How The Oystons Destroyed Blackpool
The Tangerine Dream fast becoming a nightmare by Charles Warren McGinnes
Cast your mind back to the 2010-11 Premier League season. Ian Holloway is at the helm of a buccaneering Blackpool side, back in the top flight for the first time in 39 years thanks to an epic 3-2 victory in the Playoff Final at Wembley.
The tangerines were quickly becoming everyone’s favourite second team. A side with personality in bunches, characterised by Holloway, and a refreshing philosophy on how to survive in the Premier League.
Bloomfield Road was a ground not quite suited to the rigors of Premier League football but it was part of the little Lancashire club’s charm. An off-beat addition to the plastic, corpo-clubs that had become common place in the country’s top football division.
Holloway almost kept Blackpool in the Premier League with his exciting brand of attacking football, made a star of Charlie Adam and somewhat tore up the rulebook for promoted sides making a fist of it in the top division.
It’s safe to say those were the most successful days for Blackpool since the time of Stanley Matthews et al but sadly that period of joy and positivity now seems like little more than a distant memory.
The club has been on a rapid decline ever since and now find themselves relegated to League One after one of their most controversial seasons. All fingers are pointing at the family who own Blackpool: the Oystons.
Football club owners rarely get positive publicity and are shifted into the spotlight when a club is under pressure, struggling or mired in controversy. Blackpool’s 2014/15 Season had all three and in bunches.
To the uninitiated the anger directed at owner Karl Oyston looks akin to the kind of protests usually provoked when an unwanted party takes over but Oyston has in fact been the principal owner of the club since 1987.
He was once viewed as a hero by the Tangerine army, saving them in their hour of need as Blackpool came close to the precipice. In those days the fact he purchased the club for nominal sum of £1 was overlooked but it’s since become somewhat of a sore point for those who want Oyston out of Blackpool.
The incredible lack of investment in the club, playing staff and training facilities since Blackpool’s unfortunate relegation from the has seen them become somewhat of a laughing stock in England’s second division and had the Oyston family lurching from one public relations nightmare to another.
As the season progressed the terrace murmurs of discontent with the clubs hierarchy became a full-blown disdain and galvanised a fanbase behind a popular movement to oust the club’s owners. The relegated club’s final game of the season was forced to be abandoned as a protest took to the field in protestation over Oyston’s continued ownership while a high-profile removal of a statue of Blackpool hero Stan Mortensen, used as a meeting point for “Oyston Out” protests, did little to turn popular opinion back in favour of the under-fire boss.
However the discontent for the Oyston family’s ownership goes back much further than the past five years and in fact involves the abominable story of Owen Oyston, owner to son Karl’s chairman, and his conviction of raping a sixteen year old girl in 1996.
Simply put had the Oyston family been subject to the fit and proper persons test so often criticised by many in the game for a lack of stringency, even they would be turned away from the prospect of ownership of such a high-profile sporting institution.
Many have also pointed to Oyston’s property development background and cause for concern, saying the lack of investment in the club is indicative of a long-term business plan to undermine the solvency of the business in an attempt to take advantage of the prospective value of its real estate.
If this is the case then chairman Karl has done very little to disguise his disdain for the club with the majority of his interactions with supporters ranging from downright disrespectful (calling prominent anti-Oyston campaigners ‘intellectual cripple’ and ‘…massive retard’) to legal action resulting in elderly supporters being required to pay damages of £20,000.
The majority of that fine was paid via crowdfunding supplied by the wider football community such is the unpopularity of the Oystons with all fans across the game.
Recent weeks has seen a little glimmer of hope in the darkness that is the existence of Blackpool fans with the supporters trust mounting a serious bid to rescue the club from the hands of Oyston but with an asking price some £16m, £15,999,999 more than the club cost Oyston in the first place, any progress with this is expected to be limited.
Sadly the Oystons appear to have the deck stacked against the club’s fans and are almost certain to reduce their financial input into the club going into the League One season. It is a very dark time to be a Blackpool supporter.Click here to stay up to date with AtTheMatch