Blackpool put training ground development on hold

Gary Bowyer at Squires Gate
Gary Bowyer at Squires Gate
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Chairman Karl Oyston has revealed that Blackpool FC is currently “not looking to proceed” with plans for a long-awaited new training ground.

The Seasiders have planning consent from Fylde Council to see their training complex at Squires Gate demolished and replaced with a purpose-built structure.

In what has been a long-running saga, Oyston had stated last year that he was aiming to have the new training facility set up for the start of this season – but still no action has been taken.

Oyston said that although the plans have not been scrapped, no action is being taken to progress them.

He told the Gazette: “We have planning consent and we are going to demolish the existing shed.

“A decision will be made about what we are going to do going forward but nothing has been decided yet.”

Pool’s training ground has long been a subject of ridicule, with the Martin Drive site in desperate need of upgrade.

At present the players change at the Bloomfield Road stadium before travelling to Squires Gate for training sessions.

Oyston added: “(Manager)Gary Bowyer was at the last Fans’ Progress Group (FPG) meeting. I don’t want to put words in his mouth but he is satisfied with the current arrangement.

“The training ground is not far from the stadium and it’s not given us any headaches.

“We are happy where we are for now. The plans remain in place but we are not going to proceed at the moment.”

The facilities have been criticised by several Blackpool managers and were famously described as a “hellhole” by Ian Holloway.

During one wet spell last season, Neil McDonald said his squad had just one pitch to train on, with much of the site underwater.

In minutes from May’s meeting with the FPG, Oyston is quoted as saying he would rather spend money on players.

Christine Seddon, deputy chair of the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust (BST), told The Gazette: “For years we have been waiting for genuine investment to show that they are moving the club forward.

“For years and years this has been a problem and yet we still have completely inadequate facilities.

“It shows where the owners’ priorities lie and the progress of the club has never been their priority. That is why we keep on calling for a change of ownership.”

Planners gave the go-ahead for new training facilities at Squires Gate in March, proposals having been submitted last October.

Preston-based architects Cassidy and Ashton, who designed the plans, described the existing facility as “no longer fit for purpose”.

Seddon added: “This is a golden opportunity for the owners to improve things but they have failed to take it. To me that shows a statement of intent.

“Reading between the lines, I’m hoping this means they are considering selling up as they are obviously not interested in spending any money. I just hope someone can come in and run the club properly.”

The proposed new training centre would include separate changing rooms for first-team and youth players, physiotherapy and rehabilitation rooms to treat injured players, a classroom for academy players and a dining room for the team.

The cost of the scheme has not been revealed.