It’s been a season full of ‘head-in-hands’ moments that no club in the country could ever come close to replicating if their owners have at least half of their heart in the right place.
Football has been a sideshow for Blackpool fans this season, as off-the-field events consumed headlines on a regular basis, and Monday was the day expectations, dating as far back as last summer, became reality.
Without question, this has been the worst season for Blackpool Football club, ever. The club failed to make even the feeblest of attempts at beating the drop, and yet the owners have made a disgusting £9.45 million in profits, which evidently hasn’t been spent on trying to keep the side in the division. Despite an incredible 54 players having come and gone through the revolving door at the club, the majority have been on ridiculously short loans or simply weren’t good enough. Whatever the recruitment policy may be, the club is seemingly being run on the cheapest budget possible.
However, next season could ‘better’ this one. What suggests that won’t be the case? Karl Oyston himself proudly claimed that he was on a ‘never-ending revenge mission’ to plunge the club in to non-league football. Yet, the surrounding footballing world hasn’t batted an eyelid. The Football League, nor the FA, have been in any rush to sort out the mess at Bloomfield Road. As a matter of fact, Oyston remains on the Football League board to this day, and the FA have even extended the deadline set for him to respond to charges made against him for his vile, foul-mouthed text message exchange with a fan, in which he labelled the recipient a ‘retard’, and told him to ‘enjoy his special needs day out’.
The governing bodies clearly can’t be trusted to deal with such incredibly serious situations that occur outside of the Premier League, and the fight between the fans and the owners will no doubt carry on throughout the summer, with court cases and protests to be had.
‘Judge me in May’ were the infamous words spouted by Mr Oyston. Relegation in early April is almost unheard of in English football, and now is as good a time as any to judge him:
Shambolic. Incompetent. Immoral.
I could add a hundred more words to that list, but the more pressing matter is why so little action is being taken to tackle the situation. Since Blackpool aren’t a Premier League club, it almost seems as if the FA are washing their hands of the dilemma, and their lack of urgency to punish Karl Oyston for his foul texts in December suggests that they have taken a ‘not out problem’ stance on the matter.
If Blackpool’s owners had even a hint of dignity left, it quickly evaporated when lawsuits were handed out left, right and centre to the fans for posting ‘defamatory’ posts on numerous Blackpool message boards. I’ll never possess a thorough grasp of the complex details of libel and slander, but I’m fairly confident that ‘Pool fans weren’t required to ‘defame’ the Oystons, as through their own arrogant actions and the assistance of the media, they have reduced their reputation to tatters all by themselves. As a family with millions in the bank, and with the club generating an insulting £9.45 million in profit throughout this footballing year, suing fans with far less money further enhances the ‘bully’ reputation associated with them.
However, despite the horrific goings on between the fans and the Oystons, the most heart-breaking outcome of this demise has been the loss of fans both young and old. Supporters who had the privilege of watching the great Sir Jimmy Armfield, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen have turned their backs on the club. When the lifeblood of the club who have been around for decades through thick and thin surrender, it truly has become a disaster.
Throughout the Premier League season, young supporters would proudly parade Blackpool and the Fylde Coast with tangerine shirts which illuminated the incredible period the club were experiencing. Such an image is now a distant memory. If anything, young fans would be ashamed to be associated with the shirt and the club itself.
If the court cases, poor pitch and generally shambolic running of Blackpool weren’t sufficient reasons enough to see the owners go, the loss of supporters, across all generations, should be.
Tuesday night’s pointless 1-1 draw with Reading was yet another evening of both contempt and apathy as far as the supporters were concerned. Eggs, flares and fireworks were hurled towards the main entrance in an improvised protest, which displayed the ugly, yet understandable side of the fans’ feelings towards those in charge. That anger is further fueled by thuggish Blackpool stewards, who are seemingly hired by the club to throw out the few fans who have stuck around for not sitting in their assigned seats – despite rows of unoccupied seats, which further underlines the club’s catastrophe.
There were, however, fans drinking in the Seasiders Bar prior to the game, and the money for the provided refreshments goes directly in to the club. It’s a very rocky issue among supporters, but as a fan myself, I think people who continue to buy in the ground and fund the very owners who have dragged their own and Blackpool’s name through the dirt (and again, for good measure) are seemingly satisfied with the current climate, are they not?
Over the last year, players from the 2010 Championship play-off winning side have come out and verbalised their disgust at the way the club is being treated. Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who scored in the Wembley final, even said that despite their incredible achievements that year, they now have nothing to show for it. The Blackpool Gazette released an article on Tuesday morning broadcasting the thoughts of those very players in reaction to the club’s relegation and current crisis.
The phrase ‘not a penny more’ has evidently filtered through the ‘Pool fan base, and thousands of fans are set to boycott the club next season by withdrawing from season ticket purchases. The common belief is that if there is no significant profit to be made, which is to be expected next season, it may hasten the Oyston family’s exit from the club.
The following statement is taken from the ‘risks and uncertainties’ tab from the club’s recently (late) published accounts online for the 2013/14 season:
“At the year end the Directors faced a dilemma, without a Manager, a poor performance of the team over the previous season and an unusually high number of out of contract players. This has taken longer to resolve than the Directors would have liked but they have confidence in the future. The Directors believe that the company is not at risk with its strong financial position, no borrowings, an increased turnover and a modern fit for purpose stadium to play in.”
I could bore you with intricate details of the club all day long, but the above statement tells you absolutely everything that you need to know. Based on the thousands who are unlikely to renew, the club will be lucky to sell 2000-2500 season tickets this summer. Include the pre-paid season ticket holders, who purchased a two-year deal back in the summer of 2014, as well as the ‘pay on the gate’ attendees, we could be looking at an average attendance of just 3500-4000 at Bloomfield Road next season.
If we consider that average attendance in comparison to other sides who have dropped down to League One over the years, such as Sheffield United, Doncaster and Coventry, Blackpool will be fortunate if they make a pre-tax turnover of anything more than £4 million next season. Plus, the final lump sum of the controversial parachute payments end this summer following the club’s drop from the Premier League four years ago, while more and more sponsors are cutting ties with the club, and TV income is also set to dip massively, due to the drop in division.
From a neutral perspective, there isn’t a whole lot of income to be had from running Blackpool beyond this summer. It’s a thread to cling on to for Seasiders, but if karl Oyston was serious about his ‘mission’ to see the Lancashire side drop down to the Conference, figures are irrelevant.
To put just how far Blackpool have descended into perspective, they are likely to be facing local ‘rivals’ Fleetwood Town next season, who were simultaneously chasing promotion from the Conference North as Blackpool were chasing promotion to the top flight of English football.
Last month, around 500 Seasiders attended a local game at AFC Blackpool on the same day that Blackpool FC had a home tie against Leeds. The day provided the chance for locals to actually enjoy a game of football, while the funds will hugely assist AFC, who ply their trade in the ninth tier of English football. That is regrettably the first mention of actual football in this article, because, quite simply, there’s not a lot to mention in regards to Blackpool. So far, the Seasiders have only registered a dismal 4 wins, in stark contrast to the 26 suffered losses in all competitions this season. If they fail to register a single point in their remaining five fixtures, they will officially set the record for the lowest points tally in Championship history – beating Stockport County’s current record of 26 points.
On Monday, ‘Pool manager Lee Clark said the club must ‘bounce back’ after their relegation was confirmed and his statement suggested that he was confident about assembling a decent squad this summer. A quick search on social media will provide you with the Blackpool fans’ somewhat colourful views on Clark’s statement. It truly is a ‘here we go again’ read, prompting flashbacks of Oyston’s claim last year that the mistakes of the previous season must never be repeated again. To give him his due, he was right – he made it a whole lot worse.
Overall, Clark is not heavily backed by the Blackpool faithful having been labelled a ‘puppet’, and currently possessing a lacklustre 12% win record as manager. Seasiders have shown the former Birmingham manager no sympathy when he called for supporters to back the chairman, as he attempted to place a positive spin on proceedings.
Considering it will soon be time to renew our season tickets, there will no doubt be a lot of positivity coming from Clark and the club over the coming weeks, but based on the false promises of last summer’s ‘Riga Revolution’, far fewer fans will be fooled into watching a carcass of a club playing in England’s third tier next season.
Things are only going to get worse.