The president of blackpool

VALERY Belokon today became Blackpool Football Club's first ever president as he completed a £4.5m deal to take charge of the club.

The Latvian banker and Seasiders chairman Karl Oyston shook hands on the deal today at a meeting in Riga, the Latvian capital, witnessed by The Gazette.

And the new man at the helm immediately promised to plough cash into team strengthening, pledging to buy new players in a bid to win promotion at the earliest opportunity.

Oyston, who has spent the last five months overseeing the historic deal with his father Owen, will remain as chairman and will advise Belokon on a day-to-day basis.

Simon Grayson, who is holding two hours of private talks with Belokon today, will remain as team manager for the coming season but will be warned that he has to deliver success on the pitch.

Belokon's position as president was rubber-stamped today at the businessman's own HQ – the Baltic International Bank, a huge skyscraper in the middle of the east European city.

It is understood that he will pump around 4.5m into the club over the next three years.

Karl Oyston said: "I am delighted Valery is on board. We have had very good discussions with him since day one and he is fully committed to taking the club forward.

"Hopefully we will have a very fruitful partnership over the next few seasons."

Belokon is delighted to secure a stake at Bloomfield Road, joining the growing number of wealthy eastern Europeans involved in English football.

He will be officially appointed as president and a director of the football club at the next Blackpool FC board meeting on June 19.

Belokon said: "I feel very proud to be president of such a wonderful football club with such a prestigious history and tradition.

"It is my firm ambition to see Blackpool in the Premier League, which is why I will invest heavily in the club.

"I wish to make a total commitment to Blackpool Football Club and I am confident that we will achieve promotion to the Championship and eventually play in the Premier League."

The deal involves Belokon buying shares in the club – new shares created for him rather than existing ones.

These shares will be issued to Belokon Holdings following next month's board meeting in the sponsors' lounge at Bloomfield Road.

Belokon added: "I have been many times to Blackpool Football Club over the last few months and I have never yet seen the team lose.

"I have been impressed with the passion of both the players and supporters, especially during the last game of the season against Gillingham when Blackpool played so well and should have won handsomely.

"I am delighted to be part of such a potentially big club with such a wonderful tradition."

Belokon himself expressed a wish to be given the title of president, which means he will have special responsibility for football activities.

This will primarily involve the acquisition of new players for the coming season.

Belokon was one of four parties who wanted to invest in Blackpool Football Club. However, the interest from local businessman David Haythornthwaite, former Sheffield United chairman Reg Brealey and a Russian property consortium eventually fizzled out, leaving the field clear for the Latvian tycoon to win the race to buy a chunk of the club.