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BST Gazette Column 16/02/2018

BST16/02/2018

Please let this not be a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same!’

In another predictably unpredictable week at Blackpool FC, new CEO Sam Oyston departed after less than a month in the post (what will the EFL make of that?) and the Seasiders won away from home to topple league leaders Wigan. While both events can be regarded as good results in themselves, uncertainty about the future of our football club still abounds and positive steps need to be taken soon to put it on a whole new footing.

While everyone waits to see what Valeri Belokon’s next moves might be – will he appeal the EFL ban? Will he stake a claim on the club? – the concern is that Owen Oyston still owns Blackpool FC and seems prepared to try and hang on in there against considerable and mounting odds. He is apparently contemplating taking on a further £25 million loan in order to pay off the Mr Belokon and resume almost total control.

Unless there is some kind of chicanery involved in the loan process, the cost of servicing such a loan would be in excess of £400k per month – on top of the losses the club is already making each month as an effect of the ethical boycott. The owner would either have to sell assets, of which Blackpool FC and the stadium is the most valuable, or have recourse to personal funds that he professes don’t exist, or would need to find another business partner, somebody not deterred by the way he has treated the Latvian, in order to keep the whole thing functioning.

However one views it, the prospect of Owen Oyston remaining in charge at Blackpool FC does not bode well for the club. Remember that he had done nothing significant with it in two decades until Valeri Belokon arrived as a shareholder. Remember he is the one who diverted millions from the football club in the wake of the premiership – deemed ‘illegitimate stripping’ in the recent court judgement. Remember he is the one who instigated the suing of fans. Remember he has never offered a single constructive suggestion in any of his dealings with supporters in the last five years.

Surely the last thing long-suffering fans want to see is Owen Oyston still in charge and Blackpool FC on life-support for the remainder of the old man’s days. It is unacceptable that the future of our historic club, our community asset, should be put at risk because of one man’s vanity and intransigence, one family’s greed. If Owen refuses to relinquish control then he is in serious danger of killing the thing he professes to love.

It should be pointed out that Owen is meant to have given an undertaking to the football league in the wake of his conviction for rape that he wouldn’t be involved in the running of the club, but revelations in court proved that not to be the case. It would appear he has been making stooges of Ian Lenagan, Shaun Harvey and the executives at the EFL. Currently Blackpool FC lists three directors: Owen Oyston, his daughter Natalie and Kaspars Varpins (representing somewhat side-lined Latvian interests). Quite how Owen is not involved in the running of the club is something the EFL should be pondering. Was it really to spare their own blushes that they decided not to let Ben Toner referee the game between Blackpool and Pompey the Saturday after November’s historic court ruling?

In BST’s many dealings with various local people, including politicians, councillors, business leaders and the general public, it is true to say that there is an almost unanimous desire for the Oyston family to sell up and leave, allowing new owners to begin the process of rebuilding Blackpool FC, both on and off the pitch. If Owen Oyston still believes that there is anyone left who will support him in his continued tenure at the club, then isn’t it up to all of us to make it abundantly clear this is not the case?

The mass boycott which has continued for several seasons should really have been sufficient to get the message across that the Oyston reign is over. The Trust has always maintained it is up to each individual to decide how they will support their team and this of course remains the case. However, we would like to encourage the whole community to get behind the boycott, in one last push to ensure that our club can be freed from this toxic situation once and for all. We call on the local community, its leaders and businesses, to speak out and to join us in showing that the community of Blackpool wants its club back and that we all refuse to engage with the Oystons while they continue to jeopardise our community asset.

Enough is enough. Things cannot stay the same and change must be fundamental, a complete break with the regime of the last thirty years. Let go, Owen. It is over.

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