WE sat down with Rovers director Mike Cheston this week to discuss the club’s board structure, its search for a new manager, the future of its out of contract and on-loan players, its financial situation... and when season ticket details will be released.

Along with Alan Myers, you took on extra responsibilities after Derek Shaw’s departure, as well as continuing as finance director. Have you got a defined role now?

I’m going to continue as finance director. I’ve got a very strong and experienced financial team that will give me the platform to be able do that. But I will also be taking on responsibility for all the operational aspects of the club. Things I’ve been able to do already is work on Financial Fair Play (FFP), rebuild community links through my involvement in the Community Trust, the Academy, and administration at the club’s various departments. And I plan to continue that.

So you are effectively operations manager for the club on a day-to-day basis?

Yes, while continuing the function of a finance director.

Will a chief executive or managing director be appointed to replace Derek Shaw?

There are no plans to do that. The board and the management in India are going to take their time to review the requirements for the senior management team, looking to identify skill gaps, current strengths, roles and responsibilities. But there are no plans to have a replacement MD or CEO.

There is a lack of directors based at Ewood Park. Is that going to change? Is that a problem?

No, if we’ve got the right structure in place. We do have regular dialogue, if not with the owners, then with the owners’ representatives. Yes, we will look at the existing structure of the board and see where we need to strengthen, but the plan is to bring in one or two people – not necessarily directors – to support the areas we feel are a little bit weak. For example we’ve already identified commercial and communications following the departure of Alan Myers. We see that as two areas we need to focus on and strengthen.

So Alan will be replaced?

We will be looking, initially, to strengthen both the commercial and communications structures within the club, together with recruiting more experienced football people, which may well involve the appointment of one or two more persons to assist me on the board.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Will there be structural changes?

We acknowledge we need to bring in a couple of people so that will involve restructuring, yes.

What is Suhail Pasha’s role at the club?

He comes to the club on a regular basis. He’s here to support the club, and also facilitate the communications between the club and the owners. He does that very well. I’ve found that particularly useful.

Will he take a place on the board?

No, he’s purely here for support.

When do you see these changes being implemented?

As soon as reasonably possible. With what’s happened with the departures of Alan and Derek, we need to strengthen. But we need to get the right appointments in place.

How far down the line are you recruiting a new manager?

We’ve started the process. We’ve already built up a shortlist, which we’re still compiling, as we’re still getting applications. Between the board, key staff within the club, and India, we’ll look to see who to interview and then take it from there. The process is still at any early stage and once suitable candidates have been identified, the appropriate approach will be made in consultation with management in India.

Lancashire Telegraph:

So it’s a collaborative effort between here and India?


Are you putting a timescale on the appointment?

Time is on our side. It’s not mid-season. We will not be rushing into an appointment although clearly we would like to have the new manager in place as soon as possible. It is an important appointment for the club so we want to ensure we get it right.

When will the interview process take place?

We’ll start the interview process as soon as we can. But at the moment we’re still in the process of compiling the shortlist.

Do you have a type of manager in mind?

Somebody with the right credentials, somebody who impresses us, and somebody who has good ideas about the way they want to take the team forward. He has to be mindful of the fact that next year we will not have parachute payments, and that we will have to operate within FFP. So he will have to be well aware of that and also have a good record of bringing players through an academy. There is a lot of good work being done in our academy and in our under-21s. The under-18s and under-21s have both had excellent seasons.

Is that man out there?

There are a lot of quality candidates out there. Some of them may not be as well known. There are a lot of managers who have come through at other clubs like Eddie Howe. We just need to speak to the people that know – the experts – and that’s why we’re having a consultancy process. There are a lot of quality candidates out there.

Lancashire Telegraph:

What will happen to Alan Irvine, Rob Kelly and Laurence Batty?

We’ve had initial conversations with them but we need to explore what their thoughts are going forward. But we certainly want them to stay. When they were brought in – and I include Paul Lambert in this – most people thought they were really good appointments. It’s disappointing what’s happened with Paul but we still have Alan Irvine, Rob Kelly and Laurence Batty – and that is an experienced backroom team. We’d like them to stay but we’ll have to speak to them over the coming days and weeks.

So they could form part of the new management team?

Absolutely. We’ll speak with the new manager but we’d like him to work with the existing management. Let’s see what happens in the interview process. But certainly we want to retain those people that we are talking about.

You have a number of players out of contract in the summer. What happens with them?

We need to have conversations with the backroom staff but hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of a new manager coming in very quickly, and get his views, although of course he won’t have had the opportunity to see them play. We are aware of this situation and we’ve already started dialogue in some cases, but there are a number of factors we need to take into account. Some of them we will be prepared to release, and others we will offer new contracts.

You have players going into the final year of their contracts. Will you be looking to extend their stays?

Again, we have to be mindful of what the new manager wants to do, but, yes, clearly these are the type of players we want to stay at the club, and if that being the case, we will look at offering them new contracts.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Is it a similar situation with the players who are on loan at the club?

Similar, but I say all this, we also have to be mindful of the constraints we will be operating under next season. We will be operating with £6m less in terms of parachute payments. We put a lot of work in to getting out of FFP in the first place, we suffered it for a year, and we don’t want to go back there. We’re likely to be out of FFP this year, too, and we want to stay out of FFP next year as well. We have to be mindful of that and cut our cloth accordingly.

What is the current financial situation at the club?

The finances have improved but we are still dependent on owner funding. As recently as last month the owners injected significant further funding and they have committed to funding any shortfall for the 2016-17 season and for the foreseeable future. And they have confirmed that they have no intention of recalling their loan. That’s a £100m loan, which is interest free.

Yes we’re continuing to pay out settlements to players who are no longer with the club and we need to work with that. But we’re in a better place than a lot of other clubs. We are FFP compliant and up to date with all our responsibilities to HRMC and regulatory bodies. We’re no longer facing an embargo and have owners who continue to invest in the club.

We need to look at the longer-term picture, building sustainable growth, and that means operating within our financial means. Like every club in the Championship, we want promotion, but we want to achieve it with the right infrastructure, management team and fans’ support to give ourselves the best chance of that.

So the owners are committed to Blackburn Rovers?

Absolutely. All the conversations and correspondence I’ve been involved in have all been very much the owners are planning for next season. They’re not about to leave the club, they’re not about to put us into administration, or any of the scenarios flying around.

But will there have to be cost-cutting?

Yes, only to reflect what’s happening. We have to be realistic. But it’s not just about cost-cutting, it’s about revenues as well. We need to bring in more revenue from our commercial activities, hence the need for a commercial appointment. We will also need the support of the fans in every way. We need the club and everyone associated with it pulling in the same direction. We’ve got a lot of issues to deal with, so let’s try and work in a concerted way. We’ll certainly do our best at the club to address any shortcomings we have, such as communication.

So, cost-cutting, inevitably, but that’s part and parcel of running a business. We’re not looking at wholesale redundancies or anything like that. It will be a much more managed player budget, for example. There is a £6m reduction in revenue. We’ve got to find it from somewhere if we are going to continue at the same level of operation and player squad.

How do you go about doing that?

We’ll have conversations with the owners and we’ll be looking to achieve those reductions.

We are conscious there are other clubs doing better than us that have got significantly lower wage budgets. So it’s not necessarily the case – and we’ve experienced that here – that investing in players on high salaries gives you the success you might think will come with that. We need to work within our means. We need to be sustainable. So we need to look at the wage budget and we need to look at the pipeline that we’ve got and look at bringing the academy players through. And it’s encouraging what’s happening down there (at the academy).

Lancashire Telegraph:

Will there funds be available to the new manager? And is there a budget in place?

Yes, there will be funds. What they will be, I can’t say, but again I keep referring to you to the fact that we need to work within the constraints I’ve already described: the loss of parachute payments and FFP. We need the club to be sustainable and we don’t want to be under an embargo again. Yes, there is a budget in place for next season and this is being reviewed on a regular basis. For obvious reasons we will need to keep this confidential.

Is there a plan in place going forward?

Yes. We are still in choppy waters, and we need to get through them, but all I say is, we need to remember there are lots of positives at the club which put us in a very good position to do something about that. We’ve got the facilities at the stadium, training ground and academy. The recent successes of the under-21s and the academy is providing us all with real encouragement that the pipeline to the first team is strong. We’ve got the continued support of the owners. We are FFP compliant. A lot of clubs aren’t. A lot of clubs will fail FFP this year. We’ve also got some really excellent staff around the club. And last but not least we’ve got an excellent fan base with huge potential. You saw what happened at Rotherham. Paul Lambert made reference to that. All of these things give us real building blocks moving forward.

We have a lot of things a lot of clubs don’t have. What we need is the support and we’ll be working very hard to achieve that. I do accept we need to improve communications and we will continue to very hard to work on this. We also need to work hard on improving our relationship with the business community and we will be looking at ways to develop this. In short we will aspire for the Premier League but this needs to be achieved via sustainable growth.

When are season-ticket details going to be released?

We are finalising them. We are very, very close to what the season ticket structure will look like for next season.