By Tony Garner
An Indian businessmen has given assurances to fans of English Premiership football club Blackburn Rovers that he will put their interests first in his dispute with Venky’s, the Indian poultry conglomerate whose £46m takeover of Blackburn is expected to go through this month.
Saurin Shah claimed that Venky’s had promised him that they would mount the takeover bid as a joint venture, but had broken their word when they decided to go ahead alone.
Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Niranjan Shah, Saurin Shah’s uncle and the head of his consortium, said: “Blackburn needed proper money and we thought we could achieve that with Venky’s. We then read in the newspapers that Venky’s has made a deal… We don’t want to fight. Our concern is Blackburn.”
Blackburn enjoyed a reputation as the richest club in the land in the 1990’s, when local fan and steel baron Jack Walker ploughed his £300m fortune into acquiring the talent that won them their first league title for eighty three years. But football economics has since mushroomed, and the £7m transfer warchest Venky’s have suggested would be made available in January represents a paltry sum.
It was only three months ago that Blackburn seemed set to be taken over by a different Indian investor, Ahsan Ali Syed, who claimed he would make transfer funds of £100m available. Syed’s interest ended when a BBC investigation revealed that he had failed to pay rent debts from his flat in the UK.
The Venky’s investors have been eager to convince fans of Blackburn that they are serious about improving the fortunes of the team. Events at Liverpool and Manchester United have made fans wary of the foreign investor who views a football club as a source of liquid assets, very useful for servicing other debts.
“We believe we have many shared values and ambitions,” said Venky’s chairman, Anuradha J Desai, of his feeling for Blackburn Rovers.
Many of the regulars at the team’s Ewood Park stadium can trace family origins to the subcontinent, though no Indian player has ever taken to the field for a Premiership team.
As one Indian player on the less illustrious arena of Edinburgh’s meadow’s told Napier News, “cricket is still very much the thing.”