BST column: Blackpool and Accrington Stanley are two clubs with contrasting owners
The game against Accrington Stanley brought two distinctly different EFL club owners under the same stadium roof.
Andy Holt and Owen Oyston couldn’t be further apart in their approach to football club ownership and that was reflected in the fact that the Accrington owner chose to watch the game not from the directors’ box but in the away end with fellow supporters.
After the game, Andy Holt commented on social media about the situation at Blackpool, stating: “It’s sickening to see a great club alienate fans”and “it’s so sad that one person can hold a community club to ransom”.
Most Blackpool fans would agree wholeheartedly with his comments. They reflect much of what has been said by most of us over a period of years.
Owners like Andy Holt have the vision and determination to develop football clubs, investing wisely and involving the supporters who are at the heart of the club.
Our own minority shareholder, Valeri Belokon, who came to Blackpool purportedly to sell his beer and ended up investing in the club, has always shown a deep respect for the supporters and an understanding of what a football club should represent to its community.
Blackpool fans have had a good relationship with Valeri for many years and it is true to say he over-delivered on his promise – Premier League in five years; we did it in four!
He has supported the fans and has fought a legal battle with the Oystons which will undoubtedly be the catalyst for a change in ownership, though not necessarily with the Latvian at the helm.
The question of club ownership is becoming an increasingly hot topic for football fans and nowhere is the problem of poor regulation more evident than at Blackpool.
Speculation is rife about how much longer Oyston can hold on to the club, whether Belokon will play a role in its future and, if not, who is the potential new owner who has been on the verge of concluding a deal “in a few weeks” for about the last six months?
Football clubs are classified as private businesses and supporters are totally at the mercy of whoever has ownership. For much of the time this arrangement works well (as least according to the EFL), but however well-run some clubs may be and however benign some owners undoubtedly are, clubs will always be vulnerable and can only ever be one rogue owner away from the next nightmare until there is a change in football governance – preferably the introduction of an independent regulatory body and an annual licensing system for all league clubs.
There are those who say that as long as the Oystons get out of Blackpool it doesn’t really matter who the new owners are. BST believes that exactly because Blackpool fans have suffered at the hands of the worst owners in football, that bitter experience must be put to good use to bring about change which is so desperately needed.
As fans and a community we have been through too much turmoil to risk being the victims of rogue owners ever again. It is vital that whoever takes control understands and values Blackpool’s supporters and recognises the club’s role in the community.
Progress towards a change in football governance is slow, however. Political wheels are beginning to turn and the upcoming party conferences will be visited by delegations from Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation, hosting fringe meetings about the need for regulatory change.
In the meantime it is important to keep grassroots pressure on the administrators to recognise that there is a need for such change. Blackpool fans continue to be extremely frustrated by the EFL’s unwillingness to address serious issues of poor governance at our club.
As Holt also said on Saturday: “The EFL must have powers to intervene, which it either hasn’t got or won’t use….”
The EFL is failing football fans and so BST is calling for another public protest outside the EFL offices in Preston on Friday September 14 at 3pm.
It is planned to run coaches from the Thatched House in Poulton and the No.10 Ale House in Marton.
Fans from other North West clubs will be encouraged to lend their support because this is not just a Blackpool issue. Discontent with unscrupulous owners is on the increase. This could be part of a more widespread wake-up call to the EFL. Change has to be made to happen.