Will Watt: Olive branch should be grasped...with conditions

Karl Oyston at the recent game against Scunthorpe
Karl Oyston at the recent game against Scunthorpe
35
Have your say

I think being cynical is something which comes with following Blackpool Football Club, whether you’re a fan or a reporter.

Developments which have seemed on face value positive, soon appear to have hidden agendas – but I suppose that applies in life and not just in football.

So when reading about the so-called olive branch which appears to have been pointed in the direction of Blackpool’s fans by Karl Oyston, obviously the first thing we do is look for the catch.

When digging a little deeper into the method behind the weekend’s announcement from the club, things started to become a little clearer.

I’m told the announcement was the result of a meeting between the newly formed Fans Progress Group and the Pool chairman last week.

Apparently they suggested the idea to Oyston, showing they are at least making an effort to put pressure on him.

For that the FPG deserve credit, although for me this is something Oyston should have done months ago.

And now the Oystons need to do much more than simply meeting and paying lip-service to supporters for a couple of hours. The supporters who attend must be given direct assurances and commitments that things will improve – only then should they even consider things like a truce.

Personally, I feel Oyston should commit to bringing an end to all the new civil legal action against supporters.

At most he should simply demand public apologies, not the financial settlements which could potentialy bankrupt working-class fans.

If the Oyston family feel they have been defamed, then the justice system allows them to take action.

That’s the law of the land but I’m never comfortable with millionaires forcing normal people to pay eye- watering amounts for making silly comments, especially when those people are fans of the club they run.

Hoping for a truce when supporters are face having to sell their houses to pay fines isn’t realistic.

It’s been interesting to read the debate around whether Blackpool Supporters’ Trust should even accept the invitation, with many feeling they should maintain their ‘Oyston out’ stance and nothing but.

I feel they should go, with certain assurances anyway – attending isn’t a commitment to anything. BST now have their chance to ask direct questions to Oyston and to report back to their members.

If they don’t get answers at the meeting, they can simply stand up and walk out.

Should BST come away from the meeting feeling steps can be made to improve things, that would be great; if not, then they haven’t lost anything by attending.

If anything, the invitation is a victory for the fan group after Oyston consistently said he would never ever engage with them.

The cynical side of me worries this is nothing but a publicity stunt, aimed at quietening the councillors and other voices in power which are starting to speak out about the club’s situation.

Blackpool’s timing of the announcement barely suggested it was something the club is proud of.

Saturday morning is pretty much the worst time to announce good news. Your diehard fan is already on the road to a game and the many others are probably browsing shopping centres. Therefore Saturday morning is the perfect time for football to bury bad news and that’s when Pool released their statement.

On top of that, the nature of the announcement was bizarre in itself.

Had the club genuinely been intent on building bridges and showing a willingness to change, then sneaking the story on to the club’s website at the quietest time of the week wasn’t the way to do it. The story wasn’t on the radio and certainly wasn’t in The Gazette.

In fact, out of their apparent 70,000 followers on Twitter, just eight retweeted it.

All this brings out the cynical side of me yet again. Did they actually want people to know they’d made this offer?

But for all that, this could well be a sincere step forward; if so, I for one welcome it.

Eleven days ago, The Gazette ran the story of Coun Tony Williams calling for a truce, and the following day I wrote that Oyston would first have to hold out an olive branch.

Well, if this is a genuine attempt by the club to do so and improve relations, then well done to Blackpool FC, though it’s about time.

To my mind, all meetings between the owners and the fans should be open to multiple supporter groups. Every single Blackpool fan deserves their input.

So it’s good to hear the supporters are finally being given their chance to speak and show just how passionate they are about the club’s problems.

Whether the fans are willing to accept the opportunity is a totally different matter.

March 10 could be a very interesting evening.