Blackburn supporters' group looking to learn from Swansea model

Fans hope involvement in the club can help the struggling Championship side

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The Independent Football

Blackburn Rovers owners Venky’s have opened talks with the Rovers Trust in response to the fans' group offer of help.

The Trust sent a letter to Venky’s Chairperson Aruradha Desai asking for dialogue between the Trust and the owners, after seeing fans lose touch with the club, partially down the team’s relegation to the Championship last season.

In the letter written by co-chairmans Wayne Wild and Ozz Jones, the Trust stated its intent to work with the owners in taking the club forward and – through various initiatives – give the club back to the fans.

The Trust has the full backing of Rovers’ all-time top goalscorer Simon Garner, who believes: “When you have a small core of fans, it is important the fans have a role in the club, it is important they have a say in what the club does.

 “The owners of the club have made bad decisions, but the Rovers Trust and Venky’s can work together to take the club forward.

“Having seen the club slip from the Premier League to the bottom of the Championship under Venky’s, the fans need to get involved before the club slips even further down the Football League ladder.”

The Rovers Trust was set up six months ago when two supporters groups united, in order to try and halt the decline of the club’s severance from the community and to ultimately, hold a stake in Blackburn Rovers.

Anyone can join the Trust and to become a member costs £10 for adults and £5 for juniors and with that comes voting rights and a say in all decisions made.

Co-Chairman, Wild, believes the Trust can work with Venky’s to improve the club’s fortunes, on and off the pitch: “We would happily work with Venky’s to take the club forward. The club needs the fans.

“Working with supporters in Lancashire will only benefit the owners and therefore, Blackburn Rovers.

“The Trust’s target was to reach 1,000 members by the end of the year but we are on course to reach that number by the end of April. So it is just a case of gathering momentum and increasing those numbers to 2,000, 3,000 etcetera.”

One club which has flourished under the part ownership of fans is Swansea City Football Club.

In 2001, the Welsh club was nestled firmly in the lower realms of the Football League, with owners in charge who were making decisions of detriment to the club.

With the club in a state on peril, a group of supporters united and formed the Swans Trust.

Through campaigns and endorsements by players, including former Welsh international striker John Hartson, the Trust obtained a 20 per cent stake in the club, giving the fans a say in all the major decisions and fan representation on the board.

Twelve years on, the proud Welsh club finds itself gracing the Premier League, with a League Cup trophy in-tow after beating Bradford City at Wembley in the final in February, which sealed a place in next season’s Uefa Europa League.

Secretary of the Swans Trust, Niger Hamer, believes the club’s success has largely been down to the fans involvement and a tight control on finances: “It works because our football club board are all Swansea City fans of many years standing.

“Decisions are democratically made. As a club we do not spend what we don’t have. As our chairman said only last month, if you make £70, you don’t go out and spend £100.”

Wild believes the Rovers Trust can learn from what the Swans Trust has done and enjoy similar success: “We have spoken to people at Swansea City, Rangers, FC United, Portsmouth, looking at how they are involved in the club. The Swansea model has worked really well.

“Going forward, we will continue to promote the Trust to the fans through more fundraising events and meetings.”

Wild added: “The fans are the people who know the club the best and it is vitally important that we get involved before it is too late.”

Since Venky’s took over the club in 2010, Rovers have been relegated from the Premier League, attendances at home matches have halved and after a succession of managerial failures and player departures, the club currently finds itself scrapping for survival in the Championship.