KARL Oyston is offering the squad another £5m promotion bonus next season.
But after being dragged to court by Marcel Seip, the chairman says this time he’ll decide how it’s dished out – not the players.
Seip, on loan from Plymouth, made seven appearances during the Seasiders Championship 2009-10 promotion campaign but was one of three players who didn’t get a cut of the end-of-season bonus.
Two of those players – including Jay Emmanuel-Thomas – accepted a payment, but Seip took the club to court for the full amount he was owed. The court found in favour of the Dutchman and he was awarded £72,000.
Explaining why it happened – and why it wouldn’t be happening again – the chairman said: “It is a relatively straightforward matter. While we were negotiating the bonus schedule for the 2009-10 season, the players asked if there could be a change to the constitution of the panel that decided any bonuses.
“The panel was previously myself, the manager and the club captain. They asked for more player influence and I rather stupidly agreed to their request so that it became three players – the club captain (Jason Euell), the PFA representative (Paul Rachubka) and one other (Stephen Crainey) – as well as myself and the manager. So effectively myself and the manager had no say in the breakdown of the bonuses.
“The players had a squad meeting after the season and voted to exclude three players, two loan players and one contracted player, from the bonus pot.
“I, at the time, thought it was probably sensible to retain a contingency just in case anyone claimed because, obviously, if all of the money was distributed the club would have to stand any claim. So we retained a contingency that those players would have been entitled to, with the intention of distributing that money to our existing players once the possibility of any legal challenge had passed.
“However, rather predictably, there was a challenge by Marcel Seip.”
Oyston added: “When the decision was made by our squad to exclude three players from a share of the bonus pot, I didn’t particularly disagree with the exclusion of one player. I was surprised that Seip and the other player were excluded. But when I was later told of the reasons, I absolutely accepted the players’ right to make that decision.
“We went to a panel in London that two of the players attended and didn’t give a particularly good account of themselves. The day was lost and Marcel received his bonus.
“But it was never a club versus Seip issue. It was a squad versus Seip matter and it was the players’ money that was at stake, not the club’s money.
“It wouldn’t have made any difference what I thought about bonus distribution.
“I was over-ruled by the players and whether I agreed with them or not – which I happened to – was irrelevant because they had the majority.
“When I do this year’s bonus negotiations it will be back to the old format, which is myself, the manager and one player, and we won’t allow ourselves to be dragged down the rather pointless road that we were dragged down this time.”
Legal battles aside, the good news for the players is that there will be another bonus pot this season if they bounce back to the Premier League.
“I intend to keep the bonus structure more or less as it was, a £5m bonus to be distributed as the players require but with the guidance of myself and the manager this time,” the chairman said.
“I think the bonus is a good idea, even though it’s so much money, because the rewards for going up are so massive.
“We tend not to pay our players to the same level as other clubs, so it is only fair that if they achieve for us, they are rewarded along the same lines as players are at other clubs.
“It is testament to the character of our players, and their belief in their collective ability and the manager, to be prepared to work on that basis.”