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The Folly of Denegrating your fanbase.
Written by Curryman on Sunday, 17th Aug 2014 12:19

Gerald Irving Ratner (born 1949, London) is a British businessman and motivational speaker. He was formerly chief executive of the major British jewellery company Ratner’s Group (now the Signet Group). He achieved notoriety after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated the company's products, which caused the company's near collapse (the so-called "Ratner effect").

Today, Ratner's speech is still famous in the corporate world as an example of the value of branding and image over quality. Such gaffes are now sometimes called "doing a Ratner", and Ratner himself has acquired the sobriquet "The Sultan of Bling". Ratner has said in his defence that his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously. Source Wikipedia

So what did he say?

“We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95”. People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?” I say, “Because it's total crap”.

He compounded this by going on to remark that “some of the earrings were cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long." Ratner's comments have become textbook examples of the folly of making fun of, and showing contempt to, customers. In the furore that ensued, customers exacted their revenge by staying away from Ratner shops. After the speech, the value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse. Ratner resigned in November 1992 and the group changed its name to Signet Group in September 1993.

Karl Oyston and his family appear to have done a similar thing, but this time by belittling the fans, the customers. I cannot put too much emphasis on this point, the fans, like it or not Karl, are customers.

They have made the simple mistake of thinking the customer is a fool, they are there to goad and whatever they say or do will be simply like water off a duck’s back. This has ranged from the infamous photograph with the cash cow protest board, to the family photograph with the tennis rackets, following the tennis ball/tangerine protest, a poor example of parenting by exposing your kids to the same ridicule as yourself, to puerile posts on fans message boards and tweets from family and employees that go beyond the pale.

I see no evidence of any apologies, contrition or direction from the Oystons, in fact if anything it has become worse over recent times. Now, with his column in the Blackpool Gazette, he appears able to concoct any story that comes into his head and woe betide anyone who disagrees with his points. His first column, at the time of writing his only one, covered the debacle at Forest and the fact that players had not been registered. Rather than defend both his Secretary and his Manager, he chose the unwise path of defending one in public and criticising the other, which has led to various conspiracy theories. People will only be made fools of for so long, as the old saying goes ‘you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of them all of the time’, and the end result of denigrating the customers is clear and is coming. Customers are voting with their feet, season ticket sales have fallen and once the customer trust is gone it is extremely hard to get it back, more so when those responsible have little clue how to do things. A good example is in the South Stand where after a protest by a long standing supporter, he was banned, this has resulted in seven people not renewing their season tickets and a loss to whoever of £1367 plus add ons. It appears that we have a lot of white spaces, where adverts should be shown, around the perimeter of the ground again lost revenue. Is he clueless? I’ll let you decide.

The fans are revolting in more and more numbers and ways and it will, in my opinion, not be too long before complete anarchy is experienced at a game, probably where maximum coverage can be achieved. This is a scenario I fear, as the club would no doubt be charged with failing to control its fans and as a consequence could be deducted points. But is that fair? What about the charge of not controlling those in charge of the club. They are the real perpetrators of all the goings on, with their couldn’t care less attitude to any reasonable demands that are or have been made. They are the ones who appear to have removed any hopes the customer has of better things just around the corner. Those hopes have been dashed with every penny that has been removed from the football business to other businesses within the family. It has been like a slow death such as death by a thousand cuts. I’ll let you look that up. The heart of the club is faint.

It is becoming obvious as time passes that there is another plan in place that does not include the customers, who are now deemed to be expendable. Indeed it seems that the BFC side of the operation is not one that the Oyston’s want to prosper. Blackpool Football Club will become superfluous to requirements once the parachute payments are ended and no more money for season tickets can be prised from the grubby hands of those who care about the club, the fans.

In sixty years of supporting our wonderful club I have never, until the last season and this, found it necessary to complain so bitterly about the state of the whole shooting match, pigeons beware. Even during the dark days when we looked to be on our last legs after the Cartmell years, we had a white knight on a charger riding to our rescue, taking the reigns over from Ken Chadwick. Unfortunately it appears that the white knight and his offspring were not what they seemed at the time.

Could it be that the man on the white charger was the first of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse?

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voyeur added 17:34 - Aug 17
The Oystons really aren't bothered Curryman. They inhabit a completely different space than regular people who do regular jobs. They are really wealthy and really arrogant. It doesn't matter to them what happens to the football club. They dislike a lot of the customers and enjoy baiting them. Success to them is not related to the football club, and at the moment for them the requirement is to reduce costs at the club, and that also involves lowering expectations, considerably. They are despicable people, who treat people with contempt, and have done for many years, they have no sort of etiquette or morals or ethics, they do what they like and sail very close to the wind legally too. So expecting any different is naive really, and has been for a long time. This is the Oyston family. It's what they do. They abuse whatever they like.

bottle added 20:11 - Aug 17
Most businesses are continually screwing customers over, and trying to squeeze the maximum returns for the least investment. Be it all the self service checkouts in supermarkets so they can employ less staff to service customer checkouts. Banks and mobile phone companies charging you for a hard copy of your statements. We can all choose to change where we shop or bank or get our energy if you are unhappy with the service you receive. We think nothing of choosing to go to lidl or aldi rather than Morrisons or Asda for instance.

Football clubs however are pretty unique in that their customers have put in a great deal of emotional and financial investment over the years. Of course the more successful that club is the more support it will attract, and also greater returns in the form of financial rewards from television revenue.

Every club will have a hard core of support who turn up week in week out even when the good times are hard to find. It's curious therefor that a family who claim to be the great custodians of our fine and proud club should choose to not maximise the returns from increased support and league status and to antagonise the core support to the point where for relatively small outlay, they can increase support and revenue by providing a service that people actually want and would be more than happy to hand over their hard earned on matchday tickets, catering products, merchandising and everything that goes with being a Blackpool FC supporter.

It all smacks of a smash and grab raid, take what you can while you can, stick two fingers up at the loyal customer base and to borrow a term - ride that white charger hard and fast over the horizon. We can only hope that their is a cliff edge and a big drop just over there and all we will find will be a pair of glasses and a floppy old hat then we can all live happily ever after!

Great reading Curryman, many thanks for taking the time to out together that piece, cheers.

hertfordseasider added 23:08 - Aug 17
Good stuff Wilf. If it wasn't for the fact we have JR, who spoke wonderfully well post match yesterday, we would be beyond hope. The sad thing is, it looks like KO is doing everything in his power to get JR to walk, but he is too shrewd for that and is a man of principles. If KO wants to get rid he is going to have to sack him and that would hurt him financially, but I have a feeling he is thinking about it. It is as if he wants the club to fail and he never meant for Riga to stay long at all, just long enough to sell some season tickets perhaps and then find some way to blame the fans when he does leave because he was the number one choice in the Gazette poll.

No wonder it makes you so cynical.

KhonKaenSeasider added 07:32 - Aug 20
Wonderfully written Wilf. Agree with it all. We are buggered. Glad I am not on hand to witness it.

Curryman added 23:11 - Aug 20
Thank you all for the comments which I have taken on board. I'm currently writing the third of the trilogy which may have to await my return from Holiday, but it will once again be based on fact, with some speculation thrown in.
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