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End of the Oystons in sight for embattled Blackpool fans - Interview
Tuesday, 25th Sep 2018 10:45 by Clive Whittingham

Christine Seddon, chairman of the Blackpool Supporters Trust, talks to LFW about the ongoing boycott of the club by its supporters and her hopes that the whole sorry saga may finally be coming to an end.

For us outsiders, can you bring us up to speed on the latest situation at Blackpool...

Most Blackpool fans have been boycotting for at least three seasons (see below) but we do believe that the end of the Oystons is in sight. Our minority shareholder, Valeri Belokon, took a private legal action against the Oystons for unfair prejudice; he, like the fans had been completely betrayed by the Oyston family but unlike the fans, he had an option to take them to court. Thankfully he was incredibly successful and Owen Oyston was ordered to pay him £31.27 million pounds. Almost 12 months later, this debt has still not been discharged and so the Oystons' assets have been frozen and put under the control of Mr Belokon; the next step is for these assets to be auctioned, including Owen's majority shares in the company that owns the football club, so hopefully we will see the back of the entire Oyston brigade before the end of this season. The law takes its time but it is very thorough.

You're part of an ongoing boycott of the club by fans, why have you felt the need to do that and what's it like going from regular to not watching your football club at all?

Blackpool fans are now into the fourth season of boycotting home matches. We started the Not A Penny More campaign (NAPM) when it became obvious that the money which came into the club following our brief visit to the Premier League had been removed by the owners to use in their other, non football related businesses. They literally left the club to wither away and watched as we plummeted down the divisions. Supporters who publicly complained were threatened with legal action, some being forced to pay thousands of pounds to the Oystons to get them to drop the litigation. Ironically, a lot of what the supporters said (such as accusing the Oystons of asset stripping the club) was upheld in the court case brought by minority shareholder Valeri Belokon. The suing of
fans was probably the most damaging thing the Oystons did and represented a line crossed for most of us. The relationship between fans and owners is absolutely toxic and there is simply no way forward while they remain.

It is incredibly hard to boycott your own football club. No one wants to abandon their team but it has become obvious that there is no football authority prepared to deal with the Oystons, in spite of the monumental court ruling last year and the fact that owner Owen Oyston has an unspent conviction for rape. The EFL will not apply the Owner and Director test (the "fit and proper person " test) retrospectively, even though the Premier League do! It's mad. The only power we as fans have is the power to withdraw our revenue and our presence. The majority of fans simply refuse to endorse the Oystons' ownership any longer and we are literally having to starve them out. It is the ultimate act of collective fan power, it is very powerful but it really hurts.

How/why can they continue to run the club on the minuscule gate receipts they're now getting?

Most of us have given up trying to make any sense out of what the Oystons have done.
Most of the family, including Owen's infamous son Karl who was the chairman until recently have left the club and appear to be trying to distance themselves from the old man. Owen has completely lost the plot and instead of trying to negotiate properly with Valeri Belokon has just dug himself in at the club and is refusing to face the financial tsunami that is heading his way. The club is losing millions of pounds every season, the whole situation is unsustainable

Is there any split/animosity between the fans that boycott and the ones that do still attend games?

The majority of fans are staying away but there are about 1500 who still attend. Sadly this has caused a great deal of animosity between some fans and there are a fair few wounds which will need to heal once we have new owners.

Any sign of a buyer on the horizon?

As soon as the debt to Valeri Belokon is discharged there is hope that the club can move forward. There are interested parties but no one seems willing to get involved until the situation with Valeri is resolved. However, if Owen's majority shares in the company which owns the club are sold at auction, then we know we will be Oyston free. What we don't know is who will take over. Valeri Belokon is the fans' favourite and has shown interest in remaining involved at the club once his debt is settled, but we will have to wait and see. It would have been so much better all round if Owen had been prepared to negotiate sensibly with Valeri to use the club as part of the settlement, but that has not happened so we are where we are.

Gary Bowyer seemed to be doing a good job but resigned after a one game this season, any clues as to what went on there?

Gary did an incredible job under very difficult circumstances but continuing to try and make a silk purse from a sow's ear must take its toll. Gary Bowyer has not spoken publicly about his reason for resigning but it would not be unreasonable to assume that he felt he had gone as far as he could. The way the club is run is beyond parody; the fact that Gary had to pay out of his own pocket to provide training facilities for the team until recently is a good example of why he had probably had enough.

How/when do you see all this ending?

It all depends on the auctions of the Oyston assets; the information we have is they should take place towards the end of October/beginning of November. For the sake of our club, our fans and the community, it really cannot happen soon enough.

The Blackpool Supporters Trust will have a presence outside the game tonight and will be leafletting visiting supporters. They ask that if you are attending tonight’s game to support QPR, you don’t spend any money inside the ground.

The Twitter @csbol01, @loftforwords

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londonscottish added 13:51 - Sep 25
Wow. Just incredible.

SimonJames added 14:07 - Sep 25
Much as I dislike most governing bodies I can't help thinking that football (in particular) needs some sort of government sports club regulator.

simmo added 15:16 - Sep 25
The football league should hang their heads in shame. Credit to Christine and others who held firm and are now, hopefully, getting back their club.

nix added 20:11 - Sep 25
Well done Blackpool fans. I unofficially boycotted our club during a lot of the Ecclestone, Briatore, Palladini years because I thought they were so revolting, so I sympathise with them.

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