Blackpool FC: No wins, no sponsor and hollow letters
The last two weeks for any other club would have been two of the worst in their recent history, but for Blackpool fans, it’s water off a Duck’s back. Here I dive further into the twisted world of Blackpool FC.
As soon as I begin to draft an article, some ‘only at Blackpool’ style event will take place a shortly after and I even write this immediately after Owen Oyston has published a second response to this on-going transcript between the club and the Blackpool Supporters Trust. But anyway, here we go.
I’m desperately trying to rack my brain for events which have occurred at Blackpool these last two weeks, given I went to the game on Saturday, I’ll start with the on-the-field stuff. Blackpool, as many suspected, have hit the basement of League One after a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield United which flattered the Tangerines a fair bit given how wasteful United or specifically, Connor Sammon, were. If you’re in touch with social media, you may have viewed a brief clip of Sammon missing a glorious chance that was harder to miss than score. Still, I personally enjoyed the game majorly on part of the 600+ fans who accompanied me in the top tier of the Bramall Lane end with humorous chants aplenty and plenty of passion , in spite of all that’s going on. Saturday’s loss further adds to a record of just 7 wins in 81 league and cup fixtures. ‘Pool’s last home win came in January in the form of a scrappy 1-0 win against Millwall and their last away win was at the conclusion of the 2013/14 season, where they simply delayed an inevitable relegation by winning 2-0 at local rivals Wigan. It’s a good job Seasiders have a sense of humour that can withstand such a horrific streak, I’ll say that much.
In addition to on-the-field issues, manager Neil McDonald recently spoke to the Blackpool Gazette saying he was “concerned” with the club’s position and after promising at one stage seven players to come through the revolving door, only for that anticipated number to reduce to just two, he revealed that the club’s ongoing issues was making recruitment difficult. In all fairness, he should have been well aware of this likely scenario after former manager Lee Clark was promised he would be backed by the Oystons, but was insufficiently not, as proven on the pitch and consequently resigned from his role.
In other news, Blackpool’s new shirt sponsors, ‘Village Hotels’ announced they are pulling out of their deal with the club after backlash from ‘Pool supporters. The resort company said it had been hit with complaints and many local fans threatened to boycott the resort in Blackpool, one of 28 nationwide. This announcement came after the company’s chief Gary Davis met with representatives of both the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the Tangerine Knights. Quoted from the Gazette:
“Blackpool is one of many teams we have supported and in hindsight maybe it’s something that we should have avoided, but the shirt deal is done and we will honour the contract this season,” said Davis.
The mere fact that Blackpool’s supporters can have such a swift and effective influence on the club’s shirt sponsors and their connection with Blackpool FC goes to show how much fan power, when all are pulling in the same direction, can really have over the supposed powerful authorities in the shape of businessmen and owners in football. In the end, they’re nothing more than soulless individuals with an arsenal of cash, aside from a select few.
Village Hotels further cemented their new and positive relationship with BST and Blackpool fans by promising they’d sign a “long-term deal” with the club should it fall under new owners, especially with the fans involved in its running.
The scorelines on the field aren’t exactly uplifting, but on Thursday, it was Blackpool fans 1-0 Oystons.
On to the even bigger talking point of Thursday alone, Owen Oyston and/or his financial representatives published a second response to BST’s original bid for the club. Oyston’s first response, which like this one, was published on the Blackpool FC official website, notoriously inquired for a “five-point plan” for the Supporters Trust to supply, as he originally felt BST’s first letter containing the original details of the bid back in July were unsatisfactory.
This second response however, felt less like constructive dialogue and more like a shooting gallery of cheap shots. His second paragraph is quoted as follows:
“Thank you also for your kind and supportive words which have helped to remove some of the pain caused by the false allegations that I was an asset stripper, rather than a true Blackpool fan. I am pleased that you accept now that I am a fan of the football club.”
There are numerous elements of this brief and tongue-in-cheek paragraph alone that make little to no sense but the one that gave me breathing difficulties was Mr Oyston trying to proclaim himself as a “true fan”. There is no “true fan” in the world who, if they were ever fortunate enough to find themselves in such a prominent and powerful position at the club, would happily preside over the worst couple of seasons in this club’s history and allow it to continue further. If Owen Oyston is a true fan of Blackpool FC and “bleeds tangerine”, then a chocolate teapot is the best invention, ever.
Following on are claims that in the 24 years he has been a custodian of the club, prior to the Premier League era, he was not aware of any complaints or question raised concerning the union between himself, the club and his respective companies. Neutrals who engage in discussion about Blackpool FC’s situation will occasionally claim of not being able to recall of such animosity between the Oystons and fans during the Premier League era and the many years prior. True, not in the public eye perhaps but relations had been fragile for some time yet only on the periphery. Below is a quote by ‘Pool shareholder Valeri Belekon from the Daily Mail, October 2014:
“When I came it was a very similar situation to now. It’s symbolic – the first time I arrived there were fans carrying an ‘Oyston out’ banner.” Belokon added “Owen joked that I shouldn’t pay attention. He said ‘out’ was his last name.”
Belekon bought a 20% stake in the club in 2006 and remains the club’s president despite the over-hanging feud between himself and the Oystons which was ignited last year. Belekon, even by Owen Oyston himself, was praised for funding the development of Bloomfield Road’s south stand which was opened in 2010 and also for the financial backing of players such as Charlie Adam, who subsequently helped Blackpool reach the promised land. In spite of these applaudable actions, Belekon is no where to be seen in Owen’s trip down memory lane.
The response seems to play the role of bragging the Oyston’s accomplishments rather than further opening the playing field. You can’t help but get a sense that Owen believes ‘he’ is the victim in all this, perhaps putting this point across is a knee-jerk reaction to the sharp descent his so-called beloved Blackpool have succumbed to. Thursday’s other news concerning Village Hotels will have certainly rubbed additional salt in to the wounds.
The remnants of the response generically belittles the efforts of an obviously intelligent and determined group of fans. There’s also an unnecessarily consistent need to question their credentials, or specifically, their CVs. Owen and his advisors appeared to get the impression that BST’s representatives and spokespersons, Steve Rowland, Christine Seddon and Kevin Boroduwicz will be the only trio running the club should it fall under fan ownership. With thousands of ‘Pool fans ready to engage, as the saying goes, “an extra pair of eyes can’t hurt”. Just multiply that by 10,000+.
The foul irony in questioning BST’s credentials is his eyebrow-raising move to give Karl the chairman role back in 1999. Karl himself had no experience of running a club as much as BST have now. One thing you can guarantee with the Trust is they wouldn’t have pound signs in their eyes the second they spot an opportunity to cash in on local talent rising through the youth ranks, take Harrison McGahey, Mark Waddington and Dom Telford who moved to Sheffield United and Stoke City respectively, for example. A spine of a new generation that wasn’t to be, all in the name of greed.
To conclude, the response stank of cynicism and immaturity and as optimistic as any Blackpool should be in these dark times, unless it’s just Owen and his reps who genuinely cannot compose a response with any empathy or sensitivity, his letter suggests a successful takeover looks, in the short-term, unlikely. Oyston has obvious dissent for his recipients, offers little credit for their responses and closes more doors than he opens. Sometimes, you cannot engage with someone who cannot see their own faults.
I fear I may have grey hairs by the time I type up an article with any element being remotely positive but I continuously keep my fingers crossed along with all other Blackpool supporters.
You can see details of BST’s bid here: Blackpool Supporters Trust Bid Details
Featured image provided by Ian Johnson.
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