Forty years ago, Fraser Cropper was selling programmes in the Riverside Stand.
Today, he is the Managing Director of one of the leading electronic cigarette and e-liquid companies, Totally Wicked, who are Rovers’ training wear partner and have a prominent visual presence at Ewood Park.
One of the forerunners of the sector, Totally Wicked have been based in Blackburn for 10 years and lead the way in providing products that have enabled hundreds of thousands of smokers to choose a safer alternative.
When the opportunity to become a commercial partner of the club became available, Fraser, a life-long Rovers fan, admits he jumped at the chance.
“I was taken by my father to my first game in 1973 against Bristol Rovers,” he said. “I think we lost 2-0. From then on I have been a Rovers supporter, going through the highs and lows – the 1975 promotion year, relegation, Howard Kendall.
“For three years, before I joined the navy in 1979, I sold programmes in the Riverside. So that was my birthright. My passage into football was supporting Rovers through those trials and tribulations of the Second and Third Division in the late 70s and early 80s.
“I then spent 28 years working away in the navy, before returning to Lancashire nine years ago. Last year we had the opportunity to become an official club partner, which to me was a great thing for us to do both as a business in Blackburn, but also as a supporter of 45 years.
“We are a product set that isn’t necessarily relevant to all people, so I wouldn’t suggest we are doing this principally because of marketing, I think it’s about recognising part of that responsibility of being a domicile business in Blackburn, we try to be an honest and hard-working business, and offer people employment and growth opportunities. Giving something back to the town.”
Fraser has fond memories of supporting Rovers over the years and none more so than last season’s promotion campaign, which he feels reconnected the club and its supporters.
“I think Rovers have been blessed, more than some clubs, particularly in the 90s, but I remember some of the seasons such as the 1975 season, which was remarkable as a young boy, nine years of age, running onto the pitch at Chesterfield when we’d been promoted and games such as beating Plymouth Argyle 5-2 when there must have been 50,000 Rovers fans there!
“Last year was a remarkable year. I watched more games last year than I have done for a very long time. Everybody wants to watch a football team that’s winning, but I also took the opportunity to go and see some grounds that I thought I’d never see.
“Watching Rovers beat Oxford on that summer afternoon, with 27,500 people here was tingly. It was a great recovery year and I think Tony Mowbray has done a great job to recalibrate the club, to hopefully get the club being honest and high integrity again, and playing football which the fans appreciate, which is hard working and taking responsibility for themselves and playing for the badge. I think eventually the people of Blackburn will start to once again see a club which they should and need to support.”