Blackpool FC: it’s time to make a choice
Thousands of Blackpool fans are boycotting their football club, because of the owners, the Oyston family. Many will not go back whilst the Oystons own the club. We don’t care if the team do well, it’s irrelevant.
The fans have been complaining about the Oystons for a long time. As Karl Oyston said after protests in 2008:
it’s been the case ever since I first arrived here when there were people marching around with coffins and banners slung from motorway bridges on the M55
But the protests have escalated significantly over the last 5 years. Not because of the performances on the pitch, dreadful though they have been, but because of the owners’ increasingly grotesque actions. Actions that damage the club, the fans and the town of Blackpool.
The Oystons have loaned millions of pounds from the club to other companies, taken legal action against fans, taunted them and abused them by text. A fan has been jailed for 6 months for his actions following an abandoned game. A police officer alleged that Karl Oyston was ‘beckoning and enticing’ fans.
Some people are listening
Millions of people have heard those views and heard of the actions of the Oystons. Actions that have damaged the town, the club and the fans.
Many fans who are boycotting their football club are choosing not to go back to the club until the Oystons go. They chose to set up a supporter’s trust and work to turn Blackpool into a fan-owned club.
Others are yet to choose
But there are other people who have not, yet, made a choice:
- Fans: There are a number of fans who choose to still go to home games. They can choose whether to continue to fund a family that takes legal action against fellow fans or whether to sacrifice some football and stand with their fellow fans.
- The team’s players and manager. They have not spoken out in support of the fans and against the acts of the owners. In fact the manager has criticised the fans. They can choose whether to continue to support the Oystons or whether to speak out like their fellow football professionals.
- The local newspaper, the Evening Gazette, occasionally runs a strong leader article but too often resorts to reporting on football games as if they were all about what happened on the pitch rather than a club that had a £90m windfall just 5 years ago. They can choose whether to accept the club’s fate or to actively campaign for the Oystons to go.
- The footballing authorities banned Karl Oyston for 6 weeks when he abused a fan. Other than that they have done next to nothing despite the damage the Oystons must be causing to the reputation of English football. They can choose whether they want football to be run for the benefit of owners or for fans.
- The local town council have been quiet despite the lost opportunity to regenerate one of the most deprived towns in the country and the damage being done to the town’s reputation and residents. The council leader, Simon Blackburn, told fans “we cannot take sides that is not the role of the council”. He said that his meetings with the Oystons will remain private. We will see what the council knows. They can choose to do nothing or speak up and help the fans make the Oystons go.
If the Oystons do not leave then in a few years there may be nothing left apart from an empty stadium just outside Blackpool town centre. An empty stadium where a football club used to be.
It is time for others to make their choice: the fans who still go, the players and manager, the local paper, the town council, the football authorities. Rather than choosing to do nothing they could choose to help stop the damage that the Oystons, and others like them are causing.
I suspect everyone who has chosen to boycott, protest, speak out and try to change things has made that choice with a mix of sadness, hurt, frustration and hope. They have chosen to do something in the hope it will bring change and make things better.
If the Oystons remain the club will surely fade and die. It will just be one more memory of Blackpool’s past. A rollercoaster ride that ended in disaster.
With the Oystons gone the fans will come back. They can rebuild the club and put football first. They can start to make the club something the town is proud of again.
It’s time for people to make their choice.