Blackburn owners talk chairman out of quitting over Allardyce dismissal
Venky's Group prevents long-serving Williams from walking away in protest at sacking of manager they pledged to support
The Indian owners of Blackburn Rovers last night talked the club's long-serving chairman John Williams out of resigning over Sam Allardyce's sacking – their first success in steadying the club after 24 hours of uncertainty.
It fell to Williams to deliver the news to Allardyce on Monday that he was no longer wanted and having advised against the move, the Blackburn chairman was thought to see no future for himself under the Rao family's ownership. However after extensive talks, Williams, whose son Simon is the club's commercial director, agreed to stay on.
It was Williams who oversaw the sale of Rovers to the Raos, who own the Venky's poultry business, last month in a deal worth around £45m, including the club's debts. It was a financial imperative that the club was sold and Williams – who had also worked as chief executive under the Walker family trust, the previous owners – did obtain pledges from the Rao family that they would not change the manager in the immediate future.
Having broken the promise to back Allardyce with funds in the January transfer window, there is unease at the club about what the new owners and their representatives Kentaro have planned next. The managing director Tom Finn was also in meetings yesterday and is also expected to stay.
The chairwoman of Venky's Group claimed yesterday that the decision on Allardyce was made as part of a plan to get the team into the Champions League. Anuradha Desai said that she had no desire to sack Williams: "I know that John Williams was very close to Sam but their situations are very different. John is safe."
The Swiss-based television rights company Kentaro have been hired by Venky's Group to advise them on the operation of Rovers with their co-founder and chief executive Philippe Huber now regarded by staff at Ewood Park as the key decision-maker – despite not being seen at the club.
It is Huber who is thought to be the main line of communication between Kentaro and Desai in India. The role of Kentaro as advisers to Venky's was discussed with the Premier League when the Rao family went through the "owners and directors' test" during their acquisition of the club and the League's board were satisfied with the arrangement.
The Premier League have maintained contact with Williams since the takeover of the club and were involved in extensive talks with him. Williams and the bankers Rothschild spoke at length with the Rao family before they went ahead with the takeover.
The club's shares were sold for around £23m last month, giving the Venky's Group complete control. Williams has been at the club more than 13 years and pushed hard for the sale as it became obvious that the debts of £20m were threatening to undo the good work of years of prudent financial management.
Allardyce requested a meeting with the Rao family and was prepared to fly to India in order to meet them but was never taken up on his offer. The club are getting used to decisions being made in Switzerland at Kentaro's base, then being authorised in India before they are finally relayed to Ewood Park.
The Rao family's only personal visit to Ewood Park was made by Venkateshwara Rao and his brother Balaji for the game against Aston Villa on 21 November. However, there was little discussion from those two on the family's plans for the club and neither are regarded as key decision-makers. There has still been no official communication to staff over the club's future since the email on Monday detailing Allardyce's sacking.
With Steve Kean in charge for Saturday's game at home to West Ham, Desai said yesterday in an interview with the Lancashire Evening Telegraph that it could be "a couple of months" before the club make a decision on a permanent successor to Allardyce.
Allardyce will go on holiday to Dubai from Christmas – at the request of his wife Lynn – although that could change if West Ham's owners decide to bring the curtain down on Avram Grant's ill-starred reign at Upton Park.
Desai said: "We want good football and Blackburn to be fourth or fifth in the League or even better. The fans should trust us because this is in the best interests of the club.
"We do not mean anything bad for Sam Allardyce but we feel that we need to take the club up in the League and grow. It is not about the Bolton match [which Rovers lost 2-1]. It has been a long time in our minds. It is nothing against Sam but we have a different vision looking forward and we want the club to grow. We had been talking to Sam in the past few weeks but he did not fit in with our vision for the club's future. We wanted good football, wanted the games to be interesting and wanted to win and to have good players."
Kentaro's original business was in organising international friendlies, including the England friendly against Argentina in Geneva five years ago but they were unable to come up with a South American opponent for the Football Association for England's friendly in February.
Kentaro's expansion over the last two years has also included the recruitment of two executives from the FA. They have hired Jonathan Hill, the FA's former commercial director, and James Elliott, who worked under Hill at the FA.
In recent years they have diversified into representing players which has prompted their relationship with Sport Entertainment and Media (SEM) who claim, among others, to represent John Obi Mikel and Kieran Gibbs. The Brazilian midfielder Geovanni, one of the proposed signings offered to Allardyce, was signed by Manchester City during the period they worked closely with SEM in 2007.
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