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Blackburn Rovers are proving big news in India with magazine launch

First published in Football Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Blackburn Rovers reporter

Blackburn Rovers owners Venky’s have told the Indian nation they are in football “for the long haul” after having their message delivered monthly to 22,000 households across the country.

The poultry giants have teamed up with India’s only nationwide football magazine 90 Minutes to produce a monthly eight-page booklet called ‘Blue & White’, which is exclusively about Blackburn Rovers and the efforts of Venky’s to develop the game in their own country.

‘Blue & White’ is packed within every single copy of 90 Minutes that is distributed as Venky’s step up their attempts to connect with their Indian audience.

In January’s inaugural edition, Venky’s director and Rovers co-owner Balaji Rao wrote a welcome note to the magazine’s readers where he stated their commitment to helping India become “one of the top football countries in the world”.

Since then they have run interviews with Morten Gamst Pedersen, Yakubu and Paul Robinson as they look to spread the Rovers name.

Editor of 90 Minutes, Atishay Agarwal, said: “The Blue & White booklet was conceptualised by the club and the magazine together, as Rovers wanted to connect more closely with the Indian audience.

“We met the club officials in Pune when the team toured India, and held extensive talks as to how the thousands of Premier League fans in India could get to know Blackburn Rovers Football Club, its players, and its owners a bit better “The simple reason we started this booklet for Blackburn and not others was because they showed intent to connect to the Indian readership through the magazine. Obviously, the fact that the Rao family hails from India sped things along and made everything simpler.

“Part of the arrangement does involve finances which helps us take out the booklet and distribute it along with the magazine every month. The group isn't involved with 90 Minutes directly, though.“ Venky’s have yet to convince the majority of Blackburn Rovers fans that they can look forward to a bright future under their stewardship.

Their absence from Rovers’ Premier League games has angered supporters domestically, as has their continued refusal to communicate with the community.

Their shambolic regime to date has left huge uncertainty about the direction the club is heading, as well as the club battling against relegation, as they remain distanced from their fan base.

The publication of Blue&White will leave Rovers fans at home feeling increasingly as though they are being ignored but Agarwal believes it could spark a rise in the club’s popularity in India - as long as results improve.

He said: “I think both the club and us understand that it isn't possible to convert, say, United fans or Arsenal fans to Blackburn fans, especially in the current scenario, which sees the club battling to stay in the Premier League.

“Eventually, it's only going to be good performances on the pitch that wins the clubs hardcore fans in the country, but the idea is to try and make Rovers a fan's 'second club'.

“They may not watch their matches every week, but the aim is to make them look out for their match result on the weekend..

“The feedback we've received so far has been extremely positive, more so because it informs the readers more than what a regular show on TV would, about Rovers.

“The group's acquisition of the club, if not anything else, has made people form opinions about the team, the players, and the performances on the pitch.

“We would probably seen even greater interest had the club done better on the pitch, and if they survive in the league and improve over the next one to two years, we could surely see some Blackburn Rovers fans out here.

“There aren't really many Rovers 'fans' in India, but yes they do have followers. A lot of Indians follow the club on Twitter, and keep a check on their results and news, so barring the top clubs, Rovers would probably be the team that enjoys the highest following in India, simply because they're owned by an Indian company.”

Venky’s were unavailable for comment yesterday when the Lancashire Telegraph attempted to contact them about the magazine.

IN January’s inaugural edition of Blue & White, Rovers co-owner Balaji Rao told its readers the clear intentions that Venky’s have for the Ewood Park club...

"Acquisition of BRFC is a major milestone in VH Group’s history.

We are aware that presently BRFC is going through a tough time and it will take some time and effort for the club to regain its pre-eminent position in the Premier League.

We are committed to see that BRFC turns a corner and becomes a top performer in the near future.

India is one of the top cricketing countries in the world, so there is no reason why we can’t become one of the top football countries in the world as well.

It will happen if only we make an earnest effort.

One of the first and important steps needed for this is to identify young Indian players who hold a promise to excel in the game, and provide them with world-class training.

Towards this end, we are planning to start a state-of-the-art Blackburn Rovers Training Academy in Pune.

We want to create a world-class infrastructure for spotting and training talented youngsters from across India at this Academy.

Working towards grassroots development, we have launched Roverstar, a unique football program to be executed in 20 cities pan-India, where talent will be nurtured and developed.

Roverstar gives the youth a once in a lifetime opportunity to play alongside some of the world’s best football players.

The first edition of Roverstar took Indian cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Goa and Pune by storm during Blackburn Rovers’ visit to India in October 2011.

During the finals in Pune, young kids were selected for a visit to Blackburn Rovers Academy in Brockhall, UK.

This will be the time where these young children will get to enjoy the game, and the right coaching will help improve the standard of football in the next generation.

We believe that the acquisition of BRFC by the VH Group will mark the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in the history of football in India.

We are overwhelmed by the spontaneous welcome and support from the members of the club, players, and fans alike, and we are thankful for it.

We are in this game for the long haul, and, and we will work passionately for the betterment of the club. We are committed to the game of football, to the players, and the fans. We shall leave no stone unturned to make them feel delighted."

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