The big question for Blackburn fans ahead of their impending takeover is whether they really want to take the path adopted by Chelsea and Manchester City before them in an attempt to dominate the Premier League.
Where Abramovich bought into the Champions League and City are bankrolling the most ridiculous wages in the history of football, in Portsmouth and West Ham there are stark reminders of what happens to clubs who spend beyond their means.
Still, Ahsan Ali Syed seems to have legitimate credentials, and now the spotlight turns on the financial situation of Blackburn and whether big spending can bring success in a league where there isn’t 2 top teams but 6. Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has already said that he won’t embark on a spending spree just because he has money to burn, and the experiences of City where they are being forced to pay twice as much as everyone else to attract players will deter them on going out and buying the best players.
Syed estimates his total wealth at more than £8bn, divided among the more than 130 companies he privately owns. In an interview with the Guardian, he said this fortune is unencumbered by any third-party debt, allowing him to invest it as he wishes. If Syed’s claims are correct and he does buy Blackburn through his Western Gulf Advisory company, the club would rank behind only Manchester City and Chelsea as the Premier League’s richest.
Ahsan Ali Syed:
“Many football clubs were presented to me. Blackburn caught my attention for the room it has for productive growth. It also fits my investment philosophy, plus the size of the investment. There’s no point giving away millions of dollars of debt to acquire a club because almost all of my companies are unencumbered, so if I buy a club with heavy debts it would have been difficult.”
“The first step is to maintain Premier League status, enhance the capabilities of the academy, see if there lies potential to increase the seating of the stadium, help Big Sam with the transfer budget and to market the club rightly in other parts of the world, specifically in India, the Far East and Middle East.”
In 2008 (the most recent available figures), Rovers’ turnover was £56.4m compared with Manchester United’s £256.2m, Arsenal’s £222.5m and Chelsea’s £213.6m. From commercial revenue Blackburn realised £9m compared with United’s £64m, Arsenal’s £31m and Chelsea’s £23.8m.
However, Syed is convinced that this signals enormous potential as opposed to lack thereof.
“There’s huge potential. We need to be more innovative. If you go back in history United and Real Madrid started somewhere. They did not start as giants. I want an opportunity to start somewhere. I cannot write the books of history in one day, I need time.”
“If I talk about just one market, the Middle East, people here love football. They get glued to screens when football is played. The right marketing can get Blackburn back to the glory days, I’m sure about that.”
“I’m not coming into this for marketing. I’m a well-established man, I have well-established businesses. With regard to what you require to buy a club, you need liquidity. And my liquidity is quite public. I have nothing to hide. Blackburn fans can easily check on me. I was reading in the papers that the Liverpool deal fell apart because there was no proof of funds or something. That is not the case with this acquisition. I own more than 130 companies and publicly my assets are worth more than £8bn.
“To the fans – if you pick up any of my companies, there is no single loan in any of them from any other financial institution or other outside party. Any finance is from me, in capital or a loan. I feel proud in making this statement. And that is exactly the first step I want to take with Blackburn. The moment I acquire Blackburn I want to get rid of the loan.”
What do you think? Is Ahsan Ali Syed the real deal? And can Blackburn, in time, pull themselves back to the big table?