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Straw to lead delegation's call for action at Rovers' minister meeting
JACK Straw will today call for tighter government control of football ownership in a meeting with Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.
The Blackburn MP and former Home Secretary will be part of a delegation made up of fellow East Lancashire MPs Jake Berry and Graham Jones and Rovers supporters urging government action, in the wake of Venky’s takeover and running of the Ewood Park outfit.
Blackburn Rovers’ Action Group (BRAG) met Premier League chief Richard Scudamore a fortnight ago calling for an investigation into the purchase of the club.
They will this afternoon join forces with Straw, Berry and Jones in a call for the game’s authorities to be made more answerable to the government.
Venky’s have drawn heavy criticism from supporters during their troubled 19 month regime, with a lack of communication and obvious plan major accusations aimed at them.
Straw said: “We have not sought the meeting to lament Rovers’ relegation to the Championship. We are all long-standing supporters. Relegation is a fact of life, especially for ‘town teams’ like Rovers “Rather, our profound concern is that the purchase of, and management of Rovers by the Indian company Venky’s raises very serious issues for HMG, as well as the Premier League and the FA, about the inadequacy of the current governance arrangements for professional football at this level.”
It is understood Venky’s passed the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper test’ with flying colours when they bought the club in November 2010.
Straw’s delegation will argue though the test needs to look into the ‘suitability and capability’ of prospective owners rather than ‘merely finances’ and that regular government monitoring is also needed.
Straw said: “The entry tests for prospective owners of clubs, and the arrangements for the continuing supervision of clubs is wholly unsatisfactory. They are not sufficiently rigorous in respect either of third party ownership, nor in respect of the role of agents.
“Rovers’ predicament is important for HMG because it is symptomatic of systemic faults in the current system, which have affected (and continues to affect) many other clubs.
“The interests of the supporters, the local community, and the staff have all been subordinated to the interests of foreign owners.
“ My personal opinion is that self-regulation will not work. I also believe that it is only a matter of time before a major scandal engulfs the PL/FL, and forces HMG’s hand. I think it is better to plan to avoid that.”
All members of the delegation have backed the Blackburn Rovers Investment Trust’s bid to attempt to bring the club into community ownership through a share issue.
Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen, said: “There is no place in the game for the supporters voice to be heard. Fans at the moment have no real right to have a say in the future of the club. It is important the government take this on board.”
Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn, said: “Credit must go to the fans for the efforts they have put into trying to organise meetings with the government and the Premier League.
“Everything is being done to try to open up dialogue between the owners and the supporters about the way forward for the club.
BRAG Chairman Glen Mullan, who will be at the meeting with two other committee members and an independent supporter, has vowed the group will continue battling for what they believe in.
He said: “We are looking for the government to step in and change the fit and proper test and that they regulate how the Premier League and FA conduct their business on a more pro active basis.
“At the moment they are very reactive but they should be proactive, because that would stop the need to react to problems like they have done at the likes of Portsmouth.
“Something has to be done at the government level. The Premier League deals with billions of pounds, but it is still a spectator sport. Football is nothing without the spectators. They should remember the little guys.
“The Premier League need to be more answerable than they are now.”