India gets taste for Premier League
Are you spitting feathers about the poultry sum an Indian chicken company has paid for those cocks of the north, Blackburn Roosters, or do you want me to stop scratching around and get on with it?
I am guessing it's the latter so no more yolks, sorry, they're not funny and this story deserves better because it signifies the end of one era and beginning of another, for the club, the Premier League and possibly the Indian subcontinent.
OK, that last statement is a bit OTT but news that an unheralded, family-run business from India has just bought a founding member of both the Football League and its mega-bucks off-shoot, the Premier League, tells us something significant about that region and our own.
India's burgeoning middle-classes are not only beginning to share western appetites for delicacies like chicken nuggets (a trend Venky's knows well), they are also devouring televised sport. Cricket and Formula One have already witnessed the emergence of private Indian wealth, football is next.
That, however, does not answer three big questions: Why Venky's? Why Blackburn Rovers? Why now? The last of those is the easiest and goes some way to answering the second, so let's start there.
The Lancashire giants won their sixth FA Cup in 1928 and then...didn't do a great deal for almost 70 years. Relegated from Division One in 1966, Rovers would spend the next 26 years trying to return without ever really convincing they would make it.
And then everything suddenly became so much easier.
Jack Walker, a local boy made very good, started to invest his steelworks millions in his hometown club. At first, it was a loan here and a contribution there, but by the end of 1991 he was in charge and money was no longer an issue.
It might seem a piffling sum in today's Abu Dhabi/Russian oligarch era but £25m was invested in the likes of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, and manager Kenny Dalglish was given free rein and open chequebook to win silverware. He did not disappoint. Promotion was secured in 1992 and three years later Rovers hit the jackpot, Premiership glory.
The years since then have been less dramatic. There was a relegation in 1999 and a promotion in 2001, but it is Walker's death in-between that is most significant in terms of Rovers' history. A canny businessman, Walker had already transferred his wealth to tax-efficient Jersey and his final move was to place his Rovers shares in the family trust.
But with Jack not about, the Walker support ceased to be unconditional. Never blessed with the huge crowds or marketing muscle of many of their rivals, Rovers required regular subsidy, and by 2007 the trustees of the Jack Walker Settlement Trust had decided it was time to cut the cord.
In some ways, the biggest surprise is it took the trust and its investment bank advisor, Rothschild, three years to sell a solid Premier League club with relatively tiny debts and a fit-for-purpose stadium.
But Rovers, like so many other clubs, have had their share of timewasters. Finding the "right buyer" was also perhaps more important to this seller than is always the case.
So is the Rao family, the dynasty behind Venky's and its parent company the VH Group, that buyer? The only fair answer at the moment is that the people who Walker left in charge of his affairs certainly think the Indians are right for Rovers.
Paul Egerton-Vernon, the trust's chairman, said he was "very pleased" to be handing over to the Raos, and John Williams, Rovers chairman, praised the "determination and enthusiasm" of the new owners. And well he might, he is going to be working for them until at least next summer.
But his presence is not the only concession to tradition. Contained within Venky's 19-page offer document (most of which is for the benefit of the owners of the 7,000 shares the trust did not own, shares worth a whopping £1,245 in total) are a number of other continuity pledges.
First, there is the time-honoured commitment to the existing coaching staff (and Sam Allardyce could not have been more fulsome in his welcome to the Raos), then there is the promise to maintain Rovers' community programmes, and finally there is a pledge to look after Walker's statue and not rename his stand without trust permission.
What's really interesting, however, is the new stuff - a bigger push on the commercial side, "brand awareness" in Asia and improvements to the club's media platforms - and that answers the "why Venky's" question.
The Raos are not the Abu Dhabi royal family or another Abramovich. They're possibly not even a Whelan from nearby Wigan. But they are on the up.
When this deal was first mooted last month there was some wildly inaccurate reporting of their wealth, largely because of a western unfamiliarity with the Indian "numbers" the crore and lakh: rogue zeroes appeared to raise giddy expectations in east Lancashire. The truth is Venky's is just the publically-traded part of the family's VH Group. Its profits last year were about £10m on turnover of £100m. Not bad but nowt special.
Numbers for the rest of the company are harder to come by - a best guess is a turnover of £300m or so - but the ambition is clear. Already India's biggest chicken firm, VH Group is diversifying and opening businesses from Bangladesh to Switzerland. With a Premier League club to their name now, the Raos are unlikely to go under the radar ever again.
Will this mean a Walker-style shopping spree? Probably not. The family's matriarch, Anuradha J Desai, has talked about £5m being made available in January and she was including wages. She also discussed "leasing players", so the loan market might be Big Sam's high street.
But this brings in a relatively under-reported part of the deal. Mrs Desai's brothers Balaji and Venkateshwara are the football fans in the family - and have spent Rao money on sponsoring India internationals - but they are not experts. They will be guided at Blackburn not only by the existing board but also by football marketing firm Kentaro and player-agent partner the Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM).
The involvement of these two firms gives Rovers access to an international network of agents, clubs and scouts. Add that to the prospect of turning India into a nation of Blackburn fans (easier said than done, admittedly) and you have got quite a proposition. Not bad for £23m in cash to buy the shares and £20m or so to clear the debt.
The passing of the Walker era, and the security it provided, is undoubtedly a time for reflection at Ewood Park, but what happens next will not be boring.