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BST Gazette Column 09/02/2018

BST09/02/2018

Another week, another court hearing. The saga of Blackpool FC rumbles on but the judgement handed down by Justice Marcus Smith on 5th February must surely be the final nail in the coffin of Oyston ownership of BFC. Valeri Belokon has had his hands untied and is now able to enforce the full balance of what he is owed against all and any Oyston assets to ensure that the debt owed to him is repaid.

For Blackpool fans, the future of our club is hanging in the balance and it is to be hoped that the situation can be resolved quickly. Valeri Belokon has maintained his interest in the club and has gone out of his way to keep contact with the supporters. We believe that owning the football club remains his aim, whether that be the whole or in partnership with another investor. Valeri Belokon’s statement issued on Wednesday, though guarded and probably issued based on legal advice, is positive and highlights his concern for the club and hopes for a better future. It is not unreasonable to assume that he would like to be part of that future.

Which brings us to the English Football League and their role in all of this. Last week, BST made public a series of email exchanges with the EFL chairman, Ian Lenagan. For some considerable time, we have been urging the EFL to take action to address the issue of rogue owners in general and the Oystons in particular. We have been met with stock answers, platitudes and an astonishing lack of awareness. The frustration felt by football fans around the country at the lack of any kind of tangible support for the stakeholders in our game is building. The EFL represent the clubs themselves i.e. the owners. For too long, this organisation has sat on its hands whilst football clubs, their fans and their communities suffer, claiming that they do not have the authority to act. In the case of the Oystons, they have long contended that as no EFL rules have been broken there is nothing they can do. Our response to this is: in that case it’s time to get some new rules and perhaps more importantly, time for a whole new structure for football governance as a whole.

Astonishingly, given the EFL’s inertia on matters of football ownership, they were able to make a very swift decision last year to disqualify Valeri Belokon from being a director at Blackpool FC due to a court ruling in Kyrgyzstan which imposed a custodial sentence on Mr Belokon for alleged money laundering. The fact that this ruling was delivered in absentia, with no opportunity for evidence to be presented, did not prevent the EFL from taking action. Apparently, a custodial sentence means an automatic ban, even if the sentence turns out to be unjust. There is of course an appeal process but to date, the ban has not been overturned. We call on the EFL to attend to this matter promptly; the demise of Blackpool FC and the “illegitimate stripping of assets” took place on their watch and clearing the way for Mr Belokon to take control of Blackpool FC if he so chooses is the very least they can do.

Having made contact with many other supporters’ trusts and organisations as well as various sections of the media, we are confident that there is a real appetite amongst the football family for real change. With this in mind, BST are launching an online petition calling on the EFL to tackle the problem of failing clubs and to use the situation at Blackpool FC as a case study for the reforms which are needed to make their organisation effective and accountable. If we can gain 100,000 signatures, this matter will automatically go before Parliament for debate. We believe that if the EFL are unable or unwilling to reform themselves, then the government need to appoint an independent regulatory body instead. There is a quiet revolution happening amongst football supporters and it is time for the football authorities to realise it. We hope that the general public, whether they be football fans or not, will support this campaign.

On Saturday 10th February, BST are holding their next general meeting at 1pm at the Excelsior, Lytham Road, Blackpool. Tim Fielding, vice President of BST, will again host a question and answer session relating to the recent court hearing. All are welcome.

On Friday 9th February, there is a BST social evening at the Brew Room, Church Street from 7pm where there will be an opportunity to meet BST committee and other members. Jimmy Armfield memorial scarves and BST badges will be available for purchase at both of the above events.

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