the blackburn candidate

Meet the Blackburn Fan Standing Up to Venky’s at the General Election

Their name has become a byword for mismanagement. Now, a Blackburn Rovers fan will stand on an anti-Venky's platform at the upcoming general election.

by Marcus Raymond
30 May 2017, 11:48am

It is well established that Venky's ownership of Blackburn Rovers has been disastrous, with the former Premier League champions recently slipping into the third tier of English football for the first time in 37 years.

In fact, long-standing supporter Duncan Miller believes there is currently no single bigger issue for the Lancashire town than the plight of its local football club. So, in an effort to draw attention to the damage being done, Miller is standing as an independent parliamentary candidate in the constituency.

Indian poultry company Venky's bought Rovers in 2010 from the Jack Walker Trust, and the team's fortunes have plummeted ever since. There have been two relegations in seven years, transforming the side from Premier League dark horses into a League One crisis club.

But while Venky's actions and unaccountability have been widely documented and condemned across the footballing community, there is little suggestion that they intend to budge.

It was in light of this that Duncan took the plunge, handing over his deposit just four weeks before polling day, in an effort to force the issue using democratic means.

Photo by Marcus Raymond

Bookmaker William Hill currently have him listed at shorter odds than the Liberal Democrat candidate and, though he has no expectation of winning the seat, Duncan wants to use this opportunity to draw attention to the demise of the club he has supported all his life.

VICE Sports met with Duncan – who has taken a week off work to focus on his campaign – to find out more.

By the time Duncan was four, his father was already taking him to watch Rovers, and the obsession really took hold when he saw the team get promoted via the play-offs at Wembley in 1992.

READ MORE: Obsession to Apathy – Falling Out of Love With Blackburn Rovers

When Venky's took over Duncan was initially cautious, having seen how similar situations had played out at other clubs.

Before long, it became apparent that problems were afoot and his caution was justified: "I think the first alarm bell was the aftermath of Sam Allardyce being replaced. He wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and wasn't really mine, so at first I hoped this would let us press on, bring somebody good in and take the team forwards. But then we got Steve Kean."

Memories of past glories at Ewood Park. There has been nothing new to add in recent years // Photo by Marcus Raymond

Miller didn't want to focus any more on Kean as he believes there were other factors at work in his appointment beside plain bad decision-making. Two more managers followed in quick succession – Henning Berg was sacked after only 57 days, while Michael Appleton lasted just 67.

That was 2013. Since then the club has gradually slipped further into the abyss, with four more managers and ever-dwindling attendances. Venky's, who were previously rumoured to be unaware that relegation even existed, described the drop to League One as a 'temporary setback'.

READ MORE: Game Changers – Blackburn Rovers and Jack Walker's Millions

"Sadly, this is the latest in a long line of really poor football ownership stories, where clubs are just treated with disdain and disrespect by people who should really be guardians and custodians," said Miller.

"My point of view is that the real owners of any football club are the fans; moral owners who are there through thick and thin.

"I've supported all the protests so far, and I see what I'm doing now as basically just another protest, yet another different attempt to get through to these people."

Photo by PA Images

How did Duncan's disgust lead to him actually standing in an election? "I made a bit of a throwaway comment late one evening after the snap election was announced – something along the lines of, 'Wouldn't it be great if we got a Venky's Out Party together' – and it just spiralled from there."

Because there wasn't time to properly register a political party, he even considered temporarily changing his name by deed poll to Duncan Venky's Out Miller, to ensure those words would appear on the ballot paper. Alas, there wasn't time for this either, but Duncan is still upbeat about the big day.

"Everyone I speak to tells me they're going to vote for me. Whether that happens when it comes to the crunch, we'll see. I'm really pleased with how positive the feedback has been so far though.

READ MORE: Baying for Claret – Blackburn & Burnley's Bitter Local Rivalry

"I'm certainly not optimistic about winning, with no designs on getting the majority vote. What it's really about for me is getting that message out there. If I can put enough pressure on whoever is elected to take up this cause, then job done."

Miller is sceptical about whether local politicians value the football club enough, or care about the issues Rovers face: "It's importance is absolutely massive. You only have to walk into the town centre and you can see the effect the downfall of the club is having on things at the moment.

"When Rovers do well, Blackburn has the potential to be a vibrant, exciting place and you feel that buzz around the town. Obviously having big numbers of away fans coming every other week is a big help to that. Local businesses and the infrastructure around the town rely on a strong football club.

Photo by Marcus Raymond

"Blackburn is a small town, but we had a football club that was consistently one of the best in the country. We stood shoulder to shoulder with a lot of the big city teams, but if that goes, it's only going to be bad for the town."

Miller believes the fanbase has been divided on how to respond as well. Some supporters who have been going to matches for 40 years can no longer bring themselves to put money in Venky's pockets, setting aside long established routines because of how strongly they feel. Others can't tear themselves away, as difficult as the football can be to watch. The atmosphere has been both prickly and gloomy.

"With all these different fan preferences, there's no right and wrong," said Miller, "but the attendances at Ewood Park speak for themselves.

READ MORE: Stripped, Supplanted, Subverted – the Fall of Coventry City

"Venky's darkened our doorstep and their reluctance to engage with people is down to absolute arrogance, and is completely unacceptable. It's a greedy culture, and so many other clubs have suffered a similar plight to ours.

"I think a lot of people in the Rovers-supporting community are really taking it up a notch now, and trying to force this issue with the FA and the governing bodies.

"There was a big protest at Blackpool the other week – Judgement Day 3 – and Rovers fans were really well represented there. There was a Rovers banner which read 'The FA left us to die', and I think that really resonated with a lot of people there. It's absolutely true.

"Nothing Venky's have done even resembles logic and, in a lot of ways, what they've done is both dreadful and heartbreaking."

@marcusraymond1