Comedian and lifelong Blackburn Rovers fan Tez Ilyas helped to officially launch the club’s South Asian Supporters' (SAS) fans group.

The launch was held at the Darwen End ahead of the match against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, with the new group joined by former striker Rudy Gestede.

Rovers SAS has been set up by volunteers from across the borough who wanted to set up a group dedicated to support fans from diverse backgrounds.

As Rovers fans will be aware, the SAS names heralds from the famous nineties’ partnership between Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who steered the club towards the Premier League title.

Later in the afternoon representatives from the new forum were welcomed on to the pitch at half-time alongside ambassadors Tez Ilyas and Dilan Markanday.

During the launch a Q&A session gave fans the opportunity to speak to representatives from the Blackburn Rovers including former Rovers star Rudy Gestede, Lynsey Talbot and Yasir Sufi, both from Rovers, and Hannah Kumari, who has been newly appointed at Fans for Diversity.

The audience heard how the club had looked to encourage more fans of South Asian heritage to attend games, the work of Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, the One Rovers campaign and the popular Ewood Express initiative.

Rudy Gestede, who is Muslim and was born in France to parents who had moved from Benin, spoke about his experiences playing in England.

He said: “I have been very fortunate since coming to the UK that I have been supported with my faith and my background. I was given a place to pray and halal meat on every occasion.

“When I joined Cardiff first, they were very helpful and kind for me and my family. It was the same in Blackburn where we had a room to pray in the stadium which was fantastic for the game.

“I can only say good words about what clubs did for me in the UK.

“I am also very pleased to see the work being done with the South Asian Community.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Tez Ilyas was joined by around 100 fans at the launch of the South Asian Supporters (SAS) fans group at Ewood Park (Pictures: @craigmwilliams)

The club reiterated its commitment to taking a ‘zero tolerance’ tolerance approach to any allegations of racism.

Speaking on the day, Blackburn Rovers head of operations, Lynsey Talbot, said: “The club have a zero stance on discrimination in whatever form that is.

“If anyone does encounter any form of abuse or discrimination, I would say make use of the discrimination line.

"It is so much easier for us in an operational perspective to be able to look into whilst the game is going on.

“It is completely anonymous.”

She revealed that only recently a case had been brought to their attention and action was being taken.

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Hannah Kumari, who has been newly appointed as campaign manager at Fans for Diversity, said: “This is my first supporter’s group launch and it is huge privilege to be here today and hearing about the work Blackburn are doing in the community.,

“I think it is really important to have supporters groups from diverse backgrounds.

“As someone who grew up going to football in the late nineties there were not many people who looked like me. My situation was a little different because I am dual heritage.”

Steve Williams, from ‘We Are The Rovers’, gave a talk and presentation and the heritage of the club and the town.

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Chair of Rovers SAS, Dr Zayd Rawoot, said: "It was great to see such a fantastic turnout for the official launch of Rovers SAS with around 140 people in attendance, not just from the South Asian community but from all backgrounds under the #onerovers ethos.

“I would like to thank Blackburn comedian and Rovers SAS Ambassador Tez Ilyas for being such a brilliant host.

“We had great feedback from all attendees who really enjoyed themselves despite the defeat to QPR.

“A special thank you to all our sponsors for the launch event - all local South Asian owned businesses including Attock Network Limited, Moffat’s Motor Accessories, Majrona Kar Parts, and Lancashire Computer Services.

“We are a self-funded supporters group, so we're all always looking for sponsors and if you can help in anyway please get in touch.”

The supporters group also announced an Open Iftar event will be held on March 17 at Ewood Park, which is expected to be around a week into Ramadan.

The national initiative sees fast breaking events held during Ramadan at iconic venues across the UK, including Wembley and the Royal Albert Hall.