BST column: Turning dark reality into a brighter future

Blackpool's Bloomfield Road home
Blackpool's Bloomfield Road home

In 2010, journalist Simon Kuper wrote an article for The Guardian entitled ‘Football is not about corporations. It’s about clubs and communities’. He made some interesting points that club owners would do well to consider.

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He wrote: “…watching games is only a tiny part of fans’ engagement with football. Fans read newspapers, trawl internet sites and play computer games. Then there is the football banter at work and school. All this entertainment is made possible by football clubs but they cannot appropriate a penny of the value we attach to it. Football has become the joy of all classes and ages. It exists to serve fans. That’s why for decades the Football Association forbade club owners from profiting from their clubs. Directors couldn’t get paid and dividends were capped. The aim was to ensure that clubs were run by ‘the right class of men who love football for its own sake’.

“The English game should adopt a strict licensing system like Germany’s to limit clubs’ debts. It should again bar club owners from profiting from their investments. And it should instruct clubs to break even while serving their communities as museums do. The only business of football is football.”

Many fans of Blackpool FC have long held the view that, although a modest return on investment is a reasonable expectation for an investor, our club should be run along the lines suggested by Simon Kuper.

The last few years have been incredibly difficult for the football club, its supporters, the town as a whole.

Despite all the grand rhetoric from the Oystons in the immediate aftermath of our elevation to the Premier League – about how promotion was going to change the club and the town for the better for years to come – the grim reality is that the area around the club has suffered a serious demise whilst the owners were “illegitimately stripping the assets” from our beloved Blackpool FC, personally profiting from the efforts of the team while allowing the club to fall apart.

Can there be anyone connected with Blackpool FC or the town who is not angered and appalled by this situation, created by one family and an owner who shouldn’t even have been in the position to exploit it if the Premier League had implemented its own statutes concerning ‘registered offenders’.

In spite of the seismic ruling by Justice Marcus Smith last November, which exposed how the Oystons had run the club and ordered them to pay the eyewatering sum of £31.27m to Valeri Belokon, we are still waiting for a change of ownership.

Owen Oyston appears to be trying to cling on, in whole or in part, to the club in spite of his increasingly isolated position. Having been prepared to let it fail in the past, it should hardly be surprising that he appears unmoved at the damage his continued involvement is causing.

Recent media announcements of imminent deals with mystery consortiums which fade into missed deadlines merely prolong the agony.

However, while there are self-seeking individuals willing to help him, advise him and listen to his plans for the future, he will believe he can maintain some role at the club.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has had dialogue with four of the parties/consortiums who have expressed an interest in the club. It has been made quite clear to all of them that the majority of fans will continue to boycott while the Oyston family has any involvement in Blackpool FC and it would not be an astute business move to make an offer for the club on any other grounds than the total removal of the Oyston family.

BST believes it is vitally important that Owen Oyston himself gets the message that his time at Blackpool FC is up.

We ask him to face up to the reality of his situation and understand that Blackpool FC cannot progress or prosper while he or any of his family is still involved. The problems of the past few years are too serious for that relationship to ever be mended.

The words of Blackpool FC chairwoman Natalie Christopher at the player awards dinner on Tuesday show exactly why it is important for the supporters to refuse to engage with the Oystons over anything other than their exit.

It is understood she stated: “the heart of the club is still here thanks to the manager and players”. The heart of any football club is its fans and the continued refusal of the majority shareholder to acknowledge in any way responsibility for what has happened and why the majority of Blackpool’s fans are staying away is frankly disgraceful.

That family has no right to continue to inflict such pain on our club and our town. We call on the people of Blackpool to help us get this message across.

The longer Owen Oyston hangs on to the club the greater the damage done. The town of Blackpool deserves better than this. It is time for everyone to speak out in defence of our club. Please help us to ensure Blackpool FC has a bright future under new owners.