BST tells the EFL: We will campaign without you

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey
EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has warned the EFL they will campaign without them if they’re not willing to help facilitate change.

READ MORE: EFL issues response to question posed at Blackpool fans’ meeting

The Trust, responding to last week’s letter from the EFL, claims the body has a “culture of secrecy” and a “defensive attitude” towards any kind of criticism which makes the organisation a difficult one to deal with.

The Trust also say there is a “constant pattern” of responding to issues at a “glacial pace”, even when clubs are in crisis.

It comes after Tim Fielding, on behalf of BST, quizzed chief executive Shaun Harvey about the EFL’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test at the meeting held with supporters in Blackpool on March 20.

He argued that, had the EFL interpreted its own rules correctly, then Owen Oyston would not have been permitted to run Blackpool Football Club given his conviction for rape.

The EFL’s position is that Oyston is not banned as his conviction, which came in May of 1996 and saw him imprisoned for six years, came before their new rules were introduced in 2004.

But Mr Fielding argued the EFL’s rules “clearly infer” convictions that pre-date its rules do in fact apply.

The EFL responded on Friday, exactly a month on from the meeting, with a 1,300-word letter in which it states it decided not to ban Owen Oyston due to legal advice it received at the time.

A spokesperson for BST said: “The EFL appear to have a reluctance to apply the spirit of the Owners’ and Directors’ Test (ODT) to Owen Oyston, even in light of Judge Marcus Smith’s forensic ruling.

“But there has been no reluctance to apply the ODT to Valeri Belokon, even on the most doubtful of provenance.”

They add: “Even if your decision not to apply the ODT to Owen Oyston is a correct interpretation of your own rules - an assertion which we take issue with - this means there is a chronic failure to do the right thing by Blackpool Football Club and its supporters.

“Is this not sufficient reason for you to reassess your regulations and to openly acknowledge that change is required urgently?

“The continued presence of Owen Oyston at the helm of Blackpool FC serves only to inflict yet more damage on a football club already at peril.

“Surely, it is incumbent on the EFL to step in and act NOW, even if this means changing your own rules.

“In all honesty, can you truly believe that the current arrangements for football governance are fit for purpose? Who will speak for us if you cannot?

“If the EFL do not currently have the authority required to take meaningful action then have the courage to stand up and say so.”

READ MORE: EFL tells Blackpool fans: We want to bring stability back to the club

The Trust had hoped the EFL would be willing to “lead the way” in bridging the gap between fans and those in charge of the game, but suggests this might not be possible if they do not face up to the real issues.

BST said: “Too many clubs are being failed whilst the football authorities play pass the parcel with the regulation book.

“The football supporter movement is gaining strength by the day. It is becoming clear to our politicians that there is serious unrest amongst football fans and they are hopefully waking up to the realisation that something must be done about it.

“As an organisation that represents the football clubs but not the supporters who make those clubs a reality, we had hoped that you would be willing to help lead the way towards bridging the gap between the needs of one and the requirements of the other.

“Instead, we consider you to have shown a desperate lack of understanding of the real issues and a reluctance to face up to them.

“We would have preferred to work with you but if that is not going to happen, we will campaign without you. Change WILL come eventually.”

BST also questioned the decision to allow Oyston, a convicted rapist who will remain on the sex offenders' register for life, to own Blackpool Football Club as they have both male and female youth teams.

The EFL is currently reviewing BST’s response and have told The Gazette they will respond themselves in due course.