It has become the norm for Blackpool fans to wake up each morning and discover that some type of disaster has occurred at their beloved club. This week has proven no different.
Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston once again finds himself in the spotlight after involving himself in the centre of a ‘textgate’ scandal, in which he used derogatory terms to describe those with disabilities during a heated exchange with a fan via text message.
The news has been met with criticism towards Oyston, and rightly so – although he is regularly shamed for his footballing antics, this goes above and beyond football in Blackpool and it’s pleasing to see those who represent both local and national charities speaking out against such appalling behaviour from a man who makes a habit of abusing his position at the top of one of Blackpool’s main community assets.
To be completely honest, I simply echo the sentiments of all those who have spoken out against Oyston in the past, and repeat the one word that would provide the perfect ending to a Blackpool fan’s Christmas – ‘resign’. For too long have the Oystons single-handedly made a heritage-filled club a laughing stock. They don’t seem to share any regrets about it either. In fact, they seem to enjoy it.
A handful of texts have been released to the press – particularly those from Karl Oyston’s phone, which have been verified, showing his disgusting remarks to Stephen Smith – a fan who managed to get hold of Oyston’s phone number and said what many other Blackpool fans would have liked to. I won’t repeat them in this article, but you can easily find them online, here and here.
There are plenty of texts involved which raise an eyebrow and force you to wonder how such an immoral man has managed to retain his position, not only as chairman at Blackpool, but as such a prominent member of the Football League board – something which may sadly work in his favour during the investigation.
A cut above the rest
“Football first… what utter cr*p”. I think that’s all that needs to be said.
Not only does he, without hesitation, mock the idea of what happens on the pitch being of a higher priority than what occurs off of it, but he even goes as far as to brag about the money that he has made from player sales and payments.
Fan: “Good to see the premiership money, Charlie Adam money, DJ Campbell money, Tom Ince money all reinvested on the squad. Pesky agents, eh!”
Karl: “You forgot the mcgahey money!”
The above quote is just one of many that could make your jaw drop, but it proves what a despicable figure that he is within football – the issue is that what he is saying probably isn’t tongue-in-cheek.
Aside from his remarks about disadvantaged people, he even turns his nose up at the working-class in a somewhat sly fashion through his comments about Smith being a painter and decorator – mocking many of those loyal supporters who follow the club week-in, week-out. Reading the transcript gives you the impression that he’s arrogantly riding a rather high horse:
“I would rather be lucky than paint peoples houses for a living.”
“You seem to try and justify your pitiful life far too much to be happy with it. You sure it’s as good as you make out?”
Since the texts have come to light, originally being exchanged in November, Karl has issued an ‘apology’ – if you can call it that. Not only is it a poor attempt at showing contrite, but he also has the audacity to flip the issue on its head and blame the supporters. He claimed that Stephen Smith and other fans had abused his family and abused him, prompting him to respond in a volatile manner.
There are two issues with this statement. Firstly, unless there is somebody out there with additional text messages remaining hidden, at no point has Stephen or any one else abused Karl Oyston’s family in any way. There may have been some understandable abuse towards Karl himself, but certainly not his family. Secondly, he should never have responded in such a way and instead should have reported the texts to the police – although the police wouldn’t have had much to investigate. Speaking of which, unconfirmed reports suggest that he has been in regular communication with the police concerning fans that he wants investigated for making slanderous remarks about him and his father. I think the term for this is his cage is rattled.
Unfit and improper
Even though he is in a position that allows him to offer a dignified apology, he failed to even accomplish that. An investigation is under way, and hopefully the Football Association or, at the very least, the Football League, will punish Oyston severely. Not just for his recent actions, but for the way that he has run Blackpool FC, treating it like a cash-cow and failing to give the loyal supporters the respect that they deserve.
Referring back to this alleged ‘fit and proper’ test that is, apparently, backed by the Football League, Karl Oyston would surely fail it every time.. Wouldn’t he? But will he be booted from his position? No chance. Why? Well, the Football League wouldn’t want to attract even more unwanted attention, especially given that the Massimo Cellino trial will be upon us shortly.
A lack of action would further widen the trust barrier between the authorities of the game and the supporters – adding more fuel to an already roaring fire.
It has become clear that Blackpool supporters are jumping at the chance to take advantage of this debacle and apply even more pressure on the Oystons. A new protest group called ‘The Tangerine Knights’ have been at the fore-front of this situation, given that Stephen Smith is a member, and are looking to crank up the heat. It will likely start off small and increase in a steady fashion – last week banners saying “VB save BFC – Oystons Out” were raised around Blackpool in a bid to spread the message and make the wider community aware of the situation.
‘VB’ refers to Valeri Belekon, a current shareholder who has been at loggerheads with the Oystons in relation to the financial issues and has claimed his interest in becoming the majority shareholder at Blackpool – a proposition that Blackpool fans would snatch at with both hands.
These off-field issues have become a major talking point among fans on the Flyde Coast for a good year or so now, and to be honest, what’s happening on the pitch is hardly any better. Blackpool sit rock bottom of the Championship and were handed a royal thumping by high-flying Bournemouth. A 6-1 defeat was witnessed by a half-empty ground, which summarised the feelings around Bloomfield Road right now. Those who make the most noise no longer have the enthusiasm to turn up. The Oystons are rapidly losing the people who line their pockets. Those remaining are simply season ticket holders who feel obligated to attend each week, desperately trying to gain their money’s worth, but to no avail.
Keeping our fingers crossed, hopefully the football authorities will come around and sack Oyston from his untenable position. He should have been removed already for his down-right poor mismanagement of the club, never mind the unprofessional comments, which could prove to be his downfall – but we’re not guaranteeing anything just yet.
‘Progress’ is the slogan on the club’s crest and those who run the club should have to abide by it. Under the Oyston’s stewardship, I’m half-surprised that it hasn’t been altered to read ‘regress’ instead. At least then he would have been being honest – something which he certainly hasn’t been, with all his false, empty promises over the years.
As a Blackpool fan, I plea to those neutral supporters out there reading this to assist us in our bid to gain our club back. Thankfully, we’re not quite in the position that Hereford United are yet – but give it a couple of years.