Paul Stewart: Why I have stepped away from Blackpool FC takeover bid

Paul Stewart was concerned about becoming a 'pawn in a chess game'
Paul Stewart was concerned about becoming a 'pawn in a chess game'
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After careful consideration, and due to continued requests about my involvement from a number of parties, I have decided to withdraw any interest in being a part of any group or consortium involved in the purchase of the assets of Blackpool FC.

I was first approached in November 2018 about the possibility of fronting a consortium interested in buying the club.

I then met with Terry Pritchard, from Charter House Corporate Partners Ltd, Stewart Pinner and two other people at a restaurant in Manchester regarding the acquisition of Blackpool FC.

We discussed BFC’s current situation and what might happen moving forward.

We talked in detail about what it may take to acquire the club and about forming a consortium.

After the meeting and over the following weeks, the group decided to go in different directions as we had different ideas about how we should progress, though all parties were still interested in buying BFC.

It was only after an article appeared in a Sunday newspaper, associating me with a possible takeover, that Terry Pritchard made a statement to the press.

It stated: “We are talking to more than one consortium and we’ll pick the one with the best chance of success.

“We’re committed to this and I think one of them will buy it. It’s a great club to buy.”

Pritchard also told Press Association Sport: “They are not a lost cause (BFC) at all – I have seen clubs in far worse financial positions.

“Blackpool are worth £10-12m and there is no reason why it can’t become a good investment, providing you get the gates back up again and you use the stadium and its hotel better, with concerts and other sports events.”

After our meeting it was decided that Stewart Pinner (whose father was Keith Pinner, lifetime president of Manchester City FC) would be the person to liaise with Mr Pritchard, keep myself informed of any developments and report back with any information regarding the purchase of the club.

I had no other discussions with Terry Pritchard regarding the club. All other information I was a party to came directly through Stewart Pinner.

I was asked to be involved due to the fact I live in the town, have played for the club and have strong ties in the community.

I have been connected with the club since I first played at Squires Gate for a junior team against a Blackpool representative team at the age of 10 and I have lived here for some 40 years.

I understand why I was approached to front the group as I was seen as a person the supporters would relate to.

But over the ensuing weeks I have grown uneasy and uncomfortable, and felt I may have become a pawn in a game of chess.

Also, with all the interest and the fact it was being played out in the media, I had concerns about being one of two groups Mr Pritchard states he was monitoring, and I started to get concerned about my involvement.

And with suggestions from individuals that I was being paid to front the bid and was looking to use this platform to enhance my own profile, I did not want to compromise my integrity. Despite the fact these claims are totally unfounded, they are factors in my decision.

As I have stated in the past, I only ever had the best interest of the club at heart, and when the opportunity arose to perhaps help return the club to the community and fans, I thought it was an ideal scenario.

I have now decided that I wouldn’t want to continue and end up in a situation, as per the previous owners, where living in the town becomes a nightmare.

As you know, I work within the community with different organisations, helping to raise awareness within safeguarding.

This, like BFC, is close to my heart and this is another reason for me to step away.

I now devote all my time to this field. My organisation SAVE works in grassroots sports, implementing an Excellence in Safeguarding initiative that is being introduced throughout the UK. Also we support survivors of abuse and provide advocacy for survivors who have court proceedings pending.

I think that removing myself from the BFC situation allows me to stay impartial and shouldn’t impact on any decision process.

It also allows me to comment on the outcome without prejudice.

I would like to conclude by outlining what I would like to see happen at BFC.

The receivers in charge need to be diligent in choosing the buyer for the club. No one individual or organisation is bigger than the club.

They should meet and work closely with BST as they have some very knowledgeable individuals within their group.

They should look at the best deal for the club and ignore any hidden agendas that individuals may harbour, and take as much time as is needed to sell the club so as to achieve the best outcome.

I met with BST last Monday and would be more than happy to help in any capacity.

Moving forward, I still believe I have a lot to offer regarding who buys the club and after the club has been bought.

Ultimately the receivers are duty-bound to find the best deal for their client Valeri Belokon. One thing we don’t want is another scenario like before.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support over the past few months and I hope it isn’t too long before the return to Bloomfield Road.