It’s not much, but it’s a start. The acquisition of a small number of shares in Blackburn Rovers by the Rovers Trust doesn’t look like much on paper, but it marks the possibility of the Trust going on to play a greater role at a club which remains in the throes of a most disturbing agony following its relegation from the Premier League at the end of last season, an agony which has lasted throughout this season and has only been moderately tempered by the final confirmation, which was only finally rubber stamped in the last few days, that the club is to remain in the Championship for the start of next season.
The donation of shares in the club has come from one of the few that held onto them in the wake of the now calamitous looking Venkys takeover of 2011. The majority shareholders have maintained their stake in the club, who has amounts to a 99.9954% holding, but the fact that the Trust does now also hold a stake in it confers certain rights which it would not otherwise have had and, perhaps significantly, Stephen Halstead, whose family owned the shares donated, has spoken out in favour of their involvement:
Something needs to be done. The Rovers Trust is aiming to be the second largest shareholder in the club and I have transferred part of my shareholding to them. I urge other shareholders to do the same to help them achieve that goal and have a voice in what happens.
If other shareholders can be persuaded to give up theirs to the Trust as well, a clear message would be sent to the Venkys group that the will of the supporters is greater representation and a proper say in the way that their club is run. This follows on from the recent news that the club might finally be prepared to meet with supporters group representatives after a year and a half of not seeming terribly interested in speaking to them. It was reported last week that Anuradha Desai, who is currently running the club and is the co-owner of the Venky’s Group, had responded to an open letter sent by the joint chairs of the Rovers Trust requesting a meeting to ask what their intentions were. Again, this isn’t a great deal of progress but it is progress of sorts and should provide further encouragement to a supporters trust which will have been keeping a close eye on recent events at Portsmouth and is starting to discover a coherent voice in the midst of what has been an embarrassing season for the club, which has had five managers this season and only finally pulled clear of the prospect of relegation to League One on Tuesday with a win by two goals to one against a Millwall side that has been involved in its own free fall in recent weeks.
If the tide may be incrementally turning at Ewood Park, then it might be argued that this is just about happening in time. Blackburn’s relegation from the Premier League came at obvious costs to the club, and thus season has been a story of one wanted opportunity after another. Parachute payments upon relegation last for four years, but they will be halved at the end of next season from £16m to £8m, meaning that next season will be, in strict financial terms, the last opportunity to challenge for promotion back to the top flight with this sort of resources available to the club, and a further financial blow to the club which has only just been confirmed – that it has missed out on a £2m add-on payment from the sale of defender Phil Jones to Manchester United because Jones, through injury, didn’t play the required amount of matches from the champions over the course of this season – further accentuates the extent to which the club needs to savour every penny that it can get its hands on. Should season ticket sales fall this summer – and following this season’s underwhelming performance it would not be surprising to see this happen – then further financial restraints might find themselves in place sooner rather than later.
Securing a further foothold in terms of a shareholding must be the next step for the Rovers Trust. After all, with a greater shareholding comes greater rights and, whilst the idea of the Trust taking anything like a stake in the club as has been seen at the likes of Portsmouth or Swansea City seems remote, it may just be that this proves to be the acorn from which something far greater grows. This season may have been a grim one for supporters of the club, but with the news that the Rovers Trust has acquired a small number of shares in the club – through a magnificently selfless gesture from a supporter who has come to the opinion that the Trust is a way forward for this club if it is to rebuild a relationship between the club and its hometown – coupled with the avoidance of relegation to League One at the end of this season gives a little hope that the supporters of Blackburn Rovers may actually have something to look forward to for the first time in a couple of years. There is much more work to do, but there is a chance – just a chance – that the tide may be starting to turn in favour of common sense at Ewood Park.
For more information about the Rovers Trust, click here.
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