Football fever

How Blackburn Rovers fans could use Manchester Utd to help dislodge their unpopular Indian owners

The fans are planning to launch protest against Venky's, the poultry firm that are the unpopular owners of the club.

Disgruntled Blackburn Rovers fans are desperate for the club’s owners, Indian poultry firm VH Group – better known as Venky’s – to sell the club after a disastrous spell in charge during which the club has been relegated and and its players humiliated. Until now, any protests from fans have failed to make an impact in India, but when Blackburn Rovers play Manchester United in the FA Cup this weekend, fans may have a chance to amplify their message beyond the shores of the UK to the Indian subcontinent – all with the aid of a helpful hashtag.

It has been a long time coming – Venky’s has owned the club since 2010 when Rovers was a well-run Premier League outfit. Initially the group had been looking to purchase a club in Pune, India, but full ownership of a Premier League team was seen as a shrewd move, tapping into a growing love of English Premier League football in India. A marketing video was quickly produced showing players tucking in to Venky’s chicken products with the slogan: “Good for you”.

Venky’s Blackburn FC chicken advert.

A shambolic reign

The advert – along with another club campaign #BirdysDate – was widely mocked, but it illustrated how the Indian chicken firm saw the club as a tool to push its products.

And it was not long before the new owners started ruffling feathers both inside and outside Rovers. Soon after Venky’s took over Rovers’ manager, Sam Allardyce, was sacked while the club sat in a respectable 13th place in the Premier League. Star defenders Phil Jones and Chris Samba were sold to Manchester United and Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala respectively. An inexperienced manager from the backroom staff, Steve Kean, was then appointed and the club were eventually relegated in 2012. They have since struggled in the Championship with an embarrassing merry-go-round of managers, players and backroom staff and a reported £100m debt.

Blackburn Rovers fans protesting against the club owners in 2016.  Chris Page/Flickr, CC BY
Blackburn Rovers fans protesting against the club owners in 2016. Chris Page/Flickr, CC BY

Organisations such as the Rovers Trust have tried to take back control of the club and open a dialogue with Venky’s about the club’s future. The owners have essentially detached themselves from Rovers and halted any investment, putting the club into a state of managed decline.

Fans responded by boycotting the recent FA Cup clash with Blackpool, a move which was labelled by The Independent as the most important fan protest in years. Some fans have even started a kickstarter campaign to raise money to pay for a “Venky’s Out” advertisement in an Indian newspaper.

Rovers won the game against Blackpool and have now drawn Manchester United at home. On the field, a weakened Rovers side will be underdogs – but off the field, the match might present an opportunity for fans to make a noise using the #VenkysOut Twitter hashtag. Between them Manchester United stars Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimović have more than 7 million followers on Twitter alone and overall, United has more than 10m Twitter followers and 72 million likes on their official Facebook page.

The prediction of the rise of football and Premier League in India was correct. Kantar’s 2012 study of Manchester United fans for example, was the largest-ever football survey and it showed that United had 659 million followers, half of whom were in Asia. This massive fan base of Indian Manchester United and Premier League followers was the audience that Venky’s sought to tap into – but without Premier League status and stars, the Rovers / Venky’s brand is practically invisible in India, failing to give Venky’s brand the boost the owners had coveted.


Social media algorithms work in such a way that conversation around a brand leads to more visibility on people’s timelines. In effect, that means that Manchester United fans in India will discuss their team and their timelines will accordingly offer them more United content. Any Blackburn Rovers stories or content are rendered invisible by the social media platforms used extensively by Indian fans. A big club such as Manchester United with a huge fan base in India generates a lot of discussion on social media platforms. By contrast, Blackburn Rovers is relatively invisible on social media in India.

But the #VenkysOut campaign has an increased chance of reaching India via the social media feeds of United fans in India. The #VenkysOut “18/75” campaign is urging fans not to take to their seats until the 18th minute and to leave the stadium on the 75th minute. Supporters are also planning on holding up red cards during the match or download a special red card app. The aim is to get Venky’s to cut their losses and sell the club.

Social media is massive in India and has a history of galvanising and amplifying fan protest. The Manchester United FA Cup game is the biggest chance in years to make a statement that could reach millions of international fans sitting on the end of smart phones and social media. The impact will remain to be seen but there is at least a glimmer of positivity and hope for Rovers fans.

Alex Fenton, Lecturer in Digital Business, University of Salford.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.


It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.