Home » FA Cup, fan protests: Tennis balls are now flying in England too

FA Cup, fan protests: Tennis balls are now flying in England too

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FA Cup, fan protests: Tennis balls are now flying in England too

Football fan protests

Now the tennis balls are flying in England too

As of: 2:41 p.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes

Looks like the Bundesliga, but it’s FA Cup: Blackburn goalkeeper Aynsley Pears clears tennis balls from the grass

Quelle: Getty Images/Alex Livesey

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Tennis balls from the fan curves have dominated the image of the Bundesliga in recent weeks. Now English fans are taking an example and protesting against foreign investors – who are by no means a guarantee of wealth and titles for every club.

English football fans copied this from Germany: At the FA Cup game between Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, tennis balls flew onto the pitch in the first half – in protest against investors in the sport. Such an action is quite surprising in the highly commercialized English football world.

Manchester City belongs to the royal family of Abu Dhabi, Newcastle United is effectively in the hands of the Saudi Arabian state. Arsenal and Chelsea are owned by US investors, Wolverhampton Wanderers by the largest Chinese private conglomerate. Foreign investors are normal in English football. But the example of Blackburn Rovers shows that salvation does not always lie in extremely wealthy owners.

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The scenes were reminiscent of any Bundesliga game in recent weeks. 14 minutes had been played in the FA Cup game when numerous tennis balls flew from the fan curve onto the pitch. Unlike in the Bundesliga, where games were sometimes interrupted for almost half an hour, in England things continued after just a few moments. Players and stewards quickly put the 20 or so tennis balls aside. In addition to the flying objects, there were chants from the Rovers supporters: “We want Venky’s out” (literally: “Venky’s out”).

Ex-Stuttgart player ejected from Blackburn

Blackburn’s supporters were protesting in ninety-six style against their own owner. Venky’s London Limited is the British branch of the VH Group, an Indian conglomerate primarily comprising companies in the poultry industry. In 2010, Venky’s took over 99.9 percent of the club’s shares, the total value of the takeover at that time was 43 million pounds.

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But the hoped-for successes failed to materialize in Indian hands. Rovers, a founding member of the Premier League and English champions in 1995, plummeted to the third-tier League One. Blackburn has been playing in the second division since 2018 – and is deep in the fight to stay in the league this season. Only four points separate the club from a relegation zone. Just a few weeks ago, coach Jon Dahl Tomasson, a former striker at VfB Stuttgart, was fired.

Champion with Rovers, top scorer in the Premier League three times, later Newcastle legend: Alan Shearer

Quelle: Getty Images

The uncertain sporting future is also accompanied by the unclear financial situation. Because the VH Group currently has to defend itself in court. It’s about embezzled assets and the settlement of outstanding tax payments. Until the hearing before the Supreme Court in New Delhi, which was recently postponed until mid-March, financial flows to England are restricted – and the Rovers to Sparkus.

Snowball poisons the relationship with the owner

In the winter, the Rovers loaned their captain Lewis Travis to league rivals Ipswich Town (in the hands of a US investment fund) and sold homegrown Adam Wharton to Crystal Palace (the majority owner is an American tech entrepreneur) for a record fee of 21 million euros. The club could have used the income from reaching the cup quarter-finals. The Rovers ultimately lost 3-4 on penalties against the newly rich Newcastle.

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It wasn’t the Rovers’ first protest against their owner. Venky’s belongs to the family of founder Banda Vasudev Rao, and since his death the business has been run by his daughter Anuradha Desai. During a protest in 2013, Desai’s husband was hit in the shoulder by a snowball at the stadium. Since then, a member of the owning family has been at Ewood Park, the home ground in Lancashire.

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The tennis ball protests were successful in the Bundesliga. The German Football League announced last week that it would no longer continue negotiations to conclude a billion-dollar deal.

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