LONDON (Reuters) - The fallout surrounding Blackburn Rovers' relegation from the Premier League continued on Wednesday with reports the club's deputy chief executive had been sacked after criticising manager Steve Kean.
Kean, speaking at a news conference ahead of Blackburn's final game of the season at Chelsea on Sunday, said he could not comment on reports that Paul Hunt had been fired, a day after a letter was revealed in which he told the club's Indian owners Venky's that Kean should be sacked.
"I am aware of the speculation but I can't, at this moment, confirm it," Kean said. "That is all I want to say on that matter. I just want to talk about the Chelsea game."
Blackburn made no official comment on the reports, underlining the perception that the Indian chicken producers who own the club also run it from an unhealthy distance.
The letter from Hunt, written after Blackburn lost 2-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers in December and fell to the bottom of the table, warned the owners of growing financial problems and the threat of relegation.
He also questioned Kean's suitability for the manager's job.
"He has lost the crowd and as a result of this evening's game, he has lost the dressing room as well - the players no longer want to play for him," Hunt wrote.
"It is a shame and disappointing but we must act now to save the club.
"I have been your senior officer at the club for six months now and I feel that I must now write to you to ask you to make some significant changes to save the club, perhaps from relegation but also perhaps from administration," Hunt added.
"We are losing fans/customers at an alarming rate. I am very concerned that fans are voting with their feet and not attending, not purchasing and not engaging with the club."
Kean has been unpopular with supporters since he was appointed in December 2010 following the sacking of Sam Allardyce with Blackburn lying 13th in the table.
After Blackburn were relegated following their 1-0 defeat by Wigan Athletic on Monday, Kean was ushered down the tunnel by stewards for his own protection.
He said he had been in touch with the owners in India.
"Their reaction was the same as ours, they were devastated," Kean said.
"We are very numb. We have taken a step backwards but we now have to prepare a squad and the process has already started.
"I have spoken at great lengths with the owners and now we have to assemble a squad that is a very competitive squad."
Kean has maintained his dignity throughout a disappointing season.
"Moving forward it is going to be an exciting time," he said. "We have taken a massive backward step but we have to look forward and make sure we can get back at the first time of asking. The owners are not going anywhere, I'm not going anywhere."
When asked if Venky's were the right owners for the club, he replied; "100 per cent."
(Reporting by Mike Collett)