In 2010, journalist Simon Kuper wrote an article for The Guardian entitled ‘Football is not about corporations. It’s about clubs and communities.’ He made some interesting points that football club owners would do well to consider. Among other telling observations, he said:
“…watching games is only a tiny part of the fans' engagement with football. Fans read newspapers, trawl internet sites, and play computer games. Then there is the football banter that passes time at work and school. All this entertainment is made possible by football clubs, but they cannot appropriate a penny of the value we attach to it. Football, once ‘the working man's ballet’, has become the joy of all classes and ages, of women as well as men. It exists to serve fans. That's why for decades the Football Association forbade club owners from profiting from their clubs. Directors couldn't get paid, and dividends were capped. The aim was to ensure that clubs were run by ‘the right class of men who love football for its own sake’. If such rules still existed, they might have stopped the rapacious owners of Liverpool and Manchester United from burdening these clubs with a combined £1bn in debt simply to finance their takeovers.
“It would be a shame to let football's current crisis go to waste. The English game should adopt a strict licensing system like Germany's to limit clubs' debts. It should again bar club owners from profiting from their investments. And it should instruct clubs to break even while serving their communities, as museums do. The only business of football is football.”
Many fans of Blackpool FC have long held the view that, although a modest return on investment is a reasonable expectation for an investor, our club should be run along the lines of those suggested by Simon Kuper. The last few years have been incredibly difficult for all of us: the football club, its supporters, the town as a whole. Despite all the grand rhetoric from the Oystons in the immediate aftermath of our elevation to the Premier League – about how promotion was going to change the club and the town for the better for years to come - the grim reality is that the area around the club has suffered a serious demise whilst the owners were “illegitimately stripping the assets” from our beloved Blackpool FC, personally profiting from the efforts of the team whilst allowing the club to fall apart. Can there be anyone connected with Blackpool FC or the town who is not angered and appalled by this situation, created by one family and an owner who shouldn’t even have been in the position to exploit it if the Premier League had implemented its own statutes concerning ‘registered offenders’.
In spite of the seismic ruling by Justice Marcus Smith last November which exposed how the Oystons had run the club for some time and ordered them to pay the eye watering sum of £31.27 million to Valeri Belokon, we are still waiting for a change of ownership. Owen Oyston appears to be trying to cling on, in whole or in part, to the club in spite of his increasingly isolated position. Having been prepared to let it fail in the past, it should hardly be surprising that he appears unmoved at the damage that his continued involvement is causing. Recent media announcements of imminent deals with mystery consortiums which fade in to missed deadlines merely prolong the agony. However, while there are self-seeking individuals willing to help him, advise him and listen to his claims of investors and plans for the future, he will believe that he can still maintain some role at the club.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has had dialogue with four of the parties/consortiums who have expressed an interest in the club. It has been made quite clear to all of them that the majority of fans will continue to boycott while the Oyston family has any involvement in Blackpool FC and it would not be an astute business move to make an offer for the club on any other grounds than the total removal of the Oyston family.
BST believes it is vitally important that Owen Oyston himself gets the message that his time at Blackpool FC is up. We ask him to face up to the reality of his situation and understand that Blackpool FC cannot progress or prosper while he or any of his family is still involved. The problems of the past few years are too serious for that relationship to ever be mended. The words of Blackpool FC chairwoman Natalie Christopher, at the player awards dinner on Tuesday night, show exactly why it is important for the supporters of our club to refuse to engage with the Oystons over anything other than their exit. It is understood that she stated ‘the heart of the club is still here, thanks to the manager and players.’ The heart of any football club is its fans and the continued refusal of the majority share-holder to acknowledge in any way responsibility for what has happened and why the majority of Blackpool’s core fans are staying away is frankly disgraceful. She went on to say ‘but I think we have a really positive future.’ BST agrees with that absolutely – but that positive future will come once the entire Oyston regime has been removed.
That family has no right to continue to inflict such pain on our club and our town and they must not be empowered by others to continue on this path of destruction. We call on the people of Blackpool to help us get this message across. People of influence locally, business and church leaders, our MPs and councillors, the Trustees of the Community Trust – can all unite in calling time on the Oyston reign. The longer Owen Oyston hangs on to the club the greater the damage done. The town of Blackpool deserves better than this. Enough is enough. It is time for everyone to speak out in defence of our club; the clock is ticking. Please help us to ensure that Blackpool FC has a bright future under new owners.