It will surprise no one to be told that Owen Oyston does not want to sell Blackpool Football Club, his most public symbol of wealth and power.
Many were sceptical when the official club statement was released late last year declaring that Blackpool FC was up for sale and - despite there being at least five interested parties (to the best of BST’s knowledge) - further evidence, both private and public, has emerged in recent weeks of the Oystons’ reluctance to engage in moving sale negotiations forward.
It is not clear to the Trust just how many of the interested parties are wishing to position serious bids. Several claim to have signed non-disclosure agreements with the owners but on the evidence of one potential buyer – as quoted extensively in the Gazette earlier this week – that “you cannot do business when you can’t see what you’re buying”, it appears that Owen Oyston is back-tracking and not willing to seriously entertain the possibility of selling to anyone.
It all lends credence to the belief that Owen is in denial. He had to be practically coerced into stumping up the first £10 million payment to Valeri Belokon in December, with a contempt of court charge staring him in the face. He has lodged an appeal against Judge Marcus Smith’s forensic ruling – surely a delaying tactic at best – and the next £10 million payment is due by the end of this month. He appears to hope that he can win an appeal, raise enough collateral to pay off Mr Belokon at a reduced rate and still remain in charge of the club he has controlled for the last 30 years…and if his hand is forced in any way then it looks as though he wants to hold out for retaining ownership of the stadium and merely selling the club in whole or in part as a franchise to new owners.
Any of those permutations are absolutely the last thing the fans want and the last thing the football club and the town need. The Oystons have to go!
The Trust has made it clear to such interested parties as we have had dialogue with that:
a) a franchise solution is not in the best interests of Blackpool FC. On commercial grounds it makes no sense – owning the stadium gives security of tenure and a base to build from; income from use of the stadium would be a necessary revenue stream for the club as it seeks to re-establish a sustainable future.
b) any continuing involvement of the Oystons is not in the best interests of Blackpool FC. On ethical grounds it is a doubtful proposition - the idea of the club paying rent to the Oystons for use of Bloomfield Road would not go down well; in fact any hint that Owen or Karl would retain any share-holding or influence in the running of the club or derive any financial benefit therefrom would be anathema to most supporters, especially those for whom Not A Penny More has been a sustained point of principle.
It doesn’t hurt to reiterate here that a change of ownership presents our best chance for a clean break with the dubious practices and toxic relations of the last several years. However, a change doesn’t necessarily bring an improvement. There are many examples of clubs changing hands only for the new owners to be as bad as or worse than their predecessors.
As supporters, we have every right to hope that whoever is looking to take over Blackpool FC will be better for the club, the fans and the community than the Oystons have proved to be – but sometimes something a bit more rigorous than hope is required. Any potential owner or investor with genuine intentions of rebuilding and revitalising Blackpool FC will surely need the good will of the thousands of fans who have been staying away precisely because of the actions and attitude of the Oystons. As the largest, democratic supporters organisation at the club, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust acting as the conscience of the fan base has a duty not only to voice ideas for a vision of the future (hence the draft manifesto syndicated in this column in the last two weeks) but also to seek an active involvement in the change process, working to identify good potential owners and to filter out bad ones.
Given that stated aim, the Trust suggests that any party with a serious ambition to make a bid for Blackpool FC should engage with BST (via firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance) for discussions on how best to regenerate our famous club.