Comment: Payback earned or morally bankrupt?

Blackpool majority shareholder Owen Oyston
Blackpool majority shareholder Owen Oyston
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THE figures – and I think this is called an understatement – don’t look good ... an £11m bonus.

If Owen Oyston was a banker, David Cameron would be being grilled at this very moment on the Beeb by an irate-looking Nick Robinson, and there would be protesters with placards marching through London demanding the cash be given back.

It is a hell of a lot of money, especially – as The Mail on Sunday pointed out – as the directors of Manchester United earned less than £2m each last year and their club won the Premier League.

The difference, of course, is that Owen isn’t just a director.

He owns the club and I dare say the Glazer family gained more than a few quid from last season’s title-winning exploits at Old Trafford.

What the Mail also haven’t pointed out is what Oyston has given to the club over the years.

Now don’t me wrong – his isn’t an attempt to justify an £11m pay-out and it isn’t making excuses for them. It is simply, in the interest of balance, stating a few facts and telling the backstory.

Oyston senior purchased Blackpool FC in 1987. He was hailed a hero at the time because the club was close to going out of business.

This locally-born businessman, who had made his fortune as an estate agent, was a bona fide fan.

He had watched the Seasiders since he was two-year-old, taken to the ground by his father, and rarely missed a game.

A flamboyant figure, he has plenty of enemies.

But what can’t be denied by anyone is that he has bankrolled the club for the last quarter of a century, even while serving a prison sentence.

Since his son Karl took over in 1999, Owen has stayed in the background but remains the owner and is an active board member.

It was he who got Valery Belokon on board, a relationship which resulted in the construction of the Armfield Stand (Owen and Belokon paid £4m each to get it done) at Bloomfield Road and Premier League football.

Given the financial support Owen has given to the club over two and a half decades (estimated to be £20-30m), taking back £11m isn’t perhaps the heinous crime it seems at first.

That said, in a season when the team and the manager combined were earning less than £11m, and when a little more financial investment in the transfer market might have resulted in Pool staying up, it is easy to understand why so many hard-up supporters, who pay upwards of £20 quid to watch each match, are cheesed off.

As BSA chairman Glenn Bowley says, the fans deserve a clear and full explanation.

In today’s Gazette, Karl Oyston explains why he considers the payment to his father justified. Some fans may agree with him, some certainly won’t.

There are a fair few Blackpool followers who will forever be anti-Oyston, whatever the club achieves in the years to come.

In this instance, what the Oystons have done may not be morally right or sit comfortably with many, including myself, but they haven’t acted illegally in any way. And as businessmen, they may expect to be congratulated on making a £20m profit and running a business very successfully.

Was anyone naïve enough to think the Oystons wouldn’t benefit financially from Blackpool’s success?

They own the club, so why shouldn’t they?

And as long as the club continues to be successful, they can – no matter how uneasy it might make some feel – justify the way they conduct their business.