Exactly a year ago this column read: “A new season is about to kick-off for the Seasiders: new manager, new backroom staff, new players, new challenges - albeit back in the third tier. Same old owners, though.”
Just substitute fourth for third in the above and job done for the opening paragraph!
Yes, we are now in a lower division than when Owen Oyston bought the club in 1987. The owner said in his recent open letter in the Gazette that he is trying to repair the damage done in recent seasons, which is to be commended – but let us not forget that this is a mess largely of the Oystons’ own making. The paradox of a “cash rich” club plummeting down the divisions is quite unacceptable to the fanbase. Blackpool FC is a football club first and foremost. There is no virtue in being a “good, solid, resilient business” if you’re heading towards the hatch to drop into non-league football!
Watching Karl Oyston’s TV interview on Wednesday brought on a growing sense of horror. Of course we only got selected highlights, but they weren’t edifying. “We’ve built from a low base before and I’m sure we can build from a low base again.” Last time, the Belokon millions helped propel the club forward. Given that the Oyston millions have been “there if needed” but have remained miraculously untouched for the last four disastrous seasons, we don’t see anything significant changing for the better this year. It could all have been so different. That perceived mismanagement – and the subsequent suing of fans for demonstrating against it – has brought us to where we are.
If anything, the owners are more likely to pare back investment still further, pointing to the impact of the ethical boycott, falling attendances and reduced revenues as a justification, citing League rules about players’ wages not having to exceed 55% of turnover. But in fact the League’s Salary Cost Management Protocol states that a) there is no restriction on transfer fees and b) gifts can be legitimately included in turnover. Therefore the owners could, if they wished, gift a few million back into active service for building a truly competitive team, thereby kick-starting the footballing revival at Bloomfield Road.
Of course, improved results alone – even if they materialise - will not bring the fans back. For that to happen, as BST has explained clearly to Owen Oyston, either he agrees to sell the club or all litigation against fans has to cease immediately; Karl Oyston needs to step away from all involvement in the football club (that’s not bullying, it’s an appeal to good judgement); and a properly democratic fans consultative body needs to be set up, which every supporter of the club is eligible to stand for regardless of whether they buy a season ticket or not.
Then, and only then, for the long-term viability of Blackpool FC as a footballing force to be reckoned with and a club this and future generations can be proud to support, there does need to be a radical change in the way the club is structured – that means a proper strategic plan for the future, a decent level of investment to support the plan and full supporter involvement in the way the club is run. That way, success when it comes will be more than a happy accident and will be something that can be sustained for the benefit of the club and the wider community of Blackpool and the Fylde.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust will continue to work for that radical change at Bloomfield Road. If you agree with our aims then please do something tangible about it. You can join the Trust via our website at: www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com and help make a positive difference to the future of your club.
In the meantime, we wish Gary Bowyer and the team every success in the season that’s about to begin.