Blackburn Rovers suitor pleads for fans' support
Prospective Blackburn owner Ahsan Ali Syed has invited sceptics to carry out their own "due diligence'' on him as he closes in on a takeover of the Premier League club.
Syed's representatives were at Ewood Park on Monday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the club's trustees, securing an exclusive four-week period to inspect Blackburn's accounts.
Syed has pledged to give manager Sam Allardyce an initial transfer pot of between £80-100 million and clear the club's debts of around £20 million as part of an overall investment of £300 million during the first five-year phase of a 15-year masterplan.
Western Gulf Advisory, the company owned by the 36-year-old, recently acquired a 50% stake in Irish construction company McCabe in a £300 million debt-for-equity deal, and claims it has at least £8 billion in assets under its control.
However, with the Indian businessman fully aware that similar declarations of intent from new owners at other English clubs have failed to bear fruit, he acknowledged that he will need to win the trust of the supporters.
"The evidence of my funds is public as are my capabilities and what I can do,'' Syed told The Sport Briefing from Bahrain, where Western Gulf Advisory is based. "I'd like the fans to consider me as one of you and not to consider me as the owner. Accept me in your fan club.
"I will not let Blackburn Rovers go on a rollercoaster ride - my liquidity is solid. For a club, liquidity is not the oxygen, but the support and fans are the oxygen.
"I want the fans to trust in me, believe in me and do due diligence on me. I've turned around a lot of businesses. Give me a chance to turn around Blackburn Rovers.''
Blackburn, who won the Premier League in 1995, have struggled to challenge at the top of the division since the death of owner Jack Walker in 2000. Walker left Blackburn in the hands of trustees who, along with investment bank Rothschild, have been searching for an appropriate buyer for the club for the past three years.
However, despite the lack of silverware in recent seasons and the relatively modest size of Blackburn in comparison with some other neighbouring clubs, Syed insisted the model presents an attractive proposition.
"Blackburn fits my investment philosophy,'' he added. "I have been investing in good, but undervalued and distressed assets for 14 years now, and I have a good track record of turning around businesses.
"My team put a lot of clubs on my desk, but the only club that attracted my attention was Blackburn Rovers. It's very easy to buy a high-flying club, but I'd love to buy a club like Blackburn which is stable and transform it into [a] high-level [club]. That would be more challenging and interesting for me.
"Right now we have developed a 15-year strategy for Blackburn which is split into three separate five-year phases. In the first phase I would concentrate on enhancing the academy; getting some good players in, either this month or otherwise in January; increasing the capacity of the stadium and marketing the club in the Far East, Middle East and India.''
An increase in the capacity of 31,000-seat Ewood Park would also include other developments, according to Syed.
"Right now all of those plans are in the first stage and it would be very premature for me to speak about those plans,'' he said. "But you need to create a lot of assets, in and around Ewood Park, in order to make it self-sustainable.''
Syed, who sits on the board of numerous companies around the world through Western Gulf Advisory, has said he would delegate responsibility for looking after day-to-day operations at Blackburn.
However, he insisted the that he would have a "passion'' for Blackburn and would base the third and fourth phases of the 15-year plan on the prospect of on-field success at home and in Europe.
Syed said reaching the Champions League "has to be'' an ambition under his tenure, and added: "Every fan dreams of championships and I am no different.''