Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Aftermath

Following the Victory against Arsenal, Steve Kean was paraded across a number of media outlets, including Sky Sports, as the Messiah. Every time you turned the Radio or TV On, he was there spouting the lines which we were to get accustomed to during his reign.

After the protest March against Arsenal, I thought that would be it, they would either remove him as Manager or the supporters would take the Arsenal Victory as the Turning point.

Within 24 hours of returning home from the Protest march, the emails, messages and tweets started to roll in to ask what was planned for the next home game, as some supporters wanted protest to continue and stated the result against Arsenal did not change a thing. Other supporters said that the target was all wrong and all protest should be aimed at Venkys’s and needed to continue.

Around social media, it was really a mixed bag, of those agreeing with the above and some supporters who were of the opinion that we needed to back the Manager and the Owners and take our pathetic protest elsewhere, as we were not Blackburn Rovers supporters and a disgrace to the club and Jack Walker. Other things which I remember reading at the time including:

  1. 1. Who is this idiot Mullan? he can’t string a sentence together.
  2. Mullan has had his two minute of fame and should jog on.
  3. Mullan is not even a Rovers fan
  4. Mullan is someone’s puppet

It was not nice reading some of these comments, as I’d not been subjected to this type of grief before, especially as I’m quite a private person. I could handle the comments, but it was difficult knowing my family were also reading these and in particular my mum and wife Laura, who I had married on the 14th May 2011, which incidentally was the day Steve Kean was stopped for drink driving.

With so many supporters divided on opinion, and me finding myself at the focal point of what we do next?  The real answer was, I did not actually know what to do? I knew whatever was next; I could not do it alone.

This is when a gentleman named Simon Littler; who ran a Face book Group called “Sack Steve Kean”, stepped forward and said he would help.  Knowing someone was going to help publically lifted a big weight off my shoulders, as too many people had offered help in the background, but did not want to be seen helping publically, which was their prerogative, but did make me feel like I was being thrown as a lamb to the slaughter.

Simon was different to me, he was much louder, a far more confident person and if truth be told, he was not afraid to ruffle feathers. He had his own opinion and had his thought process was firmly on the removal of Steve Kean as the Manager of our club. I was always of the opinion that everyone has a voice and it’s important to capture the majority’s opinion without ignoring the minorities. After a couple of phone conversations with Simon, we both decided that the opinion within the supporter base was too divided and the best course of action would be to speak with the club and open dialogue. We agreed to meet with the Ground Manager John Newsome and the Police at Ewood Park, the Monday after the Newcastle Fixture.

Rover played Newcastle away and lost 3-1, which brought more anger within sections of the supporter base, calls for a much bigger protest against Manchester City was being muted across social media as the Arsenal result now seemed a distant memory.  We attended the meeting and made it perfectly clear that protests would continue and we called for a sit in to take place after the Manchester City fixture. The club agreed to this, as did the Police, and the plans were put in place, with it being advertised locally, through social media and through a press release.

In the week leading up to the Manchester City fixture, I got a twitter DM from Glenn Pegden who was one of the owners of the BRFCS Supporter site, which is the largest online forum for Blackburn Rovers. He told me that 9 members of the Fans Forum had been picked to go to Pune and they may possibly have a chance to meet with the owners.  He wanted to be careful that some of the attendee’s of this trip were not being seen by the club to be aiding the up-rising within the supporter base which had lead to protest. Although I had never met Glenn, We had spoken via Twitter a number of times and I’d always found him helpful and courteous. I never really knew what the Fans Forum was, I didn’t know the club had a section of supporters who met with the club monthly, or how this forum had been put together. After a bit of research it became apparent that they do not discuss footballing matters and their meetings were predominantly to discuss issues surrounding the supporter experience.

One thing I can say about the Pune 9 trip, is this trip was being organised long before the protest started and it was merely con-incidental that suddenly supporters were going to Pune as part of a showcase friendly with local Indian team Pune FC. Glenn asked me at the time to keep it out of the public domain as the fans forum would announce it themselves via an agreed statement amongst their members in due course. I respected his wishes and never spoke about it prior to it becoming public knowledge.

The day after speaking with Glenn via messages, I received a call from Rovers then PR Guru, Paul Agnew. I’d read about Agnew on forums and he did not appear to very popular in various circles he had come into contact with. However I’m not the type of person to have my own opinion swayed by others.

He started the call by telling me, “I had it all wrong, Steve Kean should not be the target of the supporter’s abuse, but it should be the owners”. He started quizzing me on who and what I knew, and was in particular very angry that a trip was being arranged to Pune for 9 members of the Fans Forum. He accused me of being Glenn Pegden’s puppet, and stated that the owners of the BRFCS website were behind the protest. He also told me Simon William’s days at Rovers were numbered, which at the time I thought, “Why are you telling me, I would not know Simon Williams if I passed him in the street”. After being quite abusive with me for 15 minutes, he then calmed down and said, “look Glen, I know you are not the one behind all this, but take a step back for a minute, we are currently on the lookout for fan representation on the board, you seem very passionate about the club and I can promise you this, things are changing in the background, and we will soon be in  a position where you and I can talk about some real exciting things, I will get you a meeting with Kean and you will realise you are actually batting for the wrong team, you are batting for the team who are out to damage the club”.

I was quite taken aback with what he said, I thought to myself, is this guy for real??? I also thought, how can a PR Guy suddenly be making sweeping statements that people are going to be losing jobs, whilst other people like supporters are potentially going to be getting jobs?

This was one of the first times I knew deep down inside that there was something going on at Rovers very untoward. I had heard quite a few rumours over the previous 12 months and looked very closely at the events surrounding the removal of Allardyce and the then Board of Directors, John Williams, Tom Finn and Martin Goodman. I had recently put together a blog post called, Puppet or Puppeteer, which was based on my interpretation of the things I had been told and through research I had done through the internet and other forms of communication I had previously had from former employee’s of the club.

Anyway in the end I took his call with a pinch of salt, although my wife Laura told me “Glen, you need to distance yourself from this movement as we are now getting calls at home from people who we have never given our number to, whilst lots are supporting you to do this, but how many of them are publically standing there with you to actually take some of the weight off your shoulders”. Laura did have a very valid point, but at the same time, having been a victim of bullies as a child growing up, I Was not about to give into what appeared to be a movement to discredit my intentions.

Match day came, and Rovers were hammered at home to Manchester City 4-0, there were chants throughout the game for the removal of Kean, whilst this was the first time I actually saw physical violence in the stands, as supporters who were against the protest clashed with those who were protesting. Although it was a minority, it was very sad to see as emotions were running high.

At the end of the game, Simon Littler addressed the supporters who had gathered in the Blackburn End to stage a sit in protest, he made it quite clear this was to be a peaceful protest and we had to follow the rules which had been put in place by the club and Police.

It was always our intention for protest to be peaceful as delivering the message the right way was important. As the protest started the PA Machine was turned up full blast to try and drown out the supporter’s chants, I was later told by John Newsome some months later, this was under the instruction of Paul Agnew. The protest lasted around 30 minutes with around 1000 supporters staying behind with Banners to air their frustrations. The protest went off with no issues, bar the odd supporter who refused to leave, who were eventually ejected by the stewards.

With Rovers having no domestic fixture now for two weeks, Simon and I decided it was time to Call an open supporters meeting.

We put this plan into action, picked a venue and issued a press release, calling on supporters to attend to put across concerns and put a plan in place going forwards. Uncle Jack’s public house kindly agreed to provide the venue free of charge. We were not sure what to expect from the meeting, as opinions had been mixed.  For every supporter who supported us, we had another lined up ready to lambast us.

In my next Blog, I will talk about the open supporters meeting, the communication chain which started with the club and the accusations of Dark Forces.

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