Venky's ducks press over Blackburn relegation
The Indian owners of relegated Premier League club Blackburn Rovers, chicken farm operators Venky's, ducked the media on Tuesday amid a storm of criticism of their disastrous 18-month management.
British press reports slammed the absence of the Venky's family at the club's make-or-break Monday night clash with Wigan which saw the club lose 1-0 and confirm their drop from England's money-spinning top division.
Fans, who have vented their anger at Venky's and hapless manager Steve Kean all season, released a chicken onto the pitch during the game wrapped in a Blackburn flag with a one-word message for the owners: "Out."
Arvind Chauhan, spokesman for the company based in the western city of Pune which paid 23 million pounds (37 million dollars) for the club in November 2010, declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Reaction in the Indian media was muted, with pundits saying Venky's had failed to generate any excitement in their home market despite interest in the English Premier League (EPL) taking off.
Their main promotional effort was in October last year when Blackburn travelled to India for an exhibition match, becoming the first EPL team to play in the vast market of 1.2 billion people.
But barely 6,000 fans turned out for the game against a local side, and the trip was noted mostly for the advertising campaign that accompanied it showing leading players eating fried chicken in the dressing room before a game.
"There was really no Indian connection with Blackburn," India's best-known football writer Novy Kapadia told AFP. "Venky's ownership did not help our football in any way.
"I am not surprised Venky's are not popular in England. Their biggest mistake was to remove Sam Allardyce as manager as soon as they took over the club."
Jaydeep Basu, football correspondent of the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper, said Blackburn's relegation had gone almost unnoticed in India.
"Venky's never tried to promote the club in India," Basu told AFP. "Forget an Indian player, they did not even hire a dressing room attendant from here.
"Frankly, India's interest in the EPL is primarily confined to a few top clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and, now, Manchester City because they are close to the title."
News website FirstPost.com said that Venky's had failed to deliver on its commitments and forecast a sale of the club.
"The fans will demand a solution, will demand that the club is run by people who understand the game. There's little doubt that Venky's will have to cut their losses and end this horrific nightmare," it said.