arms and a pint!

In the role of Secretary, I plan to use the skills of Facilitation and Compliance Monitoring that I have learnt in my professional life, combined with Integrity to ensure that we can achieve the aim of bringing Community Ownership to Blackburn Rovers, as well as being able to give something back to the town that I am proud to call home.

The best part of following Rovers has been the opportunities to travel abroad, with trips to Austria, Holland, Ireland and even Hong Kong being some of the memories I'll never forget. Of course Pedersen scoring twice at Old Trafford, that roller coaster semi final against Villa and the infamous called off match at Fulham, which ended up as drinks with Simon Garner in the "8 Bells" on Fulham High Street, are up there too! The matches I look forward to most are those dodgy FA cup ties away to somewhere like Blythe. But never forgetting of course, a visit to that dilapidated shed just up t'road, where  we always show that we are the Pride of Lancashire!

I don't plan to give up travelling away with Ewood Blues, they are great bunch of people but in the RT I have found a set of people with the same drive, enthusiastic professionalism and integrity that makes me believe that the Rovers Trust will one day achieve success.

Paul Brooking - SD Liaison 2012-2015

I was 28 years old before I had a football team to support.

A long time if you love football. Lucky kids are born to support a team, those who are luckier one day you find it, quite by chance.

May 1965, FA Cup Final.  Liverpool 2 Leeds United 1, my best friend was from Leeds. I had an interest in this game, the first game I remember, I was nearly 10.  July 1966 and I still see my family clustered around the telly in the sitting room, even my mother who did not like sport. Geoff Hurst played in grey. I must have seen other World Cup games but I don’t remember; my father made sure I had a collection of Esso coins, I still have the First Day Cover England Winners  envelope and stamps he got me.

August 1966 grandfather, uncle, me and the biggest bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk a twelve year old had ever seen set off for The Dell. This treat was for me, Southampton v Newcastle. I suspect Grandpa had a good day. He had worked for GNER and GWR and supported Newcastle United and Exeter City because they both played at St James’s Park and were the last stops on his line. We stood by a white-washed wall and Terry Paine ran out on my right, we were next to the tunnel.

Home was in the sticks,  Aldershot Town (the old one) was an hour away, the nearest league club, football was Match of the Day, Sports Report and the newspaper from which I clipped many things. By now Charles Bucanan’s Football Monthly was part of life, it became very important around this time; pretty much the only place to get full size colours pictures for the bedroom wall.

Sometime in the late 60s my aunt moved to West Kirby. We spent two weeks there one August. This was the chance, I had read about Liverpool, seen them on telly, heard the Kop sing on the radio. On the Saturday I announced I was going to Anfield, my uncle dropped me at West Kirby station – to this day I don’t think the family had any concept of what I was doing. I spotted two older lads with red and white scarves and asked if they could tell me how to get to the game. One asked if I was on my own? How was I going to get there from Lime Street? Walk I replied. On your own up Scotland Road? You’d better come with us. Liverpool played City that day and Chelsea the following Wednesday; I saw Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Peter Thompson and a host of others. I stood on the Kop saw, smelt, heard things completely new to me, kids fainted and were passed overhead to the front.

Now I was travelling up to London from around 13 years old to watch first Division football, any good game, especially Liverpool, this was their time, a fantastic team to watch. Most Saturdays though found me at Joseph’s Road watching Guildford City in the Southern League, the local derby was a certain Wimbledon FC. Peter Vasper was sold to Norwich City.

September 1970 Aldershot Town 1 Manchester United 3. Best, Kidd, Law scored, Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles played. I sat on the touchline, Mr Macdonald had got me a ticket. How, I don’t know.

1973 Spurs  v Liverpool UEFA Cup semi-final 2-2 aggregate. My last game for seven years. The violence was horrific, I asked a policeman for a safe way out, there isn’t one was his reply. After the game I saw two lads laying in a shop front covered in blood, one with a knife in his thigh. I stopped going to football, apart for the occasional visit to Bootham Crescent when I lived in York.

1980 saw us pitch up in Birmingham and my great friend was a Villa fan. Saturday afternoons suddenly had football again as I joined him on The Holte, God that was steep. Villa won the league that season, there must have been 50,000 outside trying to get in the night of the Ipswich game.  Fantastic days. The next season saw Villa win the Champions League, great times to live in Birmingham and watch football.

Lancashire, 1982, living 6 miles from Ewood.  I vaguely knew of Keith Newton, it was sunny day and I decided to go to the football. Blackburn Rovers were at home, I don’t remember the game, I stood on Nuttall Street Enclosure. This Garner bloke was popular. The man beside me spoke, we talked football. This was novel, it’s what I loved about Lancashire when we arrived, complete strangers spoke to you. Lovely, warm people.

That day I found my football team, it felt right, comfortable. Since then I have missed five home games. It could have been many teams, no one raised me to support a team but eventually I found the Rovers.

I was even luckier..............

Brian Lamb -Corporate Officer 2012-2015

I started visiting Ewood with my school friends in 1967.

After leaving school I spent almost 40 years travelling the world helping to build our family company, Blackburn Chemicals, into the global leader it is today.

The fact is, for the last 20 years our town of Blackburn has been known and respected for having a top flight well run football club. On one trip in the early 90s I landed in Singapore and the passport office looked at my documents and told me that we had just beaten Arsenal, he didn’t bother asking why I wanted to visit Singapore just wished us luck against United. My next stop was Melbourne and the reception was the same, I went to China and was shocked to see a little boy wearing a Rovers shirt! For two decades people have been interested in how our team was doing; and it made my business sales a lot easier. Now our customers are confused about the Rovers and feel sorry for the fans.

The connection with Blackburn Rovers has helped so many local companies that the whole community has a great debt to Jack Walker. Blackburn Chemicals have had a table and corporate tickets since the Jack Walker stand was built, We have proudly entertained customers from Darwen to Shanghai in the Premier Suite, but sadly no more.

To see the way the club has been ruined makes me feel sick. I am so angry that what I felt was “my club”, along with thousands of other who felt exactly the same, has been taken away from me.

I became involved in the Rovers Trust simply because I cannot sit back and watch everything that honest folk have worked so hard for be torn apart by outsiders who know nothing about us and our traditions. I believe that the only way to return to the proud feeling I once had when visiting Ewood is to have a say in the way the club in run from now on.

Duncan Miller - Membership Officer 2012-2013

I first made contact with Supporters Direct in 2010 to explore the idea of an organisation to bring together Blackburn Rovers fans, and to ensure our interests would always be considered. The Trust is not a reaction to Venky's, but was in part bourne out of concern at the way the wider game was moving.

The only constant at any club is its supporters. For too long, supporters have been let down by footballs administrators, decision makers, and owners with no emotional attachment to the institutions they have been entrusted with. Without supporters, there would be absolutely no point in professional football, so it seems obvious to me supporters ought to have a say in how the game, and the clubs we love are run.

Of course, supporters all have different opinions, and that is the way things should be. One thing we all have in common though, is we want what is best for OUR club.


JEN BELLAMY – Marketing Officer 2012-2013

When I was about five years old Pa gave me three choices – this was about which football team I would choose to support: I could pick where we were - the town we lived in when I was born, my Mum’s team or Pa’s team. So the choices I had were Morecambe, Blackpool (as that’s where Mum grew up) or Blackburn (Pa was born and lived in Mellor until he met and married Mum). I was then and still am a Daddy’s girl, so it was inevitable I would pick the team that meant the most to Pa, so from that day forth I was a Blackburn supporter.

We moved around a bit because of Pa’s job, so when I proudly wore Pa’s old membership badge when we lived in Keynsham near Bristol, I was often accused of supporting Bristol Rovers and when I replied ‘No Blackburn’ their response more often or not was ‘who?’. Pa’s job came up trumps though and our move back to Lancashire coincided with start of Jack Walker’s time of influence with the club. The thing I was most excited about when we found we were moving back to Lancashire as well as being closer to family is that Pa would be able to take me to see Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park!

Within all the excitement of moving back to Lancashire nobody bothered to inform me about the rivalry between Blackburn and the Dingles and the fact that going to school in Nelson would mean I was surrounded by Burnley supporters, but I still wore Pa’s membership badge on my school tie with pride and was the only one the supported the lads who wore the blue and white halves in the whole school.

After high school I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend Westholme for sixth form, so for the first time ever I went to school with people who supported the same football club as me! The time at Westholme also facilitated me working with the club. I was the Marketing Manager of the Young Enterprise Company for our year and one of the things arranged was an interview about the company and our t-shirts on the brand new club radio station, Radio Rovers. We all went for the interview, but I never left the studio to take up my seat in the ground, instead I helped and watched from the Radio Rovers studio in the Darwen End. I was asked to come back and help at the next match and became the Radio Rovers Gopher from that point on until I left to go to university. I was lucky enough to be working at Radio Rovers the year we won the Premiership and remember quite clearly standing in the studio looking out at the pitch watching each of the players lift the Premiership trophy at the party after we’d won at Liverpool with tears of joy streaming down my face! I cried again when I watched the lads lift the Worthington Cup from the gods of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Over the last couple of years it feels like the heart’s been ripped out of the football club I have always held dear to my heart.

The final straw for me (although disillusioned before) was when Paul Hunt was sacked. I’d worked with Paul when he’d looked after the Commercial side of things at Wigan Athletic so knew he was one of the good guys, one of the ones that understood and one of the ones that would have always tried to instigate initiatives that were in the best interest of the club and the fans. When he went I contacted Wayne Wild who was then chairman of BRSIT and explained I was a marketeer who had experience of working with football clubs having managed the marketing for netflights.com when they were the Principal Sponsor of Leeds United and Official Travel Partners of Wigan Athletic, which in time led to where we are now and my role as Marketing Officer for the Rovers Trust.

I believe that the Rovers Trust is the way in which we can put the heart back into our football club and for those who are unhappy with the way things have been going and are going at Blackburn, it’s possibly the only positive and proactive thing we fans can we do.

Being a Blackburn Rovers fan is part of who I am and if in any small way I can help that club to become better and to involve the fans more, then I will. My involvement with and membership of the Rovers Trust is how I believe this can be done.

JOHN WAREING – Electoral Committee Officer 2012-2014

I was born on a farm in west Lancashire, some 25 miles from Ewood, but my mum was from Bamber Bridge and her family were Rovers fans (right side of the level crossing). My grandad used to tell me that in the 30s he had hardly any money so couldn't afford both the bus fare and a ticket for the game so he would walk to Ewood. My dad loved playing football and was good enough to turn down offers to sign for Liverpool in his youth but never had either the time or the inclination to watch games.

My first recollection was stopping moving house in May 1960 to watch the Cup final. Not long after my uncle took me to my first game, which in those days involved me staying overnight at their house. My memory says we beat Sheffield united 3-1 but that game doesn't exist so I got either the team or the score wrong. Either way I was hooked and as soon as I could get to Ewood under my own steam I started going regularly, even though it involved a two mile bike ride and two trains each way. I was there with a 42,000+ crowd when we played Man City in the cup in 1969. But mostly my start as a regular supporter coincided with Rovers gradual decline into the old Third Division. Apart from a few years in the early 70s when I was at university I have been a season ticket holder ever since.

When I took early retirement a few years ago I had some time to get more involved and offered to help the flagging BRISA. It proved a lost cause but Paul and I did approach the club and offer to help the Fans Forum get back on track after a lean period. I joined as secretary in January 2007 and am still there.

In October 2011 I was one of the infamous "Pune 9" who went out to meet the owners with the Rovers team and we met both Balaji and Venkatash Rao but a thunderstorm meant that we did not meet Mrs Desai.

Last spring I was asked to help the Supporters Trust launch and just before we finalised our launch plans the Investment Trust came along with an idea to merge. This seemed a perfect marriage - the Supporters Trust had done a lot of work in getting a proper structure and Supporters Direct approval and the Investment Trust had successfully launched their pledges to raise money.