How bad has football got if other fans think Blackburn deserved to be relegated because of the behaviour of their supporters? No sooner had a few Rovers’ fans invaded the pitch to protest than Twitter had erupted with condemnation along the lines of, “Blackburn fans deserve relegation because they didn’t support their club,” – an astonishing over-simplification of events that have taken place at Ewood Park.
I don’t want to overstate the significance of Twitter – hopefully there are plenty of non-Twittering fans who feel some empathy with Blackburn supporters. There should be. As fans, if you’re not allowed to voice your discontent at an unpopular regime, then what is your role? Are you there just to support, to do what you’re told?
If that’s the case, why even bother with fan culture at all? Get rid of the fanzine movement, the forums, the blogs, the supporters’ trusts and anything else that gives fans an independent voice on how their club is run.
Is it not enough that clubs are already bought and sold internationally like any other commodity? Now you’re just expected to put up and shut up when a new regime arrives and fucks up your club. The Blackburn fans had a right to know why Sam Allardyce was fired and replaced with a woefully inexperienced manager who has overseen a disastrous campaign. They could see this coming.
People think it’s harsh to subject a manager to a sustained campaign of vitriol to have him removed. Yes, it is harsh and no doubt very unpleasant for Kean. Professional football can be quite an unpleasant sport, though. Reams of thesis on why this is so have been written by far more distinguished writers than this one, but the sport has an unbreakable bind to its fan culture, for better and for worse. If you want fans to feel passionately enough about their club to create intense, exciting atmospheres, you have to allow them to get angry when they feel cheated. You can’t turn that emotional connection off when it becomes a bit uncomfortable.
In any case, Rovers’ fans haven’t been protesting exclusively against Kean, they’ve been protesting against Venky’s too. It was their decisions that have brought about this demise. What positive changes have the new owners made since buying the club, what’s their long-term plan? If they can’t answer the most basic of questions and explain their strategy to the fans, then do those fans not have a right to be heard? Without the fans, there is no Blackburn Rovers.
That’s why Blackburn fans shouldn’t be criticised for this season. It could have been anyone’s club getting screwed over by Venky’s. If it was yours, would you sit there and clap, or would you get mad as hell?