Another away day in London’s High Court in the case of Belokon versus Oyston; another firm turn of the screw on Owen Oyston (with additional costs) courtesy of Justice Marcus Smith.
It is now nearly a full calendar year since the original damning judgement and £31.2 million award was made in favour of Valeri Belokon. Apart from the original £10 million down-payment and the announcement that the club was up for sale (since retracted) the growing consensus appears to be that Oyston has been dragging this process out for as long as he can get away with it, interminably if possible – all of which is to the detriment of the football club, its fans and the town of Blackpool.
Given that Oyston has missed deadline after deadline to repay the balance, precipitating the auction process over which he then apparently also dragged his feet (being reluctant to provide information necessary to progress the sale of his shares and properties), it should come as no surprise that he was deemed this week to be in breach of his legal obligations to comply with the Order For Sale that was made by the court earlier in the year.
Justice Smith has therefore imposed a Penal Notice on Oyston to focus his mind on complying with those obligations in a timely manner. There was talk of the possibly of a court-appointed receiver, but for now the direction from the Judge is on both parties to proceed swiftly to the execution of the auction process, one which - most Blackpool fans hope - will lead to a sale of Oyston’s holding in Blackpool FC, stadium and all.
Of course the protracted nature of this process is immensely frustrating. It is just an unfortunate fact of life that when the scrupulous take on the unscrupulous, when a campaign is waged by ethical and lawful means to redress cynical practices, it doesn’t happen quickly – especially when those who are meant to oversee the proper governance of the game have proved themselves inept or unwilling to step up to their statutory responsibilities. By default, Civil Law must take its course and the law takes a long time.
As supporters, we need to be patient and resolute for a while longer, to keep up the pressure of the ethical boycott/NAPM and our legitimate calls for the Oystons to go. Owen Oyston is running out of time, friends and options but for the good of the club he has to go. Amidst all the twisting, obfuscating and obstructing, we are trying to be principled because we know where the absence of principles takes you.
Remember it is the Oystons who have precipitated this dark period in Blackpool’s history; the Oystons who have ‘illegitimately stripped’ the football club of funds; the Oystons who have unfairly prejudiced the minority shareholder (whose investment propelled us into the Premier League in the first instance); the Oystons who have squandered that Premier League legacy; the Oystons who have intimidated and sued the fans; the Oystons who have overseen the managed decline of the club in the last seven years.
Any success that Blackpool FC has enjoyed since falling into the bottom division is almost despite the owners. Our training ground is unfit for use, the stadium is falling into disrepair and the place that ought to be a buzzing community asset and hub is a shadow of what it was. It is simply not the case that huge numbers of fans will return if the club is doing well on the field – as it is at the moment. This is a principled stand by the thousands who are boycotting and the club will never turn the corner and be sustainable without that mass of currently disaffected supporters.
It would be quite something if the 2,000 or so fans who are still attending games at Bloomfield Road would also signal publicly that they are not happy with this state of affairs, if they would organise some show of displeasure with Oyston and solidarity with those boycotting by holding an Oyston Out protest inside the stadium. Surely we are all on the same side in wanting to see regime change at Blackpool FC?
We believe, we hope, that events will start to move more quickly in the coming weeks. A unified call for Oyston to go would certainly assist the momentum. So might the threat of official receivers or administration. Ideally regime change can be achieved and this whole sorry mess resolved well before the end of the current football season. As fans we have suffered long enough. This squad looks promising, is on one of the longest unbeaten runs in the League and has reached the last sixteen of the League Cup against Arsenal. There were 3,000 of us in the Clock End in August 2010. Not-A-Penny-More means there will be maybe a third of that number when Blackpool play at ‘the Library’ on Wednesday, but in absentia we wish the Seasiders well. The team deserves our whole-hearted support and we would love to give it in person – which we will again once the Oystons are no longer any part of our football club.