'The fans have suffered enough': Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt on Blackpool's off-the-field woes with Owen Oyston

Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt
Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt
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Most would surely agree that Blackpool owner Owen Oyston and Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt are chalk and cheese in their approach to running their respective football clubs.

READ MORE: Terry McPhillips hopes for one more Blackpool signing before deadline

Since taking a controlling stake in Accrington in 2015, Holt has made it abundantly clear his only concern is to provide a successful club for the good of the community and he isn’t in it for his own self-interest.

Oyston, on the other hand, has been blasted by the High Court for “illegitimately stripping” Blackpool of millions of pounds following the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2010. The difference between the two couldn’t be any starker.

Under Holt and manager John Coleman, Accrington’s progress has been nothing short of remarkable.

Despite the lowest average home attendance in League One this season, Stanley are more than holding their own in the third tier and currently sit in 15th after a brief flirtation with the play-offs.

That comes after being crowned League Two champions last season despite bringing in crowds of just 1,900 - only Morecambe attracted fewer. The team that Accrington eventually saw off into second place, Luton Town, averaged 8,600.

And this from a club based in a Lancashire town of just 35,000...

Holt, a successful and popular local businessman who made his money from the plastics industry, has become a popular figure on social media in recent times, especially among Blackpool fans who see him as the antithesis of their owner.

Mindful that boycotting, Not A Penny More supporters might not travel to the Wham Stadium for Saturday’s match as they are reluctant to buy tickets through Blackpool, Holt provided the option to buy them direct from Accrington instead, so there would be no financial benefit for Oyston .

Holt explained to The Gazette “We sell tickets to away fans in any case, which we’re fully entitled to do. We’re not going to have fans missing a match they want to come to because they don’t want to buy from Blackpool. That makes no sense to me whatsoever.

“They’ve suffered enough over the years, so we think they can have a great day out at our place and we’re looking forward to it.

“It makes a lot of sense for us. We do it for a lot of clubs but normally we would be happy for the away club to sell the tickets.

“But if they’re not going to sell them, we’ll sell them. I’m not getting involved in that carry-on.

“I think we’ve now sold over 1,500 (Blackpool’s total allocation is 2,600), so I’m expecting to be quite full.

“I think it will be a great day and we’re going to put on a bit of a show for them - a few bands and that sort of thing - to make it a successful day for both clubs.

“I can’t wait for Saturday. I’m excited and it will be great to welcome Blackpool fans.

“I had a few beers with them when we played away and that was great.

“It was just a shame walking into the ground when half of the people you spoke to weren’t doing the same. That’s not right because it’s their club.”

Despite Oyston’s delaying tactics, most seem to agree that change is inevitable at Blackpool in the not-too-distant future.

While Holt agrees, he warned supporters to be prepared for a rocky road ahead, even when Oyston has gone.

“It’s a fiasco and it needs to come to an end at some point. It’s gone on too long,” he said.

“From what I’m reading, there are going to be changes fairly soon. Hopefully there are and it gets sorted.

“There’s no resolution as it is. It’s not like Oyston and the fans are going to get back together, shake hands and get on with it. The damage is done.

“So there is no resolution until there’s a change and that’s the end of that. There’s no point dressing it up any other way.

“Fans have stuck to their guns for four or five years now. I speak to Blackpool fans regularly and I know the demand is there to turn the corner and restart, and it needs doing.

“But you’ve almost got a lost generation if they’re not careful.

"At Accrington we’re working so hard to get kids into the ground but Blackpool have lost a generation.

“To me it’s an awful state of affairs that it’s gone on so long. It will take the club 10 years to get over this.

“But I wish them all the best. I have no comment and no interest in the minutiae of what has gone on in the past because I don’t need to. It’s all there in the press.

“It just needs resolving but I’m looking forward to them coming and I know we’ll have a great day. We do our best to put on a good day in any case.

“It’s not too far for Blackpool fans to travel and I speak to a lot of them anyway because I’m a northern chap. There’s nothing wrong with them - they just want to see change.”

Blackpool supporters on social media have called for Oyston to be banned from the directors’ box at Accrington but Holt says that’s not something he is prepared to do.

“I don’t know whether I can or I can’t do that but I wouldn’t do it, to be honest,” he added.

“I’ll happily let Blackpool fans get tickets to come to the game if they don’t want to buy them off their club.

“But to go as far as banning someone from the ground, I’d have to show that he had done something against our club and I can’t. Had he done something against our club it would be a different matter.”

In the reverse fixture at Bloomfield Road back in August, which ended 1-1, Holt opted against taking his seat in the directors’ box and instead joined the Accrington fans in the away end.

He explained: “I didn’t want to own a football club in the first place, so I don’t do all this directors’ stuff.

“I don’t want to get dressed up on a Saturday, sit in a tie and eat meals. Some people do like that lifestyle and it’s horses for courses. It’s up to you and it’s up to me.

“I like to go to the football with my son, watch the match, have a couple of pints and a pie and have a laugh with my mates. That’s why I enjoy it and I think that’s what football is about.

“I do go in boardrooms but it’s not something I particularly strive for. I’m more than happy to watch the match with the fans.

“It’s not just at Blackpool where I sat with the away fans - I did it at Rochdale as well.

“If it’s a local game, where I can have a few beers with the lads and have a laugh, to me that’s what football is for - getting out with the family and enjoying it. Just because I own a club doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.”

Holt has campaigned for the introduction of an independent regulator to address the issue of rogue owners in football.

That, of course, ties in with recent work implemented by Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, who launched a petition last year on the issue.

Holt said: “I think it’s a sorry tale for the EFL and for football itself, and it’s happening too regularly at clubs where owners are getting themselves into difficulty for one reason or another.

“It just seems to keep repeating itself, which tells me there’s something structurally wrong with the whole set-up. We can’t seem to deal with issues as they arise.

“We need an independent regulator because you’ve got to remember how the EFL works.

“If you want to change anything, you’ve got to get all the clubs to agree or a majority of them to agree.

“Well, clubs don’t like voting to restrict themselves as owners and they want to be able to do what they want.

“For me that’s wrong and we need someone to step in at places like Blackpool because at the moment we’re powerless to stop it.

“We can’t lose football clubs and we can’t lose founder members of the league. You can’t just lose that history that these clubs provide.

“As a society we can’t treat it just as a business and that’s the problem. I can have four or five businesses, and if I make an investment and one doesn’t work, then I close it down, wind it up and that’s the end of it.

“But I can’t do that with Accrington and you can’t do it with Blackpool because they mean too much. They do too big of a job in society and within the community, so someone has to be able to step in and it can’t be the EFL.

“You can’t have the EFL suing its own clubs when clubs actually own the EFL.

“There’s a big void there and when there is a problem the EFL can’t win. It hasn’t got the tools to do anything about it. Fans feel let down about it because they feel nothing is being done.

“For me, having someone independent look at the clubs is an absolute must. I’d have to abide by rules but I’d accept that because there’s something bigger than me and that’s the game.”

Holt is more than happy with the progress Accrington are making both on and off the field, but that doesn’t mean he sees it as job done - plans are in the pipeline for further improvements to the stadium and club infrastructure.

“It’s a great little club and it’s paying its way. I’m not particularly losing money,” Holt said. “I’ve probably made money in the last three years.

“We’re working within a tight budget, which means it’s always going to be challenging for Coley (Coleman), but we put on a good show and we had a good match with Derby in the FA Cup at the weekend.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get more out of it but that’s life, that’s football. One goal for us instead of Derby could have made the difference of £1m.

“It is fine lines but we had a fantastic day and I thought we showed the club off really well.

“We haven’t got a lot but we showed off what we do have well and everyone was in good spirits.”