By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
15 January 2012
AN extraordinary letter written by senior figures at Blackburn Rovers to the club’s co-owner, Anuradha Desai, proves they felt helpless at the direction the club was taking as early as January last year, just a few months after the takeover by Venky’s.
There is even a plea for Mrs Desai to explain to her own Blackburn board the role being played at the time by the SEM agency – headed by agent Jerome Anderson – in the club’s transfer policy.
The document, obtained by Sportingintelligence, is signed by three people: John Williams, who was then chairman, Tom Finn, who was the MD, and Martin Goodman, then the finance director.
That trio had all been at the club for many years as Rovers gained a reputation as a well-run, successful family club, but in the letter, dated 4 January 2011, they wrote: ‘We now find the board are not even being consulted on some of the most fundamental decisions this or any other football club ever makes.
‘This includes the termination of the manager’s employment [Sam Allardyce] and the appointment of a new manager [Steve Kean].
‘We have had no input into the terms of this appointment and presumably discussions are taking place with Steve Kean concerning additional staff appointments, again with an input from the board.
‘In addition, and of greatest concern, as we enter the transfer window, is your instruction that the manager is to no longer report to the board on transfer matters. The board’s role seems to be merely one of processing the transfers as opposed to delivering a strategy based on discussions with you as owners and working to pre-agreed financial budgets.’
The letter (below) can be read in full by clicking on the relevant link in a later paragraph of this article.
Sportingintelligence can exclusively reveal that one of Blackburn’s permanent transfer signings in the January 2011 window – that of the Argentinean attacking midfielder, Mauro Formica – was initially disallowed by the Premier League on ‘technical grounds’.
Impeccable sources have confirmed that the parties involved in the deal presented it for ‘international clearance’ but the deal involved a ‘third party ownership element’ that the Premier League were not happy with.
Sportingintelligence has learned that the ultimate owners of the player could not easily be identified when the deal was initially presented for clearance, but they were linked to an investment vehicle in the British Virgin Islands.
After the initial deal was prevented, it was quickly reconstructed, within days, so that Formica moved into the full ownership of Newell’s Old Boys; the transfer was then green-lighted between Newell’s and Blackburn.
The letter from Williams, Finn and Goodman makes no mention of the Formica deal – because the Formica move was completed weeks after the letter was sent.
But the letter ended with the paragraph: ‘Finally, our football secretary has, this morning, been instructed by SEM to issue a mandate to a third party without any reference or approval from the board. We are not familiar with the player concerned nor is he one that has been mentioned to us by the manager. Could you please, therefore, clarify the role of SEM in our transfer policy.’
Sportingintelligence does not know the identity of the player referred to in that paragraph.
Anderson, who is also Steve Kean’s agent, has spoken openly in the past week – in a Sky TV interview – about his involvement at Blackburn in January 2011.
‘We entered last year’s January transfer window and I received a call from the owner of the club saying “We have one or two issues causing us concern. Would you be kind enough to help us through this difficult period?”,’ he said.
‘So I basically slept at the training ground for the month of January and helped the club in so many areas. First and foremost trying to bring in players. We were very very successful in that area.’
In that window, Blackburn signed Ruben Rochina for €450,000 from Barcelona in a deal where Rochina’s agent, Manuel Salamanca Ferrer, received a £1.65m fee.
Ferrer has confirmed he and Anderson worked together to bring Rochina to England although Anderson has stressed that he made no money from the deal. He dealt with that and other issues in a statement (linked here) on the SEM website on Friday. Anderson has made absolutely clear that he hasn’t had any involvement in Blackburn’s transfer’s policy or club business since the January 2011 transfer window shut.
During the 2011 January window, Blackburn also signed Formica from Newell’s Old Boys, for £3.2m, plus agents’ fees of £500,000, and they took Jermaine Jones on loan.
‘When I left the training ground at the end of January the place was absolutely rocking,’ Anderson said.
More quotes from that Anderson interview can be seen in the report from last week in the Lancashire Telegraph. (Read that here).
Disillusioned by what was happening, Williams, Finn and Goodman all left Rovers in 2011: Williams in February and then Finn in May and Goodman in the early summer.
Rovers have not appointed a replacement chief exec, although Paul Hunt was hired as deputy chief exec. Karen Silk (formerly with Stoke) replaced Goodman. Rovers have not hired a direct replacement for Finn although Vineeth Rao (no relation to the Rao family owners of the club) and Simon Hunt (sporting director) both hold strategic roles now.
Many fans and neutral observers have pointed out that Blackburn’s recent off-field strife is down to a lack of experienced top-level football people in the board room – men like Williams, Finn and Goodman. The letter published today shows the root of their unhappiness before they left Ewood Park.
Despite all the turmoil of recent times – which have led to fan protests – Blackburn won 3-1 on Saturday to move out of the relegation zone, even as uncertainty persists over the futures of Chris Samba, Junior Hoilett, Jason Roberts and Michel Salgado in particular. The situation remains ‘fluid’ but a report on this site on 2 January described a situation still fundamentally the same.
Clearly the departed executives were unhappy at the Rovers situation in January 2011 – see the FULL letter by clicking here – and the letter told Mrs Desai that ‘sadly, you have little regard for the experience we possess despite positive comments that were made at the time of acquisition concerning the strength of the management team.’
The letter also said a manager should have the support of the board and: ‘Steve is an inexperienced manager who needs day-to-day support and assistance from people experienced in the running of the football operations.’
One year on, Kean remains in charge, and his team, for now, are out of the relegation zone.
Mrs Desai described Kean upon appointment as ‘unsackable’ and to date she has been as good as her word on that.