Blackpool FC Story- When majority owner leeches off your Football Club.

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When the news broke out in June of 2014 that Blackpool had only 8 senior players on their books who were Gary MacKenzie, Tony McMahon, Charles Dunne, Dave Perkins, Steven Davies, Bobby Grant, Sergei Zenjov, and Tom Barkhuizen whole of the football community knew something was not right with the then championship side.

Many people who didn’t follow the Lancashire club closely after their 2010–11 premier league season was shocked to learn that they were only playing two friendlies that season and fielded players on trial against both Penrith and Burnley. At the match against Burnley, Fans threw tangerines and tennis balls onto the pitch.

Then came a statement from Club Chairman Karl Oyston which said

This situation is more of an opportunity than a problem but clearly, the clock is ticking. We are hoping to keep working hard to get the deals done as quickly as possible

Even for their championship kickoff game against Nottingham Forest, they could only name 4 substitutes. Which made fans Disgruntled about the owners.

This is how the subject of Blackpool football club became mainstream news. But let’s take a look at the characters involved.

Oyston Family

Owen Oyston came into contact with the club after selling Oyston’s Estate Agents in 1987 when Blackpool was a struggling team, He became the owner of the club in 1988 for £1 saving club from bankruptcy and showed the club dreams of playing in Whyndyke Farm at Marton. Which will have a  40,000-seater super stadium and shopping complex.

Owen Oyston was a controversial figure in his personal life, he had many ongoing court cases against him in the early 2000s. In 1996 an unnamed female model has won a case against him for raping and indecently assaulting her when she was 16-year-old.

This meant that Owen had to spend six years in prison. During the course of this, he had settled a lot of cases against many women over sexual harassment claims by the women.

During his time in prison initially, Vicki Oyston became the chairman followed by their son Karl Oyston in 1999.

Karl Oyston straight away made the decision that he doesn’t want to invest in a new stadium at Whyndyke Farm and wants to redevelop Bloomfield Road.

They invested in a stadium with new stands, restaurants and a 70-bedroom hotel in the club’s original location at Bloomfield Road.

But the redevelopment took nearly 11 years with the final stand, which was East stand being completed in the 2010-11 season and needed a lot of investment into the club this is where our next character played his part.

Oystons have promised that they will provide the club with a new training complex which was never fulfilled and the club still trains at Squires Gate.

Valeri Belokon 

Valeri Belokon, A Latvian Businessman, founder of AS Baltic International Bank bought a 20% stake in Blackpool Football Club in 2006 under his company VB Football Assets.

He invested nearly £25 million into the club in the form of loan free debt. Most of which helped in the reconstruction of South Stand at Bloomfield Road.

Belokon was also convicted by Kyrgyzstan for money Laundering charges against his time with Manas Bank. This will be very useful to understand the story later on.

Oystons secrets come to spotlight

Oystons made interest loans to their other companies like Segesta Ltd, Zabaxe for many years but initially in 2012 rumors broke about their wrongdoing.

This reached a tipping point when clubs Minority shareholder Valeri Belokon wrote an open letter in which he said Oyston’s took £35 million out of the club in the form of wages and interest-free loans made to other companies they own and asked his partners to “Put Football First” in 2014 after they were unable to field more than 4 subs on the bench.

There was a documentary aired by Channel 4 revealing the details about the wrongdoing.

Suing Fans

As we can understand by now Oystons are not the most liked characters by the fans and animosity between fans and owners is very high.

But add to that suing your own supporters for posting derogatory comments about you online, In one case a 67-year-old fan named Frank Knight was forced to pay £20,000 in damages to the club which was raised through gofundme campaign paid to the club by the fans.

In another similar instance, a fan named David Ragozzino was forced to pay £41,000 after his social media post which turned frustration into words ones he would regret.

After being fined by FA over fans invading the pitch after Huddersfield game, Club served fans letters by the club demanding compensation for loss of earnings.

A fan was given a 26-week prison sentence following the incident for storming the directors’ box.

We are not trying to defend fans actions here but owners should not have let things escalate to such an extent.

This led to even more protests and fans boycotting games completely claiming the club was “Oyston’s cash cow”.

On-Field performance

Due to its training ground condition and mismanagement, the club was never able to attract big names to the club.

Squires Gate training ground is ranked among one of the worst maintained stadium in Football League. The playing field at Bloomfield Road has also deteriorated over the years due to lack of investment.

In one instance team trained at Fulwood Amateurs’ Lightfoot Lane base because grass was not cut and there were holes in the pitch which needed to be filled.

Since 2014-15 Blackpool FC turned into a free falling team in the English football ladder until Gary Bowyer took charge in the 2016-17 season.

In 2014-15 season they finished last with 26 points and in 2015-16 season they finished 22 with 46 points in League one which meant they were now in League Two.

But, In 2016-17 season Boyer’s men defied the odds to secure promotion back to League One in their first attempt and finished 12th in 2017-18 League one season.

In 2018-19 season however after Oyston family was ordered to pay Belokon £31.27 million and when he was forced to pay for an alternative training site himself in nearby Preston due to conditions at Squires Gate training ground. he quit the job.

Then Terry McPhillips who was appointed as caretaker and subsequently as a Permanent manager has guided the club to a 10th placed finish. Which means after Oystons departure Blackpool fans can enjoy League One football.

Valeri Belokon v Oystons

In November 2017, Oystons were ordered by a court to buy the remaining 20% stake held by Valeri Belokon Football Assets for more than £31.27m after Belokon proved Oyston’s have illegitimately stripped club of £26.77m in the form of bonuses and Interest-free loans to their other companies.

Owen Oyston offered Valeri Belokon an option to buy Blackpool FC for £5m but due to Belokon’s failure to Qualify for EFL’s” fit and proper person test” as a result of the criminal conviction and 20-year jail sentence given to Valeri Belokon for money laundering, tax evasion, and dishonesty in Kyrgyzstan.

You could argue that Owen Oyston was also a convicted felon then he must also fail in the test. The reason for him not getting disqualified is the rule came into effect in 2014 and all the cases that were before 2014 are not taken into consideration.

Oyston’s make an initial £10m installment to Valeri Belokon but fail to make any subsequent payment. That means he owes £25m to the Latvian.

In February of 2018, High Court appointed a receiver (Paul Cooper, of David Rubin & Partners) over £25m owed to Valeri Belokon.

Here is the letter that will make many Blackpool fans happy

What’s Next

Blackpool fans have held several talks with EFL about the present club situation and suggested they let Valeri Belokon own the club. EFL has agreed to overturn the decision about Mr. Belokon but didn’t implement it yet.

Blackpool fans however have convinced 12-Point deduction that was initially proposed for 2019-20 season.

We can only hope Blackpool FC will get better owners than Oyston’s.

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