Tomorrow, in case anyone hadn’t realised, brings the final day of fixtures in League Two, with Blackpool at home to already relegated Leyton Orient and hoping to secure a play-off place. It is also Fans United/Judgement Day 3.
A few supporters appear to be questioning the need for another ‘Judgement Day’, citing the fact that the team has done quite well this season – so clearly the record needs setting straight.
The march and rally on Saturday is not a judgement on how the team has performed (though automatic promotion ought to have been well within Blackpool’s capabilities, given the ‘cash rich’ credentials of the club).
It is a judgement on owners who have overseen the plunge from top to bottom division in just six years, who have squandered the legacy and opportunities that came with achieving Premier League status and who still have litigation in process against their own supporters.
It is a judgement on owners whose cynical custodianship of a great club and community asset has seen that club founder while millions of pounds have been loaned out to other Oyston businesses.
Making a success of a football club usually works the other way round. Multi-millionaire owners normally invest substantially and are true benefactors to their clubs and communities, as were Jack Walker at Blackburn and Jack Hayward at Wolves. Walker bought the club he’d supported since childhood in 1991 and spent over £50m of his own personal fortune on rebuilding the stadium and financing a team capable of winning the Premier League. Decline only came after the sale of the club to Venky’s in 2010. Hayward bought the club he’d loved since a boy in 1990 and spent £70m of his own fortune in renovating Molineux and building a team that could compete at the highest level for nearly two decades. Both men are dead now but the memory of their legacy lives on and is commemorated in statues outside their respective grounds.
It is unlikely there will ever be a statue to Owen Oyston outside Bloomfield Road. He talked of doing great things for our club but despite his huge personal wealth he didn’t deliver. In fact he’s even on record as saying ‘We (meaning Blackpool FC) were skint for 25 years!’ Such an attitude from the multi-millionaire owner beggars belief.
To properly understand some of the reasons for the relentlessly growing tide of opposition to Blackpool’s owners, consider these significant events on their near-30 year timeline:
1988: Oyston bought the 3rd tier club for £1 to save it from going bankrupt and has been living off that kudos ever since.
1990: Blackpool relegated to 4th tier. Oyston proposed a £60m ‘soccer city’ development at Bloomfield Road – it didn’t happen.
1998: First wave of anti-Oyston marches and pitch invasion.
2000: Delapidated Bloomfield Road began to be renovated with grants from the Football League.
2003: Oyston mooted a £100m ‘super-stadium’ at Bloomfield Road – it didn’t happen.
2006: Valeri Belokon bought a 20% stake in BFC, invested in the team and the South Stand development.
2007: Blackpool promoted back to the 2nd tier for the first time in 29 years.
2009: Ian Holloway made manager. He criticised training facilities. Karl Oyston promised improved training facilities on a new site – it didn’t happen.
2009: Belokon set up a player trust fund after the directors refused to sanction transfer targets.
2010: Blackpool promoted to the top division for the first time in 40 years. Karl Oyston promised improvement on and off the pitch – it didn’t happen.
2011: Belokon asked the Oystons to fund additions to the squad to ensure Premier League survival – it didn’t happen and Blackpool got relegated.
2012: Owen Oyston was paid £11m by the club and millions more were loaned to other Oyston businesses. Blackpool lost the Championship play-off final. Holloway left the club. Appleton was appointed but resigned after nine weeks.
2013: Paul Ince appointed as manager. More club money was loaned out as Blackpool flirted with relegation.
2014: Paul Ince was sacked, most of the squad sold, Jose Riga appointed manager but sacked after 16 weeks describing working conditions at Blackpool as ‘the very worst circumstances’. Lee Clark appointed. Suing of fans commenced.
2015: Karl Oyston embroiled in ‘textgate’. Suing of fans intensified. Karl Oyston charged by the FA. Football League queried the state of Bloomfield Road pitch. More millions loaned from the club to other Oyston businesses. Blackpool relegated back to 3rd tier and Lee Clark sacked. Judgement Day 1 anti-Oyston march and pitch invasion. Karl Oyston said mistakes had been made, lessons learned and things would get better – it didn’t happen.
2016: Further loans made to Oyston businesses. Further suing of fans. Blackpool suffered back-to-back relegation down to 4th tier again. Manager McDonald sacked. Judgement Day 2 and commencement of ethical boycott of Bloomfield Road by thousands of fans. Valeri Belokon instigated High Court action against the Oystons.
2017: First of two court cases being brought by Belokon against the Oystons found in Belokon’s favour. Judgement Day 3/Fans United for change in football governance and for regime change at Bloomfield Road.
Laid out sequentially like that it makes for a pretty damning indictment of the Oystons’ tenure at Blackpool FC. Owen Oyston’s purported aspirations for the club have not been backed up by significant Oyston money – in fact since Belokon’s investment catalysed the unexpected rise to the top, funds appear to have been flowing out, rather than in to the club, a factor at the root of Belokon’s High Court action against the majority shareholder.
The Seasiders and the town of Blackpool deserve better custodians of our football club than the Oystons, who have forfeited irrevocably any confidence the supporters may have had in them. That is what Judgement Day 3 is about- the renewed call by thousands of fans for the owners to sell up and leave Blackpool FC.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust encourages all fans to join and make their voices heard in noisy but legitimate protest. It is a demonstration of the fact that we still love our club but the majority of us won’t be stepping back inside Bloomfield Road while the Oystons remain in charge. It is to be hoped that the owners take note and prepare to do the honourable thing, by confirming their intention to sell the club and negotiate an exit that will be to the benefit of all parties.