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Dreaming of glory for Rovers

sports Updated: Aug 20, 2010 00:31 IST
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Champions League football, Premier League titles - even the most optimistic of Blackburn Rovers supporters must find the ambitions of the club's prospective new owner outlandish.

Yet Ahsan Ali Syed, the Indian businessman based in Bahrain who is proposing a GBP300m takeover of one of the league's least fashionable concerns, is bullish regarding his vision for the 1995 champions.

Syed estimates his total wealth at more than GBP8bn, 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 as planned, the club would rank behind only Manchester City and Chelsea as the Premier League's
richest.

Asked why he chose Rovers as the target for a takeover the 36-year-old said: "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."

Blackburn, who are thought to owe GBP20m, are the only club to break the cartel of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea by winning the Premier League and Syed is confident they could do it again under his stewardship.

He said: "Why not? It is always easy to repeat the history. You need to be positive. If the resources are given to Big Sam [Allardyce, the manager] he can do wonders."

Ewood Park has a capacity of more than 31,000, which the club struggle to fill. Last season they had an average attendance of 25,428, compared with Manchester United's 74,864. Yet Syed, who claims he would hand Allardyce a GBP100m transfer fund, believes Blackburn can become a global brand over the next 15 years. He said: "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."

Syed is undeterred. "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."

Pressed on specific areas into which Rovers could expand, Syed said: "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."

The club has confirmed talks are ongoing with Western Gulf and Syed says he hopes to complete due diligence by next week to push through what would be a cash buyout before the transfer window closes. Is such a time-frame really viable? "One plus one is always two. When you say financial propositions are always complicated, they're not. I'm trying for two weeks. It might [take] three but eventually it will be completed."

Portsmouth's financial mishandling and Liverpool's ongoing problems are only two illustrations of why scepticism is now the default reaction to news that a club may soon acquire a rich benefactor. Syed accepts this and told Blackburn fans he is 100% serious.

"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."