Minority shareholders of Blackburn Rovers – which includes the Rovers Trust – attended a meeting with the club’s directors this week for a 90 minute Q&A with the board and manager.
Around 40 minority shareholders, there are 340 or so in total, attended the meeting at Ewood Park at the invitation of the club’s directors.
There was no-one from the Rao family, which owns 99.9% of shares, present and so it was mainly Lancashire-based Rovers fans who have retained their small holdings in the club.
However, it was the direction of the Venky’s ownership going forward that was the theme of the night; it would have made for a much more meaningful evening if any of the owners or their representatives had attended, because, sadly, the Rao family’s intentions are something neither non executive director Robert Coar, who chaired the meeting, secretary Ian Silvester or director Mike Cheston could shed much light on.
New manager Owen Coyle took questions from the floor for 30 minutes or so ranging from his satisfaction with the current squad to his reluctance to seeing Grant Hanley leave.
This last point drew questions about whether the Hanley transfer fee would be given to Coyle to reinvest in new players, but no assurances from the executive board were given that any funds would be made available to the manager.
Mike Cheston did volunteer his personal target for the coming season, which is to finish higher than last season’s 15th and somewhere around the play-offs.
There was some discussion about whether the Rao family would be willing to sell the club, but the directors admitted they could provide no insight into the future intentions of the club’s owners.
Points were made by several shareholders about the downward spiral the club has been in for five years and what the owners will do about it.
Rovers Trust chairman Wayne Wild put across the Trust’s belief to the directors that the owners must engage positively with the fans for any meaningful progress to be made to halt free-falling attendances and bring back disaffected supporters.
In May, an exclusive Rovers Trust survey revealed 40% of season ticket holders said they were not intending to renew for 2016-17. So far, according to Cheston, the club has sold 7,500 season tickets – a 25% decrease on total sales last year (which included half season tickets).
Wild reiterated the point that the need to be Financial Fair Play (FFP) compliant and falling income streams at the club meant urgent positive action from the owners, who can’t invest in the team even if they wanted to, was ever more critical to the future of Blackburn Rovers.
Mike Cheston said he would continue to try to get the owners, through their latest intermediary, Suhail Pasha, to understand the need for them to engage with supporters.
But, as Wild pointed out, this has been a running failure by the club since Venky’s took over and there is no evidence the owners have learnt anything from five years of catastrophic and wrong decision-making.
Rovers Trust, the official Blackburn Rovers supporters group, remains committed to work with the owners and the management team at Ewood Park to help bring back better days for Blackburn Rovers from a commercial and fan perspective.
However, the only way this will happen is if the Venky’s begin honest and meaningful dialogue with the supporters to bring about a real change in the way the club is owned and run.
Rovers Trust would like to thank, once again, loyal supporter Stephen Halstead who donated part of his family’s shareholding in Blackburn Rovers to the Trust to enable it to attend these meetings and question the running of the club in an official capacity.