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Rovers Trust

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Conference (2/9)



  1. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1035900/v6_Football_Fan_led_Governance_Review_WebAccessible.pdf The Rovers Trust fully endorses the recommendations put forward by the fan-led review of football governance being led by Tracey Crouch MP. Many of these proposals chime with those put forward in the Rovers Trust’s own evidence submission in June. The Championship financial model is broken and the vibrancy of the football pyramid must be maintained. The financial redistribution proposals, when tied in with an effective regulatory regime and more sensible profit and sustainability accounting rules for EFL clubs, should help to remove some of the current distortion. We look forward to working towards implementing the recommendations of this final report of the fan-led review.
  2. Just a quick update: Covid dominated our lives and many of our projects were sidelined and put on hold, even some real basics. There is a backlog of new registrations to work through, which I will be doing between now and Christmas. This will comprise a welcome email containing an additional confirmation (after the automatic process) of your membership, details of how to engage with our social media platforms, and a PDF of your Rovers Trust Membership certificate (we've gone paperless, so that we don't upset Sir David Attenborough too much). If you would like a physical copy, however, just reply to said welcome email and I will make a start on those in the New Year. We've also really got a proper handle on our social media platforms recently, as well as gradually updating the website to make it more user-friendly and make content clearer. In addition, having taken control of the Facebook Page it is far too basic and restrictive for our purposes. It will remain as a useful tool for public engagement, however, I will be looking to create a Facebook Group (with the same name) strictly for Rovers Trust Members for easier direct engagement with Trust projects. The Facebook Page and Twitter feed will remain Public.
  3. It’s been quite the week so far. While today sees the club celebrate another anniversary, we are less than 48 hours removed from the worst result ever witnessed at Ewood Park. Today’s comments from the manager only serve to highlight the disconnect between the supporters and those entrusted with the running of the club and their bosses. Every single Rovers fan is acutely aware that it is no longer 1995, and of the clubs current state and the wider financial landscape of football. But on a day where the club are actively encouraging us to celebrate our illustrious 146 year history, we are also being instructed to be happy with our lot, to curb our expectations, to accept mediocrity. Every Rovers fan wants to see us right the wrongs of the Fulham debacle this Saturday when Sheffield United visit Ewood. Unfortunately the clubs pricing initiative seems to have been met more enthusiastically by the away fans than those of the Rovers, as the steady erosion of the supporter base continues. The events of this week will not have done anything to halt this. Recent happenings have only heightened our concerns around the lack of transparency, slow decision making processes, and absence of any clear strategy or vision. We would once again call for the Rao family to respond to our concerns highlighted in our letter dated May 14th.
  4. Rovers Trust has submitted the below statement (drawn up wonderfully by Andy Young) to the Review of Football Ownership being conducted by Tracey Crouch MP, and her encouraging response is also detailed. What are your thoughts? BLACKBURN ROVERS TRUST: Submission to Fan-led review of football governance Prepared May/June 2021 OVERVIEW - Owners not been seen at Ewood Park for 7 years - Spring 2021 failed attempt to sell 50% of Training Ground - Annual Accounts 2019/20 not been filed - Open appeal to Owners to reveal plans –gone unanswered - After 10 years ownership the Desai Family still do not acknowledge they are running a highly-treasured Community Asset Blackburn is a town situated in East Lancashire with a population of around 118,000.(1) Crucially in terms of the club’s catchment area, the north west of England is also a hotbed of other professional football clubs with AFC Fylde, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Bury, Everton, Fleetwood Town, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Morecambe, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End, Rochdale and Wigan all encircling the town of Blackburn and within easy commutable distance on a match day. Blackburn Rovers Football Club was established in 1875, becoming a founding member of The Football League in 1888 and of the Premier League in 1992. The club has been English champions three times, most recently in 1995, and has won six FA Cups, one Football League Cup and one Full Members' Cup. The club has spent much of its existence in the top flight of English football but currently competes in the second tier, The Championship. The club is famous world-wide and our iconic blue and white halved shirts remain one of the few football kits that is immediately identifiable. The club’s motto is ‘arte et labore’ which is taken from the town motto and means ‘by skill and hard work’. These are the very values that most Rovers’ fans, the majority of whom have a local connection of some description, identify with and we take great pride in this most successful of town football clubs. The Rovers have played at Ewood Park since 1890, with the current capacity being a shade over 31,000. A newly constructed purpose-built stadium was funded by the club’s then-owner, Jack Walker, in the early to mid-1990s. This was in conjunction with a state-of-the-art training and academy facility in the Ribble Valley, and as is perhaps more widely known, a cash injection into the playing staff and management team to transform a lower table second tier side into Premier League champions within the space of four years. While we might understand why some fans of other clubs might take a ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’ attitude to a Blackburn Rovers supporter complaining about club ownership, we very firmly and clearly see the intervention of Jack Walker in purchasing the club in 1991 as quite distinct from many of the modern-day ownership situations. Jack was a born-and-bred local man and a life-long Blackburn Rovers supporter who chose to spend his nest egg to chase a dream. More importantly, he understood the club and the people as well as anybody. We certainly do not subscribe to the theory that Jack Walker was in any way responsible for creating the financial situation professional football now finds itself in. Indeed, Blackburn Rovers only spent what was required to transition from second division relegation candidates to the upper echelons of the top flight, and other clubs outspent the Rovers by some distance.(2) In the noughties when the Rovers was an established, well-run and relatively successful Premier League club, average attendances were between 22,000 and 26,000. Since our relegation to the Championship in 2012, this average attendance has halved. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the club was also relegated from the Premier League while Jack Walker still owned the club, and indeed were a second-tier club when he sadly passed away in 2000. However, home attendances remained at an average of around 20,000 during that period away from the top flight. For the decade after Mr Walker passed away, the club was owned and run by the Walker Trust before being sold to the Indian poultry company Venkys in 2010. What followed, and remains to this day, was a change in the dynamic of the club from being owned and run by people who understood the history of the club and the psyche of local people to distant, absentee owners who didn’t seem to understand either the game of football or the culture, economics and traits of East Lancashire. The Rovers Trust could easily submit the equivalent of War and Peace to this review in respect of the damage that a decade of absentee ownership and the subsequent disconnect with the fanbase has done to both our football club and the local business community. Within 5 years of take-over our then Managing Director was in Court being told by the presiding judge that he was incompetent and disobeyed Owners’ instructions –he stayed in post a further one year! We had gone from being a universally regarded well-run Club to having no Executives, no Board meetings and no Financial and Contractual Control. Whilst we think we have stabilised since then, our problems serve as a timely reminder and a prime example of how things can quickly go very badly wrong. With this in mind, the Rovers Trust was established in November 2012 with the objective of bringing Blackburn Rovers back to the community. While the Trust’s current overall aim is to support the Rovers returning to the Premier League by the 150th anniversary of the club in 2025 including holding part ownership in the club, to retain its relevance to both members of the Trust and also the wider Rovers fanbase the Trust has also developed four supporting aims; -Securing the assets and heritage of the club -Preserving the long-term health of the club -Regenerating support and encouraging the return of 'stay-away' supporters - Helping to mitigate a lost generation of supporters. The Rovers Trust is firmly in agreement with the Football Supporters’ Association’s (FSA) excellent 2018 proposals to improve the regulation of professional football clubs(3) as well as its Sustain the Game(4) initiative,which was also written before the recent European Super League shenanigans,the principles of which are; -Protect our clubs. Football clubs like Blackburn Rovers are community assets and an important expression of individual and local identity, they deserve legal protection and urgent support to secure their future; -Transparency. Every supporter has a right to know who owns their football club, and how clubs and the authorities operate. Owners are custodians of clubs on behalf of all supporters. This is something that the Desai Family have never got to grips with in over a decade of owning Blackburn Rovers; - Financial controls. Fans want rules with real teeth which are independently enforced, clubs and leagues can’t be left to regulate themselves; The Rovers Trust wishes to see an end to the self-governance of both the Premier League and the EFL, with an independently chaired sub-group of both to be established to oversee a robust fit and proper test for owners similar to those proposed by the FSA. - Strengthen the pyramid. Football as a whole is wealthy, but we need a smarter and fairer use of the money in the game to encourage sustainability; The Rovers Trust feels that this should include arbitration between the Professional Footballer’s Association and all UK professional football leagues on a wage cap, an agreement for 25% of Premier League TV income to be dispersed among the lower divisions, and an end to parachute payments. To use the Blackburn Rovers example, Championship clubs chasing the Premier League dream ticket have become totally unsustainable and this will eventually kill the lower leagues. The current set-up can only lead to those clubs in receipt of parachute payments dominating the promotion and play-off spots more and more each season if it is allowed to continue. Supporters of Championship clubs are fast waking up to the realities, unfairness and financial disparities of the current system and any clubs who ever make it to the Premier League without parachute money will probably need to risk financial ruin and/or rule breaking to achieve it. - Supporter engagement. Fans are the lifeblood of the game and they need a voice in their clubs on all issues that affect them and their communities. The Rovers Trust would favour a business plan prepared for all takeovers which would include a compulsory supporter buy-in of,say, a minimum of 20% of share value. Professional football clubs cannot be regarded as ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ businesses. They have a special status as community hubs, built upon the loyalty of fans over many generations and the important part football clubs like Blackburn Rovers play in the lives of ordinary people. Professional football clubs are arguably the greatest expressions of community identity in our nation, particularly in places like Blackburn. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, if you tell people you come from Blackburn, they will likely associate you with the Rovers. Recently, however, it seems that too many club owners have disregarded the over-riding welfare of the clubs themselves and their community significance, matters over which they, for the time being, have custody and treat their supporters’ interests as subordinate to their own commercial interests. The recent European Super League fiasco is ample evidence of this. However, there are examples much closer to home for a Blackburn Rovers supporter, and the chasm that exists between the club’s owners and its supporters is seriously threatening almost 150 years of mainly proud history. It is the Rovers Trust’s firm view that reform is needed to apply better protection to certain key aspects of football clubs, which owners should be obliged to cherish and sustain, in the long-term interests of the fans and the communities the clubs represent, and we fully endorse all that the FSA has to say on these matters. Blackburn Rovers Trust, 6th June 2021. John Murray (Chair); Andy Young (National Rep) on behalf of Rovers Trust members. 1 2011 Census https://www.ons.gov.uk/census/2011census 2 Perspective on 1994/5 premier league spending https://www.theguardian.com/football/when-saturday-comes-blog/2013/oct/23/blackburn-premier-league-title-earned-1995 3 https://thefsa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/FSA-Proposals-to-improve-football-regulation.pdf 4 https://thefsa.org.uk/our-work/sustainthegame/ Below follows Tracey Crouch MP's response. 'Previous exchange' refers to an enquiry made about a potential face-to-face or video conference meeting, which seems unlikely due to the time constraint in consulting with many dozens of Supporters Trusts. Apologies from me having formatting trouble, but I've made it as readable as possible. Tracey Crouch MP: Dear Andy Further to our previous exchange I have read your evidence and, as said previously, will ensure it is shared with the entire review panel and fed into our considerations when it comes to the drafting of the review's interim report. It is precisely this sort of well-informed and considered input from supporters that has helped shape the thinking of the review, and indeed given it its unique "fan-led" character. We are all very grateful for the time and effort that your Trust, along with all the other contributors, have invested, as volunteers, and that speaks very strongly about the commitment that fans have to the health of the game. Your explanation of the long history of Blackburn Rovers really underlined your points about the importance of the club to its community and its fanbase, and your description of the ups and downs in the club's fortunes in the course of those years, from the highs of the Jack Walker-inspired Premier League success (which I had to suffer as the friend of a mad Rovers fan!) to the more difficult challenges of recent seasons, provided an excellent illustration of some of the issues that we will be grappling with during our considerations. I note your support for the proposals put forward by the FSA in 2018, which of course retain their validity, and we have already been able to identify several areas of concern that seem to be shared across the supporters' movement at all levels of the game. Your point about football clubs not being "ordinary" businesses and having huge importance to their communities is very well made, and understood, I am sure, by all involved in this review process. We have limited time in the review to receive what could no doubt be an unlimited amount of heartfelt testimony, and so having looked at the diary I don’t think it will be possible to offer a personal meetings. You can rest assured however that with your submission you have succeeded in getting across the views of your members in a clear and meaningful way, and on behalf of the panel I would like to thank you once again for your support of the review process and your valuable input into it. Best wishes Tracey Tracey Crouch MP, Chatham & Aylesford Rovers Trust Submission to fan-led review of football governance.pdf
  5. In fairness, the Trust had a Zoom meeting with Steve Waggott which was fed back in the form of a newsletter several weeks ago. In the meeting itself (albeit not publicly) it got heated enough that Waggott knew exactly what we Trust board members all personally thought; that the Brockhall scheme had no basis and was complete rubbish. However, in between the meeting and the related newsletter, RB’s fantastic open letter said everything that we simply weren't allowed to without directly consulting over 2000 members and subscribers. We also engaged with Brockhall residents (at their request) to put them in touch with knowledgeable people to assist in pushing back against the plans. This was within a couple days of the story breaking on here and around a week before the zoom meeting. In truth, we have to operate publicly in a way that we know has the backing of the majority of our members, or else we couldn't claim to be representative. However, where members privately request our help, we do what we can (all completely voluntarily). We felt that the above was more useful to the cause as only the Brockhall residents could realistically challenge the plans. Given that wider public opinion was largely divided on this issue, we couldn't commit to outright criticism in public. This open letter came about because opposition to the ESL is unanimous, and therefore something we can confidently use (without consulting members) to try and open dialogue with the owners.
  6. An Open Letter to the Desai Family, Owners of Blackburn Rovers Football Club To: The Owners of Blackburn Rovers - 10th May 2021 This is an Open Letter from the Rovers Trust. The Trust is a transparent membership body with the sole aim of protecting the assets, heritage, and future of our Football Club. Firstly, can we express our concern, sympathy, and support for the ongoing COVID emergency in Maharashtra Province and the whole of India. Amidst the global pandemic, another less important, but serious sequence of events has taken place: The disruption to English football caused by the pandemic Poorly laid out plans to develop the Brockhall Training Centre, and then the arrogant intentions of PL Clubs to form a European Super League behind our backs and excluding BRFC for ever The last 10 years has seen a gradual but confusing decline in the fortunes of BRFC, despite large infusions of money from Venkys London Limited, mainly from the Desai family and VH Group. To get promoted back to the Premier League, successful Clubs are always well-run, professionally managed, and co-ordinated from top to bottom. Once again, this season has ended in disappointment with the team severely underachieving on the field. Since our relegation, we have never made the top 6, and on one embarrassing occasion were relegated to the third tier – a scenario that was unthinkable prior to your takeover. The confusing structure and convoluted decision-making process that appears to be in place continues to be a cause for concern and frustration. In the last decade, we have seen: A lack of transparency and an apparent lack of Lancashire-based board meetings No clear strategy with a number of bewildering decisions No attendance at Ewood Park by the owners in 6 years Slowness of decision-making, indicative of weak communication, and unclear financial management responsibilities. The Football Industry is unlike any other sector in the British economy, or the Hospitality/Entertainment Sector. The Rovers Trust is a body of largely professional supporters, and while we do not claim expertise in this industry, we are totally and emotionally attached to OUR Club. We could never support another, and the last 10 years has turned many of our members away from football, rather than transferring to a more telegenic team. This is now a trend that is evident across the wider fanbase. With the Trust identifying a period of significant change, we will maintain our support and pursuit of the following commitments in relation to the wider national picture: Protection of the English football pyramid and the ethos of competition Fairer financial distribution throughout the pyramid A cap to prevent increasingly untenable player wage levels Independent Regulation of Football Club ownership and management National adoption of the “50+1” ownership model for Football Clubs, with 2 Independent Directors on Club Boards. We remain active members of the Football Supporters Association (FSA). Additionally, we will be fully co-operating with the British Government’s “Fan Led Review of Football”, headed by Tracy Crouch, MP, who we have already consulted with in her previous role as Minister Of Sport. The aim of raising all this in an open letter is not to ‘protest’ but to promote moves to ensure that Rovers fans are not turned off their Club, and instead feel not only engaged at a local level, but also have their fears alleviated after the sudden crisis caused by VH Group decisions. We would be grateful for your observations raised in this letter and welcome an opportunity to meet in a suitably safe location at your earliest convenience. As it is an Open Letter, the Rovers Trust reserves the right to circulate the contents more widely. Yours Sincerely John Murray Chair of Rovers Trust, on behalf of the Trust Board and its Members. chair@roverstrust.co.uk https://us5.campaign-archive.com/?e=__test_email__&u=f646174da39488e19ed1200d3&id=3a7daebcc3
  7. Our Statement, with thanks to Vice Chair Oliver Jones: https://www.roverstrust.com/2021/02/20/press-release-200221-clubs-proposal-sell-land-brockhall-housing-developers/
  8. You may find our latest newsletter interesting reading, as it shares your sentiments: Notice of AGM 2020:The contents (and the optimism level) of this Newsletter has changed several times! After postponement due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the Trust will hold its AGM on Thursday October 8th. It's our hope by then at least Season-Ticket holders will be attending matches.At the AGM we seek new Members of the Board. One of our longest serving Board members, Professor Michael Doherty, has reluctantly resigned his Board post due to the Covid-19 pressures of running a Law Department. He will still be available if the worst happens to the Club (see his article to be sent later). We at Rovers Trust would like to thank Professor Doherty for his service to Rovers Trust and its members.One other Board Member, Mr. David Riding, is due to seek re-election. Board Members serve for 2 years and the number of elected Board Members allows us to seek co-opted Board members in the same numbers. So please consider putting yourself forward for election–we have a lot to do!All that is required is that you must be a Rovers Trust Member, be nominated by another Rovers Trust Member, and be seconded by a third Rovers Trust Member.Any nominations should be directed to our Secretary, Michael Ellison via his email: michael91ellison@hotmail.comor if you want to discuss anything at all, contact the Chair, John Murray on 0044-7880507080, or email chair@roverstrust.co.ukJune Newsletter Response:The June Newsletter asked a number of questions –thanks to all those who responded.SEASON TICKETS:95% sought no refund (out of 52 responses) although 10% mentioned incentives for next season.NEXT SEASON:Some 42 respondents were keen to come back as soon as possible.VENKYS OWNERSHIP:Only 1 Member who replied was NOT happy for a rapprochement with Venkys.SALARY CAP:Including Twitter responses, some 118 supporters were in favour for each Division.- Note: Since the time of writing, clubs in Leagues 1+2 have recently voted in favour of Salary Caps. This shows there is appetite for change even at Board level within Football Clubs. Rovers Trust, alongside a multitude of Supporters Trusts, have helped in this regard by ensure fans' views are heard at Board level.Conclusion:If you wondered about the Rovers Trust position on EFL rules and policies to maintain the integrity of the EFL (and PL), here is a good summary recently put together by retiring Board member, Michael Doherty:'For Rovers supporters the events at Wigan, 20-odd miles down the road, over the last few months will have been both reassuringly familiar and depressingly chilling. The distant owners with a complex corporate network around the ownership arrangements – check. The obscure former footballer appointed as a ‘football consultant’ – check. The agents and loans and interest payments all happening right in the line of sight of a football organisation that has shown no genuine interest in protecting its clubs – check, check, check.Blackburn Rovers has suffered some indignities over the last decade, but we have been spared the near-death blow that fell on Bury and the tide of sanctions, points deductions, squad culls and (hopefully) in-depth investigations that have started to roll over Wigan Athletic. Memories are both very long and very short in football – who remembers Wigan profiting from Bolton Wanderers financial distress by buying their principal training ground as long ago as 2016? The current model of ownership and regulation in the EFL keeps disaster lurking just over the horizon for the majority of its clubs.Those were not particularly cheery paragraphs, were they? More direct and useful questions are;• What can Rovers supporters do to reduce the risk of similar existential threats to the continuance of the club that has been at the heart of our community for 145 years? Look at what has saved clubs facing similar threats – not the Government, not the FA, not the EFL. It had been supporters who have created or, more effectively, drawn on existing organisational structures to save their clubs – see Wimbledon, Bury, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Swansea etc etc etc for examples.• What can Rovers supporters do to avoid the need for this sort of crisis-management, heart-in-the-mouth, sleepless-night approach to supporters saving their clubs? It cannot lie in individual action. It can only lie in collective action from a legitimate supporters’ organisation that can push for real change. The Rovers Trust is a member of the Football Supporters Association. It is sitting down across tables with Government ministers, FA, EFL etc putting forward specific demands to protect clubs as not ‘ordinary busineses’ but as expressions of community identity. This involves removing conflicts of interest, professionalising the regulatory abilities of football authorities and introducing greater financial responsibility and transparency.Rovers Trust can be a part of that conversation via the FSA and you can be a voice in this debate because you are a Member of the Trust.'Keep the faith, get involved and encourage others to join via www.roverstrust.co.uk.John Murray, Chair of Trust
  9. Rovers Trust has worked tirelessly over the last 8 years to persuade the FA, Premier League and English Football League in order to improve the safeguarding of the organisation and control of our Football Clubs. The Trust has decided to embrace a new medium and take the fight to the theatre to show the anxiety and devastation of being a true fan in these circumstances. Blackburn Rovers was an original founding member of the football league; therefore, the Rovers' Trust should also lead from the front and stage this production, not just for Rovers' fans, but also for the fans of clubs like Blackpool, Coventry, Wimbledon and Charlton etc. We feel it is time that the football authorities were made to sit up and take notice. We urge you to support this play and plight, providing a platform for the voice's of true fans to be heard in an exciting and revolutionary way. A sum of £9,000 is required to make this play happen; a national appeal which is supported by Henry Winter, one of the few prominent journalists to lend his support to football fans who feel a lost connection with their club. https://mobile.twitter.com/henrywinter/status/1092798519243689986 This is not a mere protest play. It’s a story about one fan’s feeling of depression and helplessness when there is a loss of localism, and the connection with his club begins to slip away. I’m sure we all know how that has felt at some point in the last 8 years, and we hope fans of other clubs who have had similar experiences of ownership to ours will support this message. If you wish to support this play, you can view the appeal brochure and donation pages from this link: https://www.roverstrust.com/2019/01/17/heart-scarf-soul-a-play-starring-a-blackburn-rovers-fan/ Please feel free to share far and wide!
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