Blackburn Rovers look set to become the latest Premier League club to be snapped up by foreign investors. Indian group Venky’s are hopeful of completing a takeover of the club by November, a move which will see the first Indian owners of a Premier League club.
While the announcement is sure to course excitement amongst Rovers fans, the statement made by Venky’s chairperson Anuradha J Desai should make them urge on the side of caution. He said: “We expect to be the first Indian company to acquire a Premier League team. We are particularly delighted that the team is Blackburn Rovers, with whom we believe we have many shared values and ambitions.”
It is the word “acquire” that sets alarm bells ringing for me. Blackburn fans will see this purely as an investment, and while the club will fall in to foreign hands, they will be adamant that the general ethos of the club remains the same. Another perhaps worrying figure is Venky’s total turnover of £440 million, which is hardly ground-breaking compared with other Premier League owners.
Football clubs are not like other businesses. It is virtually impossible to succeed at a club with purely financial motives. If the Indian group don’t realise this, then it is guaranteed that they will be looking for a way out before long.
The warning signs are there. Fans of Liverpool and Portsmouth will be the first to tell you that takeovers don’t always bring the good times that Manchester City and Chelsea are experiencing, and even if they do bring some joy for fans, there is always the question of sustainability.
Take Portsmouth for example, who in 2008 were paying astronomical wages after Alexandre Gaydamak’s millions were invested in to the club. Pompey would go on to win the FA Cup that year, but soon after, the man who had bank-rolled the clubs success wanted out, leaving Portsmouth in a dire financial situation.
Just last week Portsmouth were fighting liquidation a direct impact of Gaydamak’s withdrawal, and while it appears they have managed to fight off the threat of closure, it will surely act as a warning to every club around to make sure whoever invests in the club is the right person, and has the right motives.
Yes the Premier League will make investors go through all the due diligence tests, but there really does need to be greater control to ensure no more cowboys are allowed to invest in something which ultimately can be the most important thing in people’s lives.