Money matters: Venky’s are merely the poster boys for badly run British clubs

There can be no doubt that since the Venky’s took ownership of Blackburn Rovers it has overseen its gradual demise and has emanated a thus far untreatable poisonous effect on the club.


Since buying a 99.9% share in November 2010 the club has been through six different managers (with Eric Black taking temporary charge twice this season), has watched a once comfortable Premier League side suffer relegation and had faced the possible reality all season long of successive relegations with the club languishing a mere 3 points from the relegation danger-zone with one final game to go with an interim manager currently in charge. Not to mention a fan base who found their voice (and their planes) by protesting at almost a daily basis during their ‘Kean Out’ campaign and the deep financial wound of those turning their backs with attendance figures regularly falling.


This much is true. However, the Venky’s have been taking the flak for other badly run clubs to gladly hide in the shadows. One such example is Blackburn’s relegation companions from last season Wolves. The club currently lie in the relegation zone in the Championship with 51 points from 45 games and have worked their way through four different managers in their recent two seasons. The sacking of Mick McCarthy to be replaced (eventually) be his much less experienced assistant Tony Connor a particular lowlight.


Such a lacking of consistency is a story that sadly rings true for now the majority of football league clubs, not the minority. In recent times the League Manager’s Association’s chief executive Richard Bevan branded the hire-and-fire nature of the English footballing pyramid as “embarrassing” after it emerged 103 managers had lost their jobs during the 2012-13 campaign (correct as of 20th March).


The early focus on managerial instability is a mere microcosm of the mismanagement and incompetency that regularly occurs within the boardrooms of clubs up and down the country. Recent examples have included the farce of Coventry City moving all their staff and the club shop from the Ricoh Arena, Watford being placed under a transfer embargo with their former owner Laurence Bassini banned from football for three years and the sad demise of a proud Portsmouth side who became the first Premier League club to enter administration during the 2009-2010 campaign and have been plagued by financial plight of biblical proportions since. It is fair to say Portsmouth are very fortunate to still have their football club in existence regardless of the severe threat of relegation to the basement of the football league pyramid this season that the club has to contend with.


It is clear from the examples listed above there are many things wrong with our game and it is the hard-suffering fans who are paying the ultimate price.


The questionable legitimacy of the ‘fit and proper person test’ introduced in 2004 by the Premier League and Football League Association must now be thrust into the spotlight and placed under severe scrutiny in the manner prospective owners never have been after a number of high profile casualties and an abundance of incompetent owners escaping the grasp of disqualification. In no other industry or line of business would such a glaring, recurring error simply be ignored or brushed under the carpet. In no other industry would its customers be taken for granted despite elevated emotional ties. A community without its club to rally around is a sad sight. The time has come for change to re-introduce respectability in the running of our football clubs.


Amazingly there are plenty of examples across British football that is totally relevant but has not been mentioned yet in this article. Think not only of the high profile such as the demise of Rangers but also of the low profile clubs who mean just as much to the fans as any other loyal following: Darlington, Dunfermline and the relatively recent extinctions of clubs such as Gretna, Wimbledon and former Welsh Premier League outfit Neath.

Beyond all the figures of profit, loss, turnover and debts that this article has purposely veered from lies a successful business person who believes football is an easy business. It is not. Other occasions over-ambition has been the downfall: those clubs who spend beyond their means to achieve higher goals rather than consolidating and building the club in a financially stable and correct way and many of those clubs have been included above. The simple fact of only spending what you earn may be a source of great frustration but is not a rule that should be so readily ignored by so many. Especially those that should know a lot better.


As much as many (not all, by the way) Glasgow Celtic fans were revelling in Ranger’s plight and subsequent relegation to the third tier of Scottish football it is much better to have a rival to play against rather than a rivalry forever consigned to the history books and never to be revisited again. A fact that dawned on many associated with the club at the beginning of the current 2012-13 campaign. Such an enlightenment is needed across Britain if we are to get out of this mess and once again become the model template of a nation taking care of its football, and its fans.


Tomos Llewellyn. Follow me on twitter: @tomllew