Remember the date – Wednesday 13th February 2019 – for it will surely go down in the annals of Blackpool footballing folklore as the day the Oystons’ grip on the town’s football club was finally broken.
For many of us it could prove a more momentous day even than May 22nd 2010 at Wembley, as it opens up the possibility of a future where achievements on the field can be used to grow and sustain our football club for a change, to build a decent infrastructure, to delight new generations of Seasiders fans and to make the town proud of the Mighty ‘Pool once again. The last few years have been difficult and divisive, but it looks as though that long-hoped-for ‘Tangerine Spring’ is about to unfold.
In London’s High Court on Wednesday, Justice Marcus Smith ruled, at the request of Valeri Belokon’s legal team, to appoint an equitable receiver to oversee the disposition of the assets of holding company Segesta (Owen’s shares in Blackpool FC, the football stadium, training ground and Travelodge Hotel) in order to finally discharge Oyston’s debt. A statement from Mr Belokon’s lawyers read: ‘(This is) a ground-breaking application in the football industry, with the judge confirming that it was in the interests of justice for the appointment to be made. It potentially marks a watershed moment for Blackpool Football Club and its loyal fan base. Mr Belokon expresses his hope that this will herald a new chapter in the proud history of a prestigious club.’
The judge, showing due concern for the welfare of the football club in this dispute, wanted to ensure that club, stadium, training ground and hotel would be treated by the receiver as a single entity; he also recognised the considerable impact of the sustained not-a-penny-more boycott in putting a stranglehold on Oyston’s revenue-stream and consequently the importance of the fans to the future financial viability of the club. Assured that the receivers would seek to manage the assets as a single package and that they would work in conjunction with Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, Marcus Smith determined to accept the proposal to appoint David Rubin and Partners as receivers (which was merely implementing a solution he had originally offered way back in 2017).
BST understands that, subject to ratification by both legal teams, the receivership is implemented with immediate effect and subsequent events could be fast-moving – including the removal of the current board and the appointment of an interim management team in the boardroom while the sale of the club is negotiated. In the short term, this should not impact Terry McPhillips or his playing staff. In addition, Valeri Belokon has indicated he will help fund day-to-day running in the interim if required.
Paul Cooper and David Rubin (of David Rubin and Partners) are the men given the task of enforcing the November 2017 judgement via the sale of these football-club related assets. Between them they have considerable experience of clubs in administration, after performing similar roles at Barnet, Coventry, Crystal Palace, Millwall and Portsmouth. Mr Cooper stated: ‘David Rubin and Partners are only too aware of the history of Blackpool Football Club, the central part the club plays in the community and the emotions involved for those supporters dedicated to securing its future. This has obviously been an unsettling period in the club's history. But in this time of uncertainty, the joint receivers will be doing everything in their power to keep the fans informed of relevant developments.’
BST had taken the precaution of preparing a background briefing document for the Receivers and the Trust is expecting to have a meeting with them within days to discuss, among other matters, representations to the EFL concerning a potential points deduction; the exact process and confirmation of the Oystons’ removal from the football club – related to when best to call an end to the boycott; re-engaging with fans, local community and businesses; what works might be required to ready the stadium for a full return of the fan base; and to represent some of the expectations fans have for ‘doing things better’ on match days than was standard practice when the Oystons were in charge.
BST has also offered to meet with the EFL and has made the case that a 12-point deduction in the case of ‘insolvency’ (the technical predicament Blackpool FC now finds itself in) was brought in to deter clubs from reckless over-spending, something that is patently not applicable in the case of the Blackpool under the Oystons. The EFL will also meet with the Receivers. They acknowledge they have discretion over the 12-point deduction and will discuss the issue at a meeting on 6th March.
12-point deduction aside, the Trust is clearly delighted that more concrete measures are now in process to remove the Oystons from our football club. Thank you to everybody who has made sacrifices to help towards this moment, the beginning of the end. Enjoy the sense of hope, relief, vindication that it brings after years of strife and denial but remember: Owen’s not gone till he’s gone. Let’s make sure we judge the moment right and when we go back, make it as a jubilant fan base united in what we all love, the team in tangerine.