As the deadline approached, it started to feel as if the contemptuous Oyston leopards were showing their spots yet again. We reported, the week before last, that after months of bitterness, vituperation and lawsuits, the Blackpool Supporters Trust had made the offer of a buyout of the club to the much-loathed family which offered them a get-out from Bloomfield Road with the last slivers of their dignity intact, whilst allowing the Trust itself to get on with the day-to-day running of the football club with the intention of finally bringing to a close its regrettably well-deserved reputation as English football’s basket case du jour.
Few were particularly confident that chair-thing Karl Oyston would take a great deal of notice of the offer, of course. The Oystons have a well-earned reputation for treating the supporters of Blackpool FC like dirt, whether through lawsuits that seem to border on the vexatious through to Karl’s son Sam’s self-admittedly libelous statements about one Blackpool supporter who is employed by a local casino. What else, however, was the Trust to do? The club seemed likely to be heading into the new season in a state of open civil war, and with bookmakers listing the club as being amongst the favourites for relegation from League One at the end of the coming season, those cash cow days of Premier League television money now likely seem not only further away than ever, but also unlikely to return at any point in the foreseeable future.
The Trust gave the club a deadline for a response of Wednesday 21st July, but as the afternoon passed into the evening that day, no response had been received by the Trust, and the organisation was left with little option but to release a withering statement confirming that this had been the case, but also reaffirming that, “We are as determined as ever to make a difference but the fan base must be united if we are to be successful.” In other words, no matter how much Karl Oyston might wish that his critics would simply disappear, this is unlikely to happen at any point for the time being – at least not in the manner that the owner of the club might actually want them to, anyway.
Having already forced the abandonment of a league match against Huddersfield Town at the end of last season and a pre-season friendly at non-league Lancaster City earlier this month, a further pre-season friendly match, this time away to League Two Morecambe, was cancelled on police advice before a ball had even been kicked. Such news does not bode well for the club for the start of next season, and any impartial assessment of the mood of a still-increasing proportion of the club’s support base can only conclude that, should the new season begin with the Oystons still stinking Bloomfield Road out, further protests are inevitable, and it seems inconceivable that the Football Association and the Football League will look kindly upon disruption to the programme at the start of the new season.
There seem to be few consolations that the Oystons can take from the prospect of the start of the new season. This evening’s Neil Diamond concert at Bloomfield Road, at which tweets marked with the hashtag #tweetCaroline were reported to be being shown on a big screen, was met with a predictable (and yes, very funny) response from protesting Blackpool supporters when they found out about this and, whilst an investigation into allegations of the mis-selling of two year season tickets last summer cleared the club of this, its report stated that “The IFO has sympathy for Blackpool fans who have seen their Club relegated, in the context of frayed relationships and regular unedifying media coverage of the traumas at the Club” and that “supporters were justified in criticising Blackpool’s customer service standards, which are in need of dramatic improvement” (full report here.)
Meanwhile, it’s hardly surprising that season ticket sales for the club’s return to League One have been sluggish, to say the least. The Blackpool Gazette reported today that only 300 season tickets have been sold so far this summer and, while the 3,800 people who bought two year season tickets last year should be added to this number (and will appear on official attendance figures, although how many of them will actually bother turning out for matches, considering everything), the newspaper reported glumly that “the Seasiders are facing a campaign of sub-5,000 attendances for the first time since 2006.” It seems likely that Bloomfield Road will have a morbid echo about it over the course of the coming nine or ten months or so.
So it was that the Gazette reported that it was contacted late last night by the office of Owen Oyston, who stated that, “Mr Owen Oyston has asked me to send you a note to advise he has not snubbed your offer as stated in The Gazette and is seriously considering it with his professional advisors.” It was a threadbare report – there isn’t really much further to say about it until Oyston makes a decision one way or the other – and some suggested that its timing may have had as much to do with quietening protest in or around tonight’s concert as with the end of the BST’s deadline for the club to respond to their offer. The fact that he deigned to respond at all, however, can realistically be seen as at least a sign of some sort of progress.
Perhaps the realisation is finally dawning on old man Oyston, who may have wished to be remembered as the man who saved Blackpool FC, that three generations of his family name are now trampled into the mud, that the prospects of any further significant financial gain at the club while his family runs it are slim to none, or that still being involved with Blackpool FC in any way simply isn’t worth the hassle or abuse any more. Whatever the reasons for Owen Oyston finally breaking his silence over the BST’s offer for the club, it’s as much positive news Blackpool supporters have had in a very long time. Unfortunately, this probably says more about how they and their club have been treated of late than anything else.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.
You can ignore Twohundredpercent on Facebook by not clicking here.