Pressure grows for EFL to act fast over Blackpool FC's disgraced owners and to lift ban on Belokon

Pressure is mounting on the EFL to take action over Blackpool Football Club's disgraced owners the Oyston family.

Wednesday, 8th November 2017, 7:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:38 am
Valeri Belokon celebrates his victory outside the Rolls Building in London on Monday
Valeri Belokon celebrates his victory outside the Rolls Building in London on Monday

It comes after they were accused of “illegitimately stripping” the club of more than £25m by a High Court judge, who also ordered them to pay former director Valeri Belokon £31.27m after deciding in his favour.

Focus has now turned to the English Football League and Blackpool fans have attempted to get the hashtag #BanTheOystons trending on Twitter in a bid to force the governing body to act.

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They want the EFL to begin proceedings against Owen and Karl Oyston and to reverse its decision taken in September to disqualify Belokon as a club owner or director.

The EFL says it is reviewing the High Court decision and will prepare a report for its next board meeting later this month.

The FA declined to comment.

Following Monday’s astonishing verdict, Blackpool fans are now rightly asking if the Oyston family are considered fit to remain in charge.

Tim Fielding, honorary vice-president of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, said: “There were a number of criticisms in the judgement which call into question whether they are fit and proper people to be owners of a football club.

Belokon cannot hold any high-profile role at an English League club, having failed the EFL’s Owners and Directors Test.

“If the EFL don’t look into this, then you’ve got to ask yourself if they’re doing their job properly because it’s probably one of the most damning documents of someone’s ownership of a football club that you’re likely to see.”

That disqualification was the result of a criminal conviction and 20-year jail sentence in Kyrgyzstan, which is strongly disputed by Belokon’s representatives, who claim the verdict was handed down by a “kangaroo court” and is not recognised in Latvia or other European Union countries.

In his judgment on Monday, Justice Marcus Smith said he found it “extraordinary” the EFL should disqualify Belokon for a conviction based on him having not attended the court in Kyrgyzstan, rather than “on the merits”.

Asked if he expects Belokon to appeal his EFL ban, Fielding added: “I would think so because I can’t imagine he’s particularly happy about having that order in place, but I suspect he was advised to wait for Monday’s decision.

“My immediate reaction, knowing Valeri reasonably well, is that he won’t want that stain on his record and I think we can expect him to make an application.

“If he does, I think the EFL would struggle to leave his suspension in place.”

The judge also ruled the Oystons had “abused their majority powers to the detriment” of Blackpool after Belokon, who brought the action against the owners, had accused the family of unfair prejudice against shareholders.

After ruling in Belokon’s favour, Justice Smith ruled that a “financial buyout” was appropriate and that an initial £10m should be paid within 28 days.

In a statement, Belokon said he “always questioned the large payments” from Blackpool to companies owned by Owen and Karl Oyston following promotion to the Premier League in 2010.

Christine Seddon, chairman of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, says the EFL need to act as a “matter of urgency”.

“What has happened at Blackpool Football Club has happened under their watch,” she said.

“It’s another classic example of how football governance in this country needs to change.

“I appreciate the EFL has limited powers but there are still things they can do and they need to act as a matter of urgency.

“They acted immediately where Valeri was concerned, but now something has been done in a British court and there are no question marks over this.

“What’s come out in court has validated what so many of us have been saying for a long time.

“The fact that the football authorities have not been able to help us, and that we’ve had to wait for one businessman to take action against another businessman to bring some pressure to bear, is just awful.

“But at least it’s happened and now they must step up to the mark and do what they can.

“This is a staggering example of what can happen when rogue owners are left uncontrolled. It’s got to stop.”

Karl Oyston was unavailable for comment