The controversial owners of Blackburn Rovers, Venky's, the Indian poultry company, passed the Premier League's financial tests for club ownership easily, chief executive Richard Scudamore said yesterday. He argued that the league could not legislate for plain bad decision-making.
Scudamore conceded that in terms of their management of relegated Blackburn since November 2010, Venky's, run by co-owner Anuradha Desai, had "messed up". But he also said they had unfailingly provided the Premier League with the financial guarantees required from every club – a safeguard put in place after Portsmouth went into administration in 2010. Venky's have taken Blackburn into the Championship, the club having finished 10th the season before they were sold by the Jack Walker family trust. However, Venky's have fulfilled the future financial guarantees and passed the owners' and directors' test.
"I am not going to get dragged into criticising Venkys as people or as owners," Scudamore said. "They have behaved themselves as owners of clubs in terms of what we require of them."
Scudamore met the Desai family before their acquisition of the club to get from them the necessary guarantees of funding. He also points out that former chairman John Williams and former managing director Tom Finn, who sold the club to Venky's, are "no mugs" and went through their due diligence on the company from Pune, in western India.
The Premier League chief executive said that the Venky's approach from the start had been to cut costs and to try to run the club as close to break-even as possible, a not dissimilar strategy to that of Mike Ashley at Newcastle. "One has come off spectacularly well and the other, effectively the wheels have come off," he said. "How do I feel? I feel sorry for the fans at Blackburn because I feel sorry for any fans who are so disconnected from the people who are actually in control. I don't know any club where the fans agree with every decision the owners make but I have never seen a bigger disconnect from the start of the season in terms of what the fans wanted to happen and what [the club] was doing.
"I will defend the fact that our rules will only take us so far. They ask are they [potential new owners] legal? Is there anything to stop them owning the club? Is there funding in place to keep the club alive? We never test whether they [new owners] have got enough money to create Premier League champions.
"When they [Venky's] came along and said, 'This is the money we have got, this is our source of funds, this is where we are going to put the money and this is how much we are going to invest,' we all came away from that meeting knowing they weren't going to become champions but it's hard to say breaking even and not losing a lot of money is not a good plan."
All potential new owners have to demonstrate to the Premier League that they have a plan for the club staying in the league and one in the event of relegation, which would appear to give the lie to the suggestion that Venky's were not aware that clubs could be relegated. The Premier League is currently in a similar period of due diligence with the Russian Anton Zingarevich, who is in the process of buying newly-promoted Reading.
"Of course the decisions they [Venky's] have made and their strategy and their management clearly have conspired to relegate them but that has also been true of some very well-run football clubs," Scudamore said. "Wolverhampton Wanderers are an extremely well run football club. No debt. They have an extremely competent chief executive and chairman. The infrastructure is good. They got relegated. Jeremy Peace has run a fantastic football club at West Bromwich Albion and managed to get relegated twice."
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