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BST Gazette Column 11/11/2016

BST11/11/2016

This is the considered response of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust to the statement from the Oystons about the Jeremy Smith defamation case:

Blackpool Football Club is a vitally important part of this community: indeed, some people love it so much that they cannot abandon it even when boycotting in the short term is the surest option of ensuring it survives and prospers.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has, throughout its existence, attempted to promote the club’s well-being and has put the success of the club at the forefront of all its activities. In contrast, the Oystons, owners and supposed guardians of the club, have used the supporters’ love of the club as a means not only of underpinning their business, but as a way of achieving an unimagined objective, the destruction of a football club.

In a week when Karl Oyston has stated that it was wrong for the Oystons to sue fans, the absurdity of the situation has become so obvious that even he, arguably the most stubborn and unrepentant of Chairmen, surely cannot ignore it.

He and his father have proved themselves, time and again, concerned only with self-interest. The current state of the club, a fourth-tier cadaver, is entirely a result of the Oystons’ choices. The Chairman may once have said: ‘Football first – what utter crap’ but now even the club’s survival as a business appears no longer to be a concern.

The Oystons’ ruthlessness would seem to know no bounds. Their persecution of the club’s supporters is only the most obvious manifestation of their inclination to destroy the very thing that brings them success.

To alienate your customers would generally be considered the most self-destructive action that any business could take. The Oystons have revelled in this tactic and appear to consider it the most effective strategy they might employ when approaching the business of running a football club. This suggests that they have no understanding of the business of football at all.

One of the arguments put to them since the Premier Division year is that they simply misappropriated the money gained from the club’s ‘season in the sun’. This would have been entirely understandable: greedily grasping for the money available from the ‘perfect storm’ that saw Blackpool promoted to the top flight would entirely fit the modus operandi of any self-interested business owner.

Alternatively, the Oystons have spent the Premiership riches so badly and operated the club so incompetently that the massive advantage that promotion to the Premier Division provided has been completely wasted and the club is now mired in a situation far worse than ever it found itself in previously.

Whether by cynicism or incompetence, the end result is the same - we have a fan base largely disaffected by the unacceptable behaviour of the owners, with thousands of loyal fans unlikely to ever return whilst the Oystons are in charge.

The loss of support on this unprecedented scale for any football club is, it would seem, entirely a result of the Oystons’ capricious and untrustworthy conduct. Karl Oyston’s statement through the club this week is the most obvious depiction of his questionable practices. Suggesting that the Oystons had reconsidered the legal case against Jeremy Smith due to his credentials as a lifelong fan beggars belief. Many of those whom they had already sued were also lifelong fans. Owen Oyston did make a commitment to settle outstanding court actions to BST members at an open meeting largely because it was made clear to him just how counter-productive such action was. The fact it has taken almost three years for the Oystons to learn this lesson, despite the advice of all supporters’ groups throughout that time, suggests an ignorance or arrogance of the most self-defeating kind. Of course, the greatest sadness for us, as supporters, is that it is the club that is being laid waste amongst all this.

The Oystons are, whether they recognise it or not, whether they intend it or not, destroying our club. Worse still, they do not appear to have it in them to truly change direction, to put the well-being of the club, the supporters and the community before themselves. They have dug themselves too deeply into this quagmire. Their attempts to force a settlement on Jeremy Smith, one that would have placed an impossible financial burden on him, continued right up until the moment of their acknowledgement of defeat. Their disingenuous statement, suggesting that did not try to force him into conceding in the face of their overwhelming pressure, threatening an enormous financial loss on his part, was a deception too far for many fans.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust calls once again for the owners to drop all pending litigation against the pitch protesters with immediate effect. However, it should be recognised that the conclusion of legal matters will not allow us to ‘concentrate on the future and not rake over the past’. There simply is no future for Blackpool Football Club with the current owners attached to it.

It has been time for the Oystons to go for quite a while now. The events of the past week have made it clear that they need to understand this travesty can only end with their departure. It is a message that all supporters’ groups and every fan must convey to the Oystons in unmistakable terms if they genuinely have the interests and future of the club at heart.

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