Saturday, 3 September 2016

Victory Lap and Petty Squabbles

With the Christmas period often billed “a make or break” time of the season, it was no different for Rovers. An inspired Mark Bunn performance at Anfield bagged Rovers an unlikely point, but this was bettered on New Year’s Eve with a famous 3-2 away win at Manchester United.

Rovers went into the half time break 1-0 up after a Yakubu Penalty. 6 minutes into the second half Yakubu doubled Rovers lead, and a shock result was looking on the cards. However United kicked into gear and a quick fire double from Berbatov set up a grand stand finish. Grant Hanley bagged an 80th minute winner as Rovers Christmas points tally was a very respectable four from six. Going into the New Year this looked like it could be the turning point of what had been a very disappointing season to date.

Jerome Anderson and Steve Kean could not let this moment slip them by, as Steve Kean was passed from media outlet to media outlet, like the Olympic torch, giving as many interviews as possible to show he was the victim and the supporters had it all wrong. With the press now firmly on Kean’s side and other Kentaro clients, in particular the SKY Soccer Saturday Panel, blasting the actions of the supporters, you would think this would of dampened the supporter’s spirits. Although it was a blow in terms of the message, and the supporters wish for Kean to be removed, you have to remember getting 3 points on a Saturday is what supporters live for. I must admit I had heard a few supporters hoping we would lose games, if it meant Kean was removed. However personally I always want my team to win, as there is no better kick and adrenalin rush than seeing those boys in blue and white grab the points.

Going into the New Year, another lifelong supporter Gareth Jones approached Simon and me, to gauge our opinion of boycotting the FA Cup third round game, in favour of getting as many supporters as possible to go and watch Chorley FC, Who were managed by former Rovers favourites Matt Jansen and Gary Flitcroft. Chorley was struggling financially and had recently been broken into, so needed extra revenue. Gareth thought this would get positive media coverage to combat the negative stuff which was now being planted by professional media gurus.  We put it out there to the protest movement and the idea appealed to many.

Gareth did most of the media work on this project, whilst Chorley FC was fantastic throughout. As predicted by Gareth come match day, it was picked up by the National media and it was great day out. A couple of hundred supporters made their way over to Victory Park, with their yellow and black, Kean out, Venkys out scarves and T-Shirts. It was great atmosphere in the ground and lots of extra revenue went through the turnstiles for Chorley FC, Which was a win win all around. Gary Flitcroft and Matt Jansen came into the club house after the game and spent a good hour with the Rovers supporters and were really grateful that not only had the supporters come to the game, but they had got behind Chorley too.

Meanwhile the attempt to form a democratic supporters group from the protest movement was now firmly underway. Supporters had to be put forward by other supporters to be able to stand for the BRFC Action Group’s first democratically elected committee, and around 17 names were put forward. A vote which all supporters were allowed to participate in was done online via the website, via email and in person. The results were counted up and verified by an independent adjudicator from the Brown Cow Public Inn at Livesey Branch, in a results evening which was very well attended by supporters.

The following supporters were voted in:

Glen Mullan – Chairman

Mark Fish – Secretary

Simon Littler – Treasurer

Rob Crabtree

Paul Keogh

Carl Hatch

Phil Thompson

Graham Reid

Michelle Green

Andy Woods

The group was now officially born, and after much deliberation the name the BRFC Action Group which was the name Simon and I had used since he came on board after the first protest was retained.

How this was going to work, we were un-sure, being part of the organising was becoming a full time job. I’m pretty sure, 95% did not have an inclination of how difficult it would be at the front end. It was agreed committee meetings needed to be weekly and via SKYPE due to peoples locations. These were usually held on a Sunday and I don’t think there was one meeting were everyone took part.

Although I was proud to see one of my Key aims come to fruition, and I’m proud that the group I formed from my Kitchen 5 months earlier is still going strong today, it was very difficult to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, It was obvious there was major personality clashes and feuds going on, long before the election. Why people could just not get along I do not know, but this theme was a recurring theme, as members of the committee and also members of the group had issues with those who were not protesting, whilst they also had issues with other groups, in particular the Fans Forum, the Original Rovers Trust and the Ewood Blues.

It was not one way traffic I must add, as all those groups did their fair share of mud-slinging, but at a time we needed to be united, it was never going to happen at that stage. I found this one of the most difficult things to manage, because personally I had no issues with any of the other groups.  I had always encouraged Duncan Miller of the Trust, whilst my knowledge of the Fans Forum and the Ewood Blues was limited.

With committee members at each other’s throats too and members also having issues with committee members, it was not long before the numbers on the committee dwindled, for various reasons, some stated unless someone else quit, they would quit themselves, some left because they just couldn’t put any time in, whilst the biggest loss personally was losing Simon Littler.

Mark Fish and Simon never really saw eye to eye and I would take calls from both of them, pretty much wanting the other to go. At times I felt I was being put in an impossible position, as the club was burning down around our ankles, and the supporters were more bothered having a p***ing contest. There was far too much going on, in terms of protest being organised, an investigation to carry out, meetings up and down the country, whilst having a personal life had now disappeared. Simon and Mark had words a number of times, before Simon resigned. The BRFC Action Group would never have been possible without Simon. I was on my own at the beginning of this journey, it was Simon who came to the rescue and we made a good team. However after his departure we needed to move on.

Following Simon’s departure, Mark and I spent hours and hours every day, trying to pick the group up and hatch the next plan, whilst it’s fair to say others left us to do the thinking. There were many times the group was up against the ropes and appeared to have been backed into a corner, but after doing one of our weekly all nighters, we would come up with the way forward. Many times we would fall asleep on Skype as we talked, as this whole process was really taking its toll on us. Funds were also a constant issue, as it was free to become a member of the BRFC Action Group, however organising protest, paying for investigative information and marketing was not free. We were dipping into our own pockets to keep the whole thing afloat, with no external funding or help.

The investigation into the running of the club was mainly carried out by Mark and me , with me always giving Mark the information for him to put in a dossier we was building. We didn’t share what we found or what we had with any of the other committee members, as we did not want it leaking out, before we had all we needed. This meant the committee had to trust us, in fairness to them, they never questioned this approach. The first part of the dossier was put together by us scanning the internet for information. Believe it or not, so much is out there in the public domain via the internet if you search hard enough. For the investigation we needed to go back to around the time the club was being bought and who was involved. Much of the early work was centred on Jerome Anderson, Huber and SEM Kentaro. We researched all their director appointments, other people who were linked to them through business, their accounts and their full history. We was building profiles of these people to try and see what was the ultimate link was and why Blackburn Rovers appeared to be tied to these people and their associates. In the meantime we were being pressured from the members and other supporters to spill anything we had found and sink these people. I don’t think anyone understood the complexity of trying to put an investigation together; it was never going to be a 2 minute job, whilst it was also very expensive to get information. You have to know, where to look, keep your eyes out for people sending you on wild goose changes, but more importantly good at highlighting where each piece fits, which was one of my biggest strengths. We spoke to many investigative Journalists like Nick Harris, David Conn, who were very helpful in chasing up leads, or verifying information as factual or incorrect.

People coming forwards giving information was always going to be difficult to record in a dossier, as these were spoken words, eye witness accounts, but always came without anything like a piece of paper to support their claims. Believe me, there was some really wild claims, which were difficult to ignore but appeared to be so far-fetched, but as I write this blog today, I promise I’m going to revisit some of those claims, as what I know 5 years later, makes me actually wonder if they were far-fetched at all, as subsequent things have come out that suggest the things claimed are more than possible to have occurred.

One of the main reasons I’m writing this blog is to remember back then and see if there is something crucial I have missed. There are plenty of people out there who take every opportunity possible to hear the sound of their own voice and try and give the impression they are important. They would have you believe they have worked very hard on the Rovers situation, but I know and they know, they have actually done very little and only appear on the scene when others have done the leg work.

Try doing 5 or 6 hours as a minimum every day for 5 years solid and dedicating all your spare time in trying to save a club you love. Many times I would go 5 days solid not going to bed, and then going to work, come home, no sleep and so on. It’s now 3.50 am and I’m here writing my blog, as the situation at Rovers is something I will not put down, until I know this club is once again in safe hands. However it’s not about who has done the most or who has done nothing, everyone can play their part as this battle is not yet won. This is about one thing which is bigger than any person, this is about Blackburn Rovers.

If this upsets people, then I’m sorry, but I’m not about to let a 141 year institution disappear, and give up by calling a halt on my efforts and those efforts of others who have shared this journey with me. I won’t get the last 5 years back, but what I started I will finish as I promised those who I met at the Havelock on day one, I would.

Some of you readers may be asking and wondering? Why is he bringing up the past? Its important people understand how fragmented the supporter base was back then and how difficult it was to combat the issues at the club, when the biggest threat to actually coming out the other side was the supporter base being at logger heads. This dates back to four and half years ago and this is my view and eye witness account, it may upset some people but one thing I will always be, is honest and say things exactly how I see them. I know over the years I have had a lot of people put their faith and support in me, and continue to do so, without them, this journey would have ended for me a long time ago.  They want the same as everyone, a well run club!!

With me not being part of a group nowadays, this has not seen that support dry up, if anything the support has grown, as have the offers from people to help me continue this fight. I have also made much greater progress on finding the truth by not being tied to a group as I can act more on my instinct, rather than what is dictated by vote, Whatever the future holds, as long as people want me to continue this fight, I will continue, even if there are elements out there currently trying there hardest to keep me out of the loop.

I’m a firm believer, people will choose who they follow, hence why I formed the BRFC Action Group, so supporters had a democratic voice to fight their corner. Without democracy, there can never be progress.

At present the Unity being shown by the every-day supporter is off the scale, it’s my duty and the duty of like-minded supporters to embrace that unity and take this forward and not waste the opportunity, so our club can start to see the break in the clouds which we all seek. It’s been a privilege to fight the corner of supporters who have asked me to, this is something I have not and will not take for granted. We are very quickly running out of options, but there are options, there are ways of bringing this all together, there are a number of parties interested in purchasing Rovers, there are ways of getting the Rao’s to the table, there are many things going on in the background which have been on-going for the last 12 months.

Blackburn Rovers has a future and each and every one of us is part of that future, the badge is what brings us all together and although things look bleak at present, we will stabilise and come out the other side

In my next blog, I will cover the more of the investigation, Rovers slide towards relegation and the birth of BRSIT

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