BST column: Owen Oyston appears unwilling to sell Blackpool FC

Owen Oyston (centre), at Charlton three weeks ago, has continued to attend games since putting the club up for sale
Owen Oyston (centre), at Charlton three weeks ago, has continued to attend games since putting the club up for sale
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It will surprise no-one to be told Owen Oyston does not want to sell Blackpool FC, his most public symbol of wealth and power.

Many were sceptical when the official club statement was released late last year declaring that Blackpool FC was up for sale.

And despite there being at least five interested parties (to the best of BST’s knowledge), further evidence (private and public) has emerged in recent weeks of the Oystons’ reluctance to engage in moving sale negotiations forward.

It is not clear to the Trust just how many of the interested parties are wishing to position serious bids. Several claim to have signed non-disclosure agreements with the owners but on the evidence of one potential buyer – quoted extensively in The Gazette this week – that “you cannot do business when you can’t see what you’re buying”, it appears Owen Oyston is backtracking and is not willing to seriously entertain the possibility of selling to anyone.

It all lends credence to the belief that Owen is in denial. He has lodged an appeal against Judge Marcus Smith’s ruling – surely a delaying tactic at best – and the next £10m payment to Valeri Belokon is due by the end of this month.

He appears to hope that he can win an appeal, raise enough collateral to pay off Belokon at a reduced rate and remain in charge of the club he has controlled for the last 30 years. And if his hand is forced, then it looks as though he wants to retain ownership of the stadium and merely sell the club as a whole or in part as a franchise to new owners.

Any of those permutations are absolutely the last thing the fans want and the last thing the football club and the town needs. The Oystons have to go!

The Trust made it clear to interested parties we have had dialogue with that:

A) a franchise solution is not in the best interests of Blackpool FC. On commercial grounds it makes no sense. Owning the stadium gives security of tenure and a base to build from; income from use of the stadium would be a necessary revenue stream for the club as it seeks to re-establish a sustainable future.

B) any continuing involvement of the Oystons is not in the best interests of Blackpool FC. The idea of the club paying rent to the Oystons for use of Bloomfield Road would not go down well; in fact any hint that Owen or Karl would retain any share-holding or influence in the running of the club or derive any financial benefit would be anathema to most supporters, especially those for whom Not A Penny More has been a sustained point of principle.

It doesn’t hurt to reiterate that a change of ownership presents our best chance for a clean break with the dubious practices and toxic relations of the last several years.

However, a change doesn’t necessarily bring an improvement. There are many examples of clubs changing hands only for the new owners to be as bad as or worse than their predecessors. As supporters we have every right to hope that whoever is looking to take over Blackpool FC will be better for the club, the fans and the community than the Oystons – but sometimes something a bit more rigorous than hope is required.

Any potential owner or investor with genuine intentions of rebuilding Blackpool FC will surely need the goodwill of the thousands of fans who have been staying awa because of the actions and attitude of the Oystons.

As the largest, democratic supporters organisation at the club, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has a duty not only to voice ideas for the future (hence the draft manifesto printed in this column in the last two weeks) but also to seek an active involvement in the change process, working to identify good potential owners and to filter out bad ones.

The Trust suggests that any party with a serious ambition to make a bid for Blackpool FC should engage with BST (via secretary@blackpoolsupporterstrust.com in the first instance).