Council chief refuses to be drawn on whether Oystons should sell BFC

Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn

The leader of Blackpool Council says the authority remains open to working with anyone interested in making a success of Blackpool Football Club.

But Coun Simon Blackburn refused to comment when asked whether the Oystons should relinquish control of the club or if they are ‘fit and proper’ to lead the club.

Karl Oyston, left, alongside Latvian millionaire Valeri Belokon

The Oyston family were ordered to buy out Valeri Belokon’s shares for £31.27m following a High Court judgement on Monday.

Justice Marcus Smith, in official legal documents, said the Oystons stood accused of “illegitimately stripping” the club of more than £25m.

He also concluded they had made huge payments out of the club “without conscious thought about whether they were proper or not”.

After ruling in Belokon’s favour, Justice Smith said a “financial buyout” was the appropriate course and that an initial £10m should be paid within 28 days.

Blackpool fans are now hoping the Oyston family will have no option but to sell the club.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, in a statement sent on Wednesday, said: “I’ve not yet read the full judgement, which runs to over 160 pages, but the sums of money being spoken of are clearly very significant and this represents a dramatic turn of events.

“Like everyone else we at the council don’t know what is going to happen next, but would restate what we have said previously that the football club being successful is very important to the town and there doesn’t appear to have been any winners out of the long-running tension between the owners and some of the fans.

“The council unanimously passed a motion calling for more fan representation in football clubs at our last meeting in September.

“We remain open to working with anyone who has an interest in making a success of Blackpool Football Club.”

When pressed by The Gazette on whether or not he thinks the Oystons should relinquish control of the club or whether he deems them ‘fit an proper’ to run the club, Coun Blackburn declined to expand further.

Instead, he said: “Having sought advice, I am advised that as leader of the council and given that the matter is reported to be subject to further appeal, I must not comment on either point as any views that I gave would be taken as representing the council’s position.”

But Justice Smith banned the Oystons from appealing - meaning the family’s only option is to go to the higher Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition on Blackpool Council, repeated his calls for the Oystons to move on and sell up.

“If it takes a change of ownership to clear the air then so be it and the fans have got to be prepared for that,” he said.

“But I think it’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ve acted improperly and I think a change of ownership is the best way forward.

“If they can find the right owners who are dedicated and committed to taking the football club forward and building that community with the fans, then it would be wonderful.

“We would see an end to the judgement days, an end to the protests and all the bad publicity and we’d see more tourists coming into Blackpool too, so I’m sure that would be the best option.

“I think if the Oystons were to carry on it would not be in the best interests of the club. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the relationship with the fans and not in the best interest of the town either.”

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