KARL Oyston has hit back after it was revealed £11m of Blackpool FC’s Premier League cash windfall had been given to his father.
There has been a firestorm of criticism after news broke a company belonging to club owner and former chairman Owen Oyston had received the massive payout.
In an exclusive interview with The Gazette, Pool chairman Karl Oyston defended the move and said, “the money isn’t gone” and would be reinvested in the club.
He said his father had pumped in millions since saving the club from going under in the late 1980s and planned to keep ploughing in cash to fund future projects, like a new training ground.
The payment of £11m was made to a company called Zabaxe, owned by Owen Oyston and wife Vicki.
Critics said that meant Mr Oyston, who has owned Pool since 1987, earned more than fives times as much as Manchester United’s Premier League-winning directors.
But son Karl, who took over as chairman in 1999, is angry about the insinuation he and his father have not acted in the best interests of Blackpool FC after the club’s record-breaking £51.7m turnover last season.
He said: "I don’t mind getting criticised myself – I’m used to it – but the criticism aimed at my father is completely misplaced.
"There was no-one else around in 1987 who stumped up cash to save the club from extinction and who has kept it out of trouble since – more than 60 clubs have had financial problems in the intervening period.
"He has lent the club vast amounts to fund the north and west stands, and much more. I know the main gripe among fans is the way I operate, but that won’t ever change and it got us to the Premier League. The surplus cash has been created as a result of that.
"The money isn’t gone, like it would be in the pockets of a player or an agent. How many ex-players do you see stumping up to help the clubs they have done well from?
"My dad is a true, lifelong supporter, who has kept a club in existence and funded it as and when required for a quarter of a century.
"Any negatives about the management, the prudent stance, the slow pace of change, whatever, should be aimed at me and not my dad.
"He gave me a free hand as chairman as he was too much of a fan to be objective in the way he ran the club. That free hand has got us to be one of the strongest and most resilient clubs in the country and that is something we should all take great pride in.
"We will keep improving and progressing, and my dad will continue to be a key figure in that progression.
"Find someone (else) who has been attending matches since the age of two, who has never refused to financially assist the club for 25 years – and will continue to do so – and continues to put in time and add expertise in such a whole-hearted way, and I would accept criticism. My dad doesn’t deserve any."
In an interview with one national newspaper, Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: "It defies credibility that this is a reasonable remuneration for one club director in a single year. This makes some of the bankers’ bonuses almost look like small change."
Glenn Bowley, chairman of Blackpool Supporters Association, wants the club’s owners to communicate with the fans and clarify the figures.
He said: "Some fans are absolutely outraged by it all, and some are reserving judgment and keen to get the facts. I think what is vitally important is that the football club, and in particular Owen Oyston, comes out and clarifies the situation.
"£11m is an awful lot of money. But if it is repaying loans the family have put in, or covering the cash he has poured in over the last 20-odd years, that is different. If that were the case I think a lot of people would think, ‘right, ok’ and we’ll move on.
"But if he is taking £11m as a salary for 12 months’ work then that must be seen as absolutely outrageous.
"The fans are stakeholders of the club, and although the owners don’t legally have to tell supporters certain things I think morally they do – and particularly in this instance.
"I just hope all the hard work Ian Holloway and the players have done doesn’t go to waste because this could leave such a sour taste with supporters, and it could ruin what should be a really exciting last 12 games of the season, with the team going for promotion."
The Seasiders have bounced back from the disappointment of relegation from the Premier League and are flying high in the Championship, with a real chance of going back up.
Club secretary Matt Williams said: "I think the focus of everyone at the club is on getting back to the Premier League and winning matches, starting at Derby tomorrow.
"Regarding the payment, I don’t get involved with the financial side of the club. But I know fans of other clubs – such as Portsmouth, Rangers, Port Vale and countless others – are envious of our position.
"Take my hometown club Oldham. Their supporters would love to swap places with us because of what we’ve achieved in recent times. I just hope the supporters continue to back us like they always have and help us in our aim to win promotion."
Manager Ian Holloway is sure to be asked about the Oyston payment during today’s pre-Derby press conference.
Speaking last week about the record £20.9m profits, Holloway said: "It is the Oystons’ money and they are free to do what they want with it. "I am just delighted to be working for a chairman who is loyal and trusts me and lets me get on with my job. I can’t tell you how important that is."
SEE TUESDAY'S GAZETTE FOR A LOOK AT BLACKPOOL FOOTBALL CLUB'S MILLIONS AS WE DELVE INTO ITS ACCOUNTS.