Black­burn un­der fire

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: Lo­cal politi­cians, for­mer play­ers and fans con­demned the own­ers of Black­burn Rovers on Mon­day, af­ter one of Eng­land’s best-known clubs be­came the first for­mer Pre­mier League cham­pi­ons to be rel­e­gated to the third tier.

Rovers’ fate was sealed on Sun­day when Tony Mow­bray’s side fin­ished just be­low for­mer dou­ble Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Not­ting­ham For­est in 22nd place in the Cham­pi­onship.

It marked an­other low for Venky’s, Rovers’ own­ers, a com­pany run by the Rao fam­ily from In­dia. In less than seven years, the club have seen two rel­e­ga­tions and 10 man­agers.

Twenty-two years af­ter win­ning the Pre­mier League ti­tle, Rovers are deep in cri­sis, with direc­tor of foot­ball and oper­a­tions Paul Se­nior re­sign­ing on Mon­day.

“For the club to drop into League One will knock Black­burn and East Lancashire off the map,” said Gra­ham Jones, the Labour MP for Hyn­d­burn, which ad­joins Black­burn, who will stand again in the British gen­eral elec­tion next month.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant the own­ers recog­nise the dam­age that’s been done not just to the foot­ball team but to the area,” he told the Lancashire Tele­graph.

“They promised to sign (for­mer Brazil forward) Ronald­inho and make Rovers a top four club in the Pre­mier League.

“At the mo­ment they’ll be lucky to make Black­burn a top four club in League One.”

Black­burn’s Labour MP Kate Hollern, who is also stand­ing for re-elec­tion next month, said: “Venky’s need to en­gage with the fans and share their plans for the fu­ture.

“If they’re not in­ter­ested, they need to move on. There has al­ready been far too much dam­age to what should be a com­mu­nity as­set.”

Rovers’ fans have staged protests against the own­ers all sea­son. Hun­dreds stayed be­hind to chant anti-Venky’s chants af­ter Sun­day’s 3-1 vic­tory at Brent­ford.

“We are in a spi­ral of decline with own­ers who seem to have lost in­ter­est with their toy. The whole thing is a sham­bles,” said John Mur­ray, chair­man of the Black­burn Rovers Sup­port­ers’ Trust.

None of the Rao fam­ily, whose base is in Pune, In­dia, at­tended Sun­day’s game. Reuters

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