Seasiders’ chairman rejects councillor’s quit letter

Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has responded to criticisms made by Coun Tony Williams
Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has responded to criticisms made by Coun Tony Williams
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Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has accused Councillor Tony Williams of making “cheap political points” after the Conservative group leader called for him to step down in an open letter.

Last year the Blackpool councillor made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the dispute between Blackpool FC and the fans’ groups boycotting the club by arranging ‘peace talks’.

Over 12 months on, in an open letter written to The Gazette, he said he sees only one solution and that involves the Oystons negotiating an “exit strategy”.

Exercising his right of reply to the letter, Karl Oyston writes: “I have been very fortunate that during my tenure at Blackpool Football Club I have managed to remain completely apolitical.

“I took a conscious decision when I took over as chairman nearly 20 years ago that I would work for the benefit of the town and community with whichever party was in power and the wider council.

“Political change is inevitable and at times local change didn’t reflect the time, effort and sacrifice that had been made by the council leaders that lost their power as a result of national landslides.

“I have the greatest regard for those amongst us that give their time so freely in the service of others and for the betterment of the town and its community whatever their political persuasion.

“My initial decision has reaped great dividends and a relationship of mutual trust has evolved between the club and council leaders, chief executives, mayors and the many council officials we have dealt with over the years during which the club has changed division eight times and taken part in six finals at both Cardiff and Wembley, redeveloping a crumbling wreck of a ground along the way with the invaluable help of council stalwarts Ian Ward and Reg Haslam.

“From the early days of the statesman-like George Bancroft to the formidable Lily Henderson, the irrepressible Granville Heap and Robert Wynne who up until recently chaired the club’s community trust to its current invaluable position within the town, we have together shared the good and bad times with the town’s politicians.

“I consider myself very fortunate that during my many years of dealings with council leaders, at times involving some very confidential and sensitive issues that often prompted forthright discussions, there has not been one instance of any politician breaching any confidence or grandstanding in a populist or self promoting manner, until I met Coun Williams.

“I agreed to meet Coun Williams at his request and took him at his word that he genuinely wished to have a confidential discussion that involved seeking a resolution to some of the club’s by then ingrained issues.

“I took Coun Williams entirely at his word and not as it’s turned out that he wished to attempt to use the club and its supporters as a stick to score cheap points against his political opponents.

“It is clear Coun Williams is living in the past as he considers football is still a father-son preserve rather than the open and inclusive modern spectacle it has become. The profile of modern football crowds represents all of society.

“We spent a convivial hour whilst I was regaled with many details of Coun Williams’ life and times and now unfortunately consider myself somewhat of an expert on Jethro Tull so there was some limited benefit from the meeting.

“Coun Williams assured me that the content of the meeting including the briefly discussed club issues was confidential. He was true to his word for at least the time it took him to get from my office to the Blackpool seafront to meet the television cameras.

“During a subsequent call from Coun Williams he profusely apologised to me for being tricked by the media into breaching confidences. Not a good trait for someone seeking a political career I countered.

“I took the approach of once bitten twice shy and refused further contact with him and wished him well as I felt he had nothing of benefit to add in repairing the issues between the club and sections of its support as he had initially promised.

“It is disappointing to see that Coun Williams has once again emerged to involve himself in a situation where he clearly has nothing to offer and transparently is seeking some cheap publicity or again to criticise political opponents or further his own interests rather than those of his party or the town.

“We are all well aware of the club’s issues. What is required are solutions not further petrol on the dying embers. The club is entering a critical part of the season and the manager and team deserve support not further off field issues.

“I will remain apolitical and will not take a dim view of all politicians. I am saddened that I must respond to a political leader in such terms having had such great guidance, help, advice and the odd telling off from many of Coun Williams’ well respected predecessors of all political persuasions.

“Perhaps Tony should seek their guidance on how he should conduct himself to get the best from the town’s business leaders and stakeholders for the good of Blackpool not the good of Tony Williams, including I would add mothers and daughters who in the modern world that has clearly passed Tony by have a vote and a voice.”