In what has become regular Blackburn Rovers fashion, the week began with a Saturday defeat, 3-2, again. Although the week started in a usual fashion, by the middle of the week there was something in the air that has been in short supply for a number of months, maybe years – hope, maybe even optimism.
The reason for this new found excitement – rumours that Robert C McNair was rumoured to be interested in buying Blackburn Rovers Football Club.
Who is Robert C McNair? ‘Bob’ McNair is the current owner of the Houston Texans NFL team. A man worth an estimated $3.3bn. And a man rumoured to be interested in buying a English Football Team – and after being put off buying Reading and Birmingham, he was looking at Blackburn Rovers as a new sports project. A man with a significant amount of money and a history of working with and owning sports team; and a history of making a sports team profitable and competitive.
The rumours started on Tuesday and although they had been reasonably quashed by Friday – it had given Rovers fans some hope, and also raised some interesting points about how far they have come in their unsatisfaction with the current running of the club.
For those of you not familiar with the American NFL, Bob McNair’s Texans play in the AFC South Division, formed in 2002 as an expansion team after Houston’s previous franchise, the Houston Oilers, moved to Nashville to become the Tenessee Titans. They have not won the Super Bowl to date, but they have won the AFC Division four times in the last five years, but have yet to play in an AFC Confence Championship game. In the 2016 off season, McNair splashed the cash and signed Brock Osweiler, the Denver Broncos back up quarter back the previous season, for a lucrative 4 year $72m deal. For reference, you cannot get relegated in the NFL.
In a nutshell then, on the face of things McNair has spent an awful amount of money on a team to obtain relatively little success. So why does this bring hope and optimism to Blackburn fans? Especially given that the Venkys have done pretty much the same – spent a lot of money on a team which has since had no success, and failed repeatedly.
- Probably the main reason for the optimism is that Bob McNair is not the Venkys. He could be Ronald McDonald and the Rovers fans would probably get behind a takeover deal. In the early days, opinions were split between the Rovers fans as to whether the Venkys were poorly advised, massively naive, or just plain unlucky; and those that were against them from the off. Fast-forward to today and I would estimate around 99% of supporters are against their ownership and running of the club; with the other 1% employees of the club and bound by the gagging order to say how good and committed the Venkys are that evidently seems to be in place.
- The money behind the man is not a myth. McNair already owns a sports team so his worth is almost public knowledge – there would be no questions and rumours about his actual financial backing and the size of his empire like we have had with the Venkys.
- McNair has experience of owning and running a sports team. When the Venkys took over at Ewood they were very much wet behind the ears and jumped in at the relative deep end with rumours that they didn’t realise you could be relegated and with press releases stating the club would be back in the Champions League within 5 years and signings would include David Beckham and Ronaldinho. With McNair having experience of running a sports team you would hope/think he would know all the finer details, including competition rules, or at least surround himself with those who did.
- Although the Texans have not win the Super Bowl or competed in an AFC Conference game, they have been more than competitive and have won their Division some four times in the last 5 years – it’s not exactly the relegation fodder Rovers fans have had to get used to, and the fact they are winning divisions and competing in the play offs shows they are heading in the right direction, especially given they are a relatively young franchise.
- The NFL is big money and as it takes place for only a relatively short amount of time (in comparison to the English football league) team must capitalise on the period to get as many people in the stadium as possible and as many people buying merchandise as possible. If the same approach could be applied to Balckburn Rovers, there is definitely the potential to make the club more marketable, and as a result, more profitable. Attendances at Ewood this year are the lowest they have been for the last 30 years, so may be the razzmatazz of American sports is what is needed to get fans back engaged with the club.
- Bob McNair is a billionaire for a reason and will not invest if he does not believe there is a significant opportunity to make money. In football, the main way you make money is to be successful; at Blackburn Rovers this means promotion. If a new owners aim is to make money and will look to sell the club after achieving promotion and receiving the ludicrous TV money that the Premier League offers, so be it. If this is the case we will be out of the depressing rut we are in at the minute, back in the Premier League, and a far more attractive business for future suitors.
Although the takeover never got any further than the rumour stage it would have been interesting to see what the Venkys response would have been to any bids on the table – would they have finally seen this as the opportunity to sell up and get some of their money back? Or would they have stuck to their long standing “committed to the future of the club” stance the supporters are growing exceedingly frustrated at?
Possibly more interestingly, what would the input and review of the takeover have been from the FA and EFL?
Given the impact the Venkys have had on the club and the backlash from the fans questioning the FAs fit and proper rules and their lack of concern over the purchase and running of the club despite obvious flaws, Blackburn Rovers fans (and fans in general) will be scrutinising their involvement. I would expect that as a minimum their would be a larger degree of due diligence undertaken by the FA on prospective buyers, and a more thorough background check in to the credibitility and backing of anyone wanting to complete a takeover. The best option for both parties would be for the fans and FA to sit and discuss their concerns and come up with an action plan to ensure the Venkys mess does not happen again.
The takeover bid was a false dawn on this occasion – but here’s to hoping there’s another credible one soon. Whether the Venkys treat it as serious and give it due thought and consideration remains to be seen. More than likely they would again reiterate their commitment to run the club further in to the ground.