Blackburn's woes will not deter Indian investors

NEW DELHI Thu May 10, 2012 2:15pm BST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bad experiences with Blackburn Rovers and Racing Santander will not deter Indian investors from buying European football clubs, experts say.

Poultry giant Venky's became the first Indian owners of an English Premier League team following their 23-million-pound takeover of Blackburn in November 2010.

The apprehension that greeted them at Ewood Park snowballed into outrage after the club's relegation from the Premier League following a 1-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic on Monday.

La Liga club Racing Santander, who were majority owned by Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed, went into voluntary administration with debts of more than 33 million euros ($43 million) last year and were relegated last month.

"This is obviously a setback but I don't think it would demoralise future Indian investors," Bhaswar Goswami, executive director of sports company Celebrity Management Group, told Reuters on Thursday, after Blackburn's relegation.

"On the contrary, I think it will actually help them to look at it from a different angle. It would give them an idea how to go about the job of running a football team.

"There are well-respected corporate houses such as the Tata Group and Reliance who can do wonders. For companies that want to do business in Europe, owning a football club there is the easiest and quickest way to establish themselves," he added.

Goswami said Venky's, who critics said controlled the Blackburn administration from its headquarters in the western Indian city of Pune, did not have the right people to run the club.

"Buying a club and running that are two different things. You badly need people who can run it.

"You need both passion and expertise. I assume they had passion, otherwise why would they buy a struggling club like Blackburn? Expertise, well, if you don't have, buy that. You get it from the market."

Author and journalist Jaydeep Basu echoed Goswami.

"You may not have experience but you can always hire the right people. Some understanding is a must.

"The problem with them was that they were not embraced by the people at Lancashire and they did not try to connect with the Indian fans here either.

"They did not invite any Indian player for trial. They once offered a junior team (the opportunity) to practise at Blackburn but backed out at the last minute."

Basu praised the example of the Force India Formula One team which has Indian chief stakeholders in Kingfisher chief Vijay Mallya and the Sahara Group.

"Force India really made the effort to connect with Indian fans and managed to create that sense of attachment which did not happen with Blackburn.

"I think still Venky's got a lot out of Blackburn. It's a household name in England now, so what if for the wrong reasons?"

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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