In the coming weeks and months Paul Cooper is a name Blackpool supporters are going to become accustomed to reading and hearing about.
Tasked with taking on the role of receiver, a job he started yesterday, the insolvency practitioner is now in charge of the day-to-day running of the football club, taking control away from despised owner Owen Oyston.
His challenge is to sell the football club and any other related assets to raise the cash to discharge Oyston’s debt to Valeri Belokon - a job he sees realistically taking three to four months.
But in the short term, his priority is to takeover the club’s finances and make sure the Seasiders are able to fulfil its obligations, most importantly of all completing its remaining 14 games of the season.
In an exclusive interview with The Gazette, Cooper explained why there had been a slight delay to his appointment and clarified what his role entails.
“You’ve got a situation where an order has been made in court. In terms of it actually being legally exercisable it had to be sealed,” he said.
“I’m instructed by the court, I’m not responsible to either side. I’m now a court-appointed officer and I must report to the court.
“I know a lot of people and a lot of the fans will have seen the receiver being appointed last Wednesday and were wondering what was going on. What I need people to understand is that it’s very important things are done correctly, done properly and in a measured way.
“Now the order has come through, I have the legal power of the court to basically make the decisions that I feel are right."
Here he gives his thoughts on what the next few months holds for Blackpool FC, the EFL and the threat of a 12-point deduction; the fans' Not A Penny More boycott and when it can end; and how Oyston could yet wrestle back control of the club.
This is what he had to say:
What next for the club?
“What I want is two things. Firstly, I want there to be control of how the club and business is run.
“When you’re running your finances, you know what is coming in and what is going out. Sometimes you spend a bit too much and sometimes you save maybe.
“But secondly, and very simply, what we need to get here in the club is an understanding of what the finances are.
“I haven’t been in there and no one has really been in there, this is an Oyston-developed business over the years. He’s been a very successful man and he’s run it how he’s decided to run it, which he’s completely entitled to do and it’s not for me to comment or criticise on what he has or hasn’t done.
“But what I can tell you is that going forward I want to have a granular and detailed understanding of exactly how the finances of that operation look like. I don’t know that as of today and it will take me and my team a bit of time to really understand thousands and thousands of transactions and what is going on.
“In the short term, we’re talking about control, we’re talking about how the business is run and ensuring the football club can meet all its obligations - it’s got a match on Saturday, it’s got matches after that and there’s a million and one different things that go into a football club like health and safety, paying the wages, looking after the ground, everything.
“We’ve got to make sure that’s done correctly and continues to happen. That’s particularly important to the EFL.”
A major concern for Blackpool fans, players and staff alike is the potential for a 12-point deduction as a club going into receivership is classed as an “insolvency event”.
In a letter issued earlier this week, EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey committed to working with Cooper and said a deduction was not necessarily “mandatory”.
The letter set out “very clearly” what is required of him, Cooper explained, and said it would be a “huge priority” of his.
“The letter from the EFL that came out was a very interesting letter and set out very clearly what they expect to see,” he said.
"Part of my duty here is to interact with the EFL and ensure the club is meeting its obligations and give it the best chance to be the best club it can be.
“I’ve got to be very careful of what I say, the dialogue is between me and the EFL. But I think the EFL has set out clearly what they expect and I’m very clear in what the EFL require.
“The fans need to know this is a huge priority for me and everything that can be done to explain to the EFL will be transparent to give them the comfort they need.
“Clearly it is in everyone’s interest not to have a 12-point deduction. It’s in the fans’ interest, the manager’s, the players and the value of the club is also connected with that as well.
“My obvious desire here is to do everything I can to make sure there is no points deduction, but I wouldn’t comment on what the EFL has said.
“There is this deadline of March 28 which is when the points deduction, if there was one, would be implemented next season rather than this.
“That’s not for me to determine or be involved with that at all. All I can do is do what is required of me and ultimately it’s the EFL that will meet and decide if there will be a points deduction.”
Time to end the boycott?
Following the court’s decision to approve Cooper’s appointment last week, many Blackpool fans rushed to social media to express their intention to return to Bloomfield Road for the next home game - which happens to be against Oxford United tomorrow.
While Cooper accepts it’s not for him to decide when fans lift their boycott, he believes the more sensible option is to give the club more time to put provisions in place and for fans to wait for the next fixture, the clash against Southend United on Saturday, March 9.
“In terms of fans coming back and how they want to conduct themselves, it’s not for me to be telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I can only tell them what the situation is,” Cooper said.
“In the meantime, all the finances of the club, all the money coming in and out will be dealt with and governed in the way they should be.
“Maybe they have been, I don’t know, because I haven’t been in the club. But any money that comes in is going to be properly accounted for - I’m an officer of the court - and there’s going to be a tremendous transparency and scrutiny of all of that.
“If people decide to come back, one of the concerns was the money going into the pocket of Mr Oyston.
“He owned the club, so he has to act in a certain way as a director, but just because money comes into a club doesn’t mean you can put it in your pocket anyway, so I think there’s a little bit of a misunderstanding on that.
“But the bottom line is, in terms of the control of the finances, while I’m here every penny will be accounted for. The Not A Penny More is basically Not A Penny Less as far as I’m concerned. That’s really important.
“As for when fans return, I think it’s a very personal decision.
“You’ve obviously got various groups of fans’ organisations and they’re all saying what they think.
“But I think the reality is that by this Saturday I’m unlikely to be in full control of everything.
“What would probably be a bit more sensible from fans is to be a little bit more patient.
“There’s a game on March 9 and I would expect by that time I will be in control of everything by then, unless Mr Oyston has paid the debt back.”
The return of Oyston?
While Owen Oyston is no longer in control of Blackpool FC, he is not necessarily out of the picture for good.
He could in theory repay the money he owes Valeri Belokon and that Cooper concedes, is something that he couldn’t rule out from happening.
“A lot of my job is about managing expectations,” he went on to say. “I’m never going to over-promise and under-deliver, it’s always going to be the other way round.
“The reality here is that if Mr Oyston pays off the £25m he owes tomorrow, that’s it. Goodbye Mr Receiver and Mr Oyston owns the club.
“Is that situation going to happen? I don’t know the answer to that. One might ask why that hasn’t happened over the last 15 months and if it hasn’t happened then, is it going to happen now? But it could do.
“People need to realise there isn’t regime change and a change of control until the club is sold and that process is going to take in the region - without boxing myself into a complete timeframe - it’s got to be a three to four-month process.
“That’s going to take it to the end of the season and beyond. If Mr Oyston pays the debt back in the meantime, then the club is back in his control.”