Tag: Blackpool (Page 1 of 2)

Putting Blackpool FC on the blockchain

Blackpool Football Club, its fans and community have been treated horrendously over the last few years. The owners, the Oyston family, have run the club into the ground, abusing and taking legal action against fans in the process, while both the football authorities and Blackpool’s town councillors sat by and watched.

Last year there was light at the end of the tunnel when Justice Marcus Smith ruled that the Oystons had “illegitimately stripped” the club “in a manner which involved “fundamental breaches” of their duties as directors”. The ruling came after a legal case bought by Valeri Belokon, a major investor at the club. To compensate Belokon the Oystons need to raise money so have put the club up for sale.

Seven patient months later a company called vSport are reported to have bid for Blackpool FC and are quoted saying that they expect to complete the purchase by the end of the month.

vSport say that they are the “world’s first non-profit, open-source and blockchain empowered platform which is completely dedicated to the Sports Industry”.

Sounds impressively futuristic but what on earth does that mean? And should fans and journalists be welcoming the news, or undertaking a bit more scrutiny?

What on earth is blockchain?

Blockchain is a new technology that is generating a lot of interest. Many people believe that it will change the world.

I was part of a team that looked at blockchain two years ago. Our first assessment was that it was useful, but not for everything. We then wrote a longer report, which looked at the promises and risks. Our simplest definition was:

Blockchains provide a way to store information so that many people can see it, keep a copy of it, and add to it. Once added, it is very difficult to remove information. This can reinforce trust in a blockchain’s content.

This type of data storage can support lots of new business and organisational models. Bitcoin is the most famous new model associated with blockchain, indeed blockchain was invented as part of the development of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin was originally intended as a way for people to send payments to each other without an intermediary, unfortunately Bitcoin is currently most famous for being notoriously hard to spend and use, generating a few (Bitcoin) billionaires, losing some people a lot of money, and using as much energy as Ireland or Denmark. Bitcoin doesn’t seem a great thing.

from “Blockchain for 2018 and Beyond: A (growing) list of blockchain use cases

There are many many other proposed uses of blockchain. I won’t list them all. They seem to exist in every sector.

I still haven’t seen one working at scale. And I do spend time looking, Because while I still think there may be some good in blockchain (making it really hard to change data, and making it easier for more people to see when it is changed, must be useful for something! perhaps our project on national archives will help find it?) there is also a lot of hype.

It is good to see that the hype is gradually being seen by more people. We need to get past it to see where, or if, blockchain can be used for positive purposes. Where there is hype there is danger. Not just of lost money — some people will always lose some money while experimenting with new technology — but of more unintended harmful impacts, such as Bitcoin’s impact on the environment, or a direct and immediate impact on individuals.

As societies we need to experiment with new technology to see where it could be useful, but we need be wary of harmful impacts and who could be affected. In the age of a global internet and world wide web, harm can happen at great scale and speed.

What on earth is vSport?

vSport say that they are “world’s first non-profit, open-source and blockchain empowered platform which is completely dedicated to the Sports Industry”. It was founded by Bai Qiang and, Dutch ex-footballer, Wesley Sneijder. vSport is based in China.

The two previously founded a company called Sport8. The English-language version of Sport8’s website has not been updated since 2015 although the Chinese-language version seems to have been more recently updated.


There are reports that Sport8 signed a deal with Borussia Dortmund in 2016, although the Borussia Dortmund website has no mention of it. Bai Qiang previously produced a 3D music video in 2012 and worked as a Vice-President at large speech recognition firm iFlytek.

Play vSports roulette! Could this be offering the chance to win rare Brett Ormerod memorabilia soon?

vSport, like many other companies, has raised some initial funds from investors, put out some blogposts and a whitepaper and is trying to show its potential so that it can bring in more funds. When I signed up on the website I got the chance to play a boring roulette game, I don’t think that game will bring in many funds or players in Blackpool.

The whitepaper has lots of big words and claims but little technical information or detail on how the capabilities will be built and adopted across the many claimed scenarios. I couldn’t find any source code to review, either to check if the roulette game was fair or to help form an opinion on whether the larger technical claims were credible.

A list of applications from the vSport website

The list of applications on the website and in the whitepaper is long and varied. In the time it would take to build a business across the sports sector then most of these ideas would be out of date. If I was advising them then, as for most other blockchain companies, I would recommend that a little more focus and a lot less hype would make them more likely to have long-term success.

from the vSport whitepaper

Some of the applications are a little strange and will have harmful impacts. For example, a section on data sharing talks about personal data like people’s names, sports activities and achievements being put into the blockchain. It says that this could be used in marketing and in making decisions about teenagers at school. Don’t put personal data in a blockchain. Sometimes people need protecting and data about them needs changing or removing. The very same factors that make it hard to change data in a blockchain, also make it hard to protect the people that the data is about.

Most of the applications don’t require a blockchain, they could be built with existing and less experimental technologies, and most of them are about creating financial value for vSport, football clubs, and celebrities but, one of the promises of blockchain is that it can widen the number of people involved in decision making.

from the vSport whitepaper

If vSport follow that model (and the whitepaper hints at this) then football fans could influence its direction and get it to build applications that they want. Perhaps Blackpool fans could vote to finally build a training ground?

Unfortunately the limited information about the foundation shows a simple organisation chart with no detail of who is in which box, how decisions are made, and how they can be appealed.

vSport looks like the very early stage of a classic top-down business. Lots of promises, few products and in need of customers to both develop the products and prove that it can deliver what it promises. I worry that it wants to buy Blackpool football club either for marketing or to test its new technology on the club and fans.

vSport needs more scrutiny

Blackpool fans have had a terrible time. Many, like me, haven’t been to see their football club in years. Any escape route from the Oystons might seem a good one but vSport doesn’t seem the right next destination.

Being either a marketing vehicle for vSport or a testing ground for its technology doesn’t seem like something Blackpool FC, its fans, or its community need. Fans, journalists and local councillors (who’ve hopefully learnt a lesson from their failure to get to grips with the Oystons) need to ask more and better questions of any potential new investor. Any investor that fails to talk with fans before bidding should immediately raise alarm bells.

Many fans were happy to start a new fan-owned club if the Oystons failed to leave. We can ask more questions of vSport, or wait and see if Belokon can use his court case to get ownership from the Oystons, but we should also continue to be prepared to start a new club rather than accepting the first rescue ship that comes along.

They don’t get it

Blackpool football club is in a terrible state. Thousands of fans are boycotting the club until the owners, the Oyston family, go. We know that if we don’t get the Oystons out then they will keep damaging lives and could destroy the club.

Image copyright Reuters, snipped from that terrible excuse for a paper The Sun.

The reason we boycott

The boycotts are not about money. Yes, there is a wasted opportunity of a £90m windfall from Blackpool’s recent season in football’s top division and much of that windfall has been loaned from the club to other companies rather than spent on football. The terrible waste of that money is damaging the club but that is not the reason we boycott.

The boycotts are also not about being a laughing stock as the club fell 3 football divisions in 5 years and couldn’t even put out a full squad at the start of the 2014 season. The Oystons are currently in a legal battle with someone who owns 25% of the club. A legal battle that is bringing yet more shame on the club as allegations fly in the courtroom. Blackpool is a laughing stock because of the Oyston’s management of the club. We will not forget the shame but that is not the only reason why we boycott.

The boycotts are mainly because the Oyston family have abused fans; taunted them and taken legal action against them. An unknown number of legal actions are ongoing. These legal actions carry a large cost.

The real human cost of legal action

Fans from across the country have raised money to help Blackpool fans defend these legal actions but money is never everything.

Two weeks ago the Blackpool Supporters Trust wrote about the real human cost of the legal action saying:

Some individuals have lost their jobs, businesses are in jeopardy, relationships with partners have broken down and health has suffered.

they went on to say

some of the people caught up in this situation ha[ve] been seriously impacted — two cases of cancer, a stroke victim, depression, loss of a baby and an attempted suicide all in the last twelve months.

Devastating stuff.

These are some of the people that used to fill that stadium, who used to cheer on the team and travel around the country with other Blackpool fans.

This is not just a club being damaged, this is people’s lives being destroyed.

They don’t get it

Unfortunately too many other people either don’t realise or don’t care that the football club is acting this way. They are not speaking up to say that this must stop or taking any form of action to help get the Oystons to go.

The club and its employees didn’t comment on the legal action or the tales of the damage the legal action has caused to fans, instead they released “funny” Christmas videos. Some fans still go and put money in the club’s coffers rather than joining the boycott. The local paper tries to stay neutral and frequently reports on Blackpool as a normal football club when it should campaign for change. The local council and its leader stay curiously silent. The footballing authorities sit on their hands, rather than trying to save the club and help the fans.

They don’t get it. The Oystons are damaging lives and could destroy the club.

My family and I made our choice to boycott Blackpool FC a long time ago. I haven’t been to Bloomfield Road for 2 1/2 years. We don’t just boycott though, like many other Blackpool fans we work to stop the damage by getting the Oystons out. We won’t give up and we won’t go away.

Image: onedayinwatford via Urban Ghosts. The wreckage of what was Scarborough FC.

I’d invite those people who still don’t get it to work with the fans who are both trying to stop the damage being done to our fellow fans and trying to save the club. There is a big job to do. Every voice, every pair of hands and every pair of feet can help.

It is also an urgent job. If you don’t help now and we don’t get the Oystons out soon then we may find ourselves with a much bigger task.

Building something new from the ashes that the Oystons leave behind.

Join the Blackpool Supporters Trust. Donate to Justice4Fans.

We won’t give up, no matter how long it takes

This is a redrafted version of an article that was published by SixStars in The 1887 magazine sold at the Judgement Day 2 protest march in April 2016. More than 3000 fans marched. The march was organised by the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the Tangerine Knights.

It may seem like there’s a long way to go for Blackpool fans, but we should be proud of what we have achieved

Counting the fans in a recent picture by ex-Blackpool player (big) Ben Burgess showed 475 fans at a this week’s game vs Bolton. The club claimed there were 1,372 fans. Bolton had 2,261 away supporters. Nearly 5x the number of Blackpool fans.

The Oyston family have taken legal action against fans. Abused them. Taunted them. A fan was jailed. An unknown, but large, number of fans are banned from Bloomfield Road. Thousands of fans are boycotting and refusing to go back until the Oystons go. We’re not paying any more. I’m one of those thousands. More legal actions are on the way against more fans.

Protesting, like thousands of fans did at Judgement Day 2, takes time and effort. Boycotting your football club is hard: it hurts. Being on the end of legal action is horrendous. It can damage your job, your relationships, your life.

We all have doubts

Sometimes it’s hard to see if the boycotts and protests are achieving anything. Perhaps the Oystons will never leave?

After all the bid to buy the club by the Blackpool Supporters Trust was rejected, the Oystons refused to even negotiate a price. The club denied a recent bid even happened. The leader of the town council, Simon Blackburn, said the council “cannot take sides”. He is curiously silent on a matter that affects so many of the people he represents.

The Oystons have a long history in Blackpool and seem to want to cling on like a particularly unpleasant leech sucking blood out of its victim. Sometimes it can feel like failure is inevitable. That the club will sink and that no one will stand together with the fans and stand up for the club, the community and the town.

Perhaps we have to get behind the team despite the owners? Maybe a cheap season ticket offer will be available? Perhaps there’ll be some new players? Perhaps they’ll win a few games?

Many Blackpool fans will have had these nagging questions going around their head. We all have doubts.

We should ignore them.

We should ignore our doubts because the protests are working

I think the Blackpool fans have achieved something. The protests and boycotts are making a difference. You can tell by the reactions of the Oyston family. The protests and boycotts affect them. They reacted by taunting fans. They reacted by taking legal action against people trying to change the ownership of the club. They reacted by spending a tiny amount of the £90m Premiership windfall, just part of the millions that has gone into the club over the last few years, to buy some players. That must have hurt. Owen Oyston even attended an open meeting of fans for the first time in three decades.

But the protests also work by influencing other people. Crowd numbers have dropped to levels not seen since the late 1980s/early 1990s. Visiting fans spend less in the ground. Thousands of previous season ticket holders are boycotting the club. Ex-players and managers have spoken out. The opposition leader of the town council and the local MPs have called for action. The Oystons, and their disgraceful management of the club, regularly feature in the national press. There is the looming spectre of a court case from Valeri Belokon who owns 25% of the club.

Players don’t want to come to the club and supporters don’t want to go to matches. This makes it harder for the Oystons to keep hold of the club. Despite the tangled finances the club becomes less useful to the Oystons and possibly even damaging to their other businesses. More people now know how badly the Oystons run their businesses and treat people.

Perhaps as that court date approaches the Oystons might choose to approach the Blackpool Supporters Trust and start talking about a price to let them get out?

This doesn’t mean that we can expect a quick exit by the Oystons or that it will be an easy life afterwards. It took nine years after Wimbledon was stolen before its fans had a club back in the football league whilst eleven years after they were formed FC United Manchester have not made it into the league and there is unrest between fans in the stands and those in the boardroom. Some fan-owned clubs will face the same difficulties as ones owned by individuals like the Oystons. The grass is not always greener. We always need to scrutinise those in power whether the times are good or bad.

But we should take heart, the protests are working and getting the Oystons out will make the club and Blackpool a better place.

We won’t give up, no matter how long it takes

There’s another reasons we won’t give up.

Many of the people marching and boycotting have faced legal action from the Oystons or are banned from the club. Other people have been abused by the Oystons, whether directly or indirectly given the Oystons’ utterly unpleasant comments about people with special needs. Even if some of us give into our doubts then these people can’t go back unless the Oystons go. We should never forget, and I cannot forgive, the Oystons and the way they have treated our fellow fans.

Image from Blackpool Supporters Trust. If you’re not a member you should join them.

We are not just protesting for ourselves, we are protesting for other people. Blackpool fans are standing together, calling for the Oystons to go and for new owners who put football first.

We should be proud of our boycotts, our protests and of the work the Trust have done to show how a new democratic and fan-owned Blackpool FC could be run. We are fans. We stand together. We are a community. And we won’t give up, no matter how long it takes.

The curious silence of Blackpool Council and its leader

Thousands of Blackpool fans are boycotting their football club. Fewer than half of season ticket holders were going to home games at the end of last season and investigations show that about 25% of season tickets have been renewed for the coming season. The fans are boycotting until things change.

Image courtesy of a Blackpool fan — let me know who and I’ll credit 🙂

At most clubs a boycott might be due to bad performances on the pitch, and given their second relegation in a row it is clear that Blackpool are dreadful on the pitch, but in Blackpool’s case the boycott is due to the owners, the Oyston family, and how they treat the fans, the club and the community.

The club’s owners have taken and are still taking legal action against fans. They antagonise and abuse fans. The family paid themselves the largest ever salary for a football club director and transferred money from the club to other businesses. There are even allegations that the club is linked to money-laundering.

Despite this the town council and its leader, Simon Blackburn, stay silent. How curious.

The town marched, the politicians were absent

Over 3000 people marched through Blackpool in protest last month. My family and I were in that march. We marched alongside Blackpool fans, fellow football fans from across the country and fans from abroad.

A Fortuna Dusseldorf fan on the march. Image author’s own.

My sister came on the march. She doesn’t like football. She was there for the town. Blackpool should be proud of that march. It was peaceful, joyous and united in a determination to change the town and club for the better.

But despite the turnout, there was something missing. Local councillors and their leader, Simon Blackburn. Despite the disgrace being heaped on the town he is curiously silent and the council is curiously passive.

After much pressure and lobbying Blackpool Supporters Trust was given time to speak to the council earlier in the year. In his response Simon Blackburn told the fans “we cannot take sides that is not the role of the council”.

Some local councils and politicians choosing sides

Most football fans are used to the times when councils praise their team’s occasional success. Both Leicester and Merton council leaders have rightly praised Leicester for winning the English league and AFC Wimbledon for their promotion.

But local councils also intervene when things are going bad or might go bad. Leeds council spoke up before Massimo Cellino bought the club and asked the FA to check if he was a fit and proper owner. Coventry council have asked questions about the leasing arrangements between the football club and the rugby club. Newcastle council complained about Mike Ashley trying to rename St James Park to Sports Direct Arena. There are many more cases. I expect that in some cases I would agree with the council and some I would not.

https://twitter.com/COL_LETT/status/739463737371951104

Politicians choose sides. It’s what they do. They don’t just display their choice of sides by passing legislation. Politicians also tell us about their choice of sides by speaking out about issues that concern them to try and improve things. Soft power can help make things better.

Politicians from across the political spectrum are tackling the wealthy businessmen behind the collapse of BHS whilst, to give a Blackpool example, Simon Blackburn recently joined the protests against the increase in the cost of bursaries for nurses.

Labour, the political party Simon Blackburn belongs to, intend to pass legislation to give fans more control over football clubs but have not been able to persuade the government to allow them to put the bill forwards. Despite this the local Conservative and Labour MPs as well as the leader of the Conservative opposition on Blackpool council have spoken out in support of the Blackpool fans that boycott the club and their call for change. It is the council, Simon Blackburn and the local Labour party that stay silent.

But perhaps they know something about Blackpool football club and the Oystons that we don’t? Perhaps there is a good reason for Blackpool council choosing to do nothing?

Blackpool Council know nothing

When the Blackpool Supporters Trust spoke at the council meeting Simon Blackburn said that he would not disclose the details of his meetings with the Oystons. That surprised me as much as the statement about not taking sides. We expect our politicians to be open and transparent. It makes democracy better.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that, despite his claim to meet Karl and Owen Oyston “from time to time”, that he had only met members of the family twice in the last two years. Curiously the council held no record of the discussions in either meeting.

A snippet from the ICO mail confirming that they had chased Blackpool council for a response.

A follow up FOI request — that only received a response when the Information Commissioners Office intervened — showed that Blackpool Council hold no documents relating to the impact on the town of the relegation of the club from the Premiership. This is despite the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce claiming that Blackpool’s 2010/11 season in the Premier League was “worth about £30m to the local economy”.

It seems strange that the council would not care about such a loss to the economy. With the lack of notes about meetings and lack of research into the club it appears that the council knows nothing.

The curious silence should cause people to ask questions

When Simon Blackburn said that the council could not take sides the local paper supported this stance saying:

can a council leader really go to war with one of the town’s most wealthy business families? Rightly or wrongly, his approach is understandable.

It was a bizarre statement from the council but it was also a strange stance from the local newspaper. It is clear that a council can take sides and it is also clear that politicians can choose to tackle wealthy families. They do this to stand up for the people they represent. Perhaps there is a good reason that Blackpool council and the council leader choose to do nothing. That they choose not to stand up for Blackpool fans or the town. That they chose to not even turn up for that protest march to talk with 3000 people concerned about the club and the town.

People on a protest march to Bloomfield Road. Image author’s own.

Maybe the council are more concerned with supporting the Oyston’s housebuilding plans on the edge of town. Perhaps they are scared of legal action from the Oystons. Or simply disagree with the fans and think the issues are unimportant. I’m a fan of Occam’s razor and suspect that this is a cockup rather than a conspiracy but whatever the reason may be, the council and Simon Blackburn are choosing not to be honest and share it with the rest of us. How curious.

Whilst the legal actions and disputes around Blackpool football club continue, the residents of Blackpool and the newspapers should be asking more questions about the curious silence of Blackpool council and its leader.

Football attendance figures are inaccurate and don’t tell the whole story


It can be useful to know how many people attend a football match but the official figures are not accurate. Blackpool fans have been collecting data and working out more accurate attendance figures for their team. They hope it will help them oust the football club’s owners and help a fan-owned club to emerge. The footballing authorities should encourage clubs to publish the more accurate data that they already collect. In the meantime the technique could help fans of other clubs.

Lots of people want to know attendance figures but it is not easy to get hold of accurate data

The police, and other services need to know the attendance figures so they can help maintain safety or in case of an emergency. The home team need to know to keep track of finances, look after health and safety and make sure there’s enough pies and bovril available. The away team might need to know the number so that they get a share of gate receipts. The local council might want to know so they can plan transport or understand the number of visitors coming to their town every other week. The football authorities want the numbers so they can proclaim how important the sport is. Fans want to know the figures too.

A snippet from the Millwall-Blackpool programme from 5th March 2016. Attendance figures are in the 6th column.

An attendance figure might be announced at a match. Printed in a programme. Published in a match report. Gathered on football stats websites with information about clubs, leagues or across the globe. The attendance figure you see in these places is typically wrong.

https://twitter.com/WillWatt/status/699679468760203264/

In England the rules of the premier league say that attendance figures that are publicly reported should be the number of tickets that are issued or sold. Not the number of people who actually attend. (I understand the football league rules say the same, although I couldn’t find the precise clause.)

The actual attendance figure can be quite different to the number of tickets that are issued or sold. Season ticket holders may not turn up for a midweek game. Complimentary, i.e. free, tickets could be issued but not used. People might even walk out in the middle of a match as a protest.

In the case of my club, Blackpool FC, fans wanted to know more accurate figures due to their own protests.

The Oystons, Blackpool, bids for the club and a boycott

The owners of Blackpool football club, the Oyston family, have loaned millions of pounds from the club to other companies, taken legal action against fans, taunted them and abused them by text. Unsurprisingly most Blackpool fans want the Oystons to leave.

In 2015 there were two bids to buy the club. One from an unnamed consortium of bidders. The other from the democratically run Blackpool Supporters Trust. The second bid would have created a fan-owned club. Both bids were rejected. Until the Oystons go many fans have chosen to boycott the club.

Without accurate attendance figures it’s tricky to understand the impact of the boycott. Whilst the fans can speak eloquently of the damage the Oystons have done to them it might be tricky for a bidder, or the local council, to understand the damage that has been done to the club and town due to the dreadful mismanagement of the Oystons.

Crowdsourcing better figures

So, using four people and a couple of hours of effort per game, we worked out better attendance figures.

254 people in Blocks D and E during the Blackpool-Coventry game.

Two people in the ground took pictures of every block. Two other people then used a fairly simple and manually intensive, but effective, technique to count the number of objects in a photo. A small percentage, 5%, was then added to cater for some people not being in their seats at the time of the pictures.

The actual attendances for three home games were as follows:

  • Blackpool v Shrewsbury (February 13): official figure 6,873 (including 790 away fans), revised crowd count 4,289— that’s 62% or 2,584 less than the official figure.

Blocks D and E during a game at Bloomfield Road in 2006. Picture by Matthew Wilkisnon, CC-BY-2.0
  • Blackpool v Bradford (February 27): official figure: 8,780 (including 3,063 away fans), revised crowd count 6,100 — that’s 69% or 2,680 less than the official figure.
  • Blackpool v Coventry (March 12): official figure 8,869 (including 3,000 away fans), revised crowd count 5,845 — that’s 66% or 3,024 less than the official figure.

Before the boycott the home stands were full. As the Blackpool Supporters Trust say:

Blackpool FC states that there are currently 4,600 season ticket holders. These accurate crowd counts would suggest that over half of the season ticket holders are already boycotting home matches.

Undoubtedly this will have serious implications for next season — people not using tickets they have already paid for are unlikely to purchase new ones.

The Oystons are destroying Blackpool football club.

Data helps us make better decisions

All of the turnstiles at Blackpool, like many other clubs, have a system that scans tickets on entry. The club’s owners have access to more accurate data than they publish. We have to hope that all football clubs are sharing this accurate data with each other, with local councils and with the emergency services. Perhaps as well as calling for more transparent publication of data to stop abuses of power at Fifa the footballing authorities should ask all clubs to publish as open data both the real attendance figures as well as the number of tickets sold. It will help lots of people make better decisions. In the meantime if fans of other clubs want help in working out more accurate attendance figures then get in touch.

For Blackpool fans though the immediate decision is the choice they are making about whether or not to support the owners by spending money and time going to their football club. I’ve made my choice. I won’t go back. I hope that my boycott will help persuade the Oystons to go.


I will be joining a community march and demonstration organised by the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the Tangerine Knights on Saturday April 30. Blackpool fans are hoping to get 10,000 people to come along.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Blackpool fan, or even a fan of football. The issues at Blackpool go beyond football. They affect many parts of the town and include concerns about transparency and accountability in the local council. What matters is that you care about people and communities and want to make things better.

Why not join us and stand up for a community fighting to get their football club back?

An exchange with the Blackpool Fans’ Progress Group

I dropped an email to the Blackpool Fans’ Progress Group (FPG) last week.

The FPG responded within a couple of days. I’m grateful to them for responding so fast.

The FPG are a strange beast. Three of the four people on the initial selection panel withdrew from the selection process. The club’s staff personally selected the twelve people who eventually joined the group. Four of the initial twelve members quit after a single meeting with the chairman, Karl Oyston.

As you will see in this email exchange the FPG currently has 6 (six) members

By contrast there are nearly 2000 (two thousand) members of the Blackpool Supporters Trust. If you don’t know why Blackpool has a supporters trust then this may help.

I’ll share my own thoughts on the email exchange with the FPG within a day or so but I thought it useful to share their response in full and with minimal commentary at first.

An exchange with the FPG

Hi FPG,

hope you’re keeping well.

Can I ask a few questions? I’d appreciate a reply by the end of the week if that’s possible? Do let me know if not and when you will be able to answer by.

Hi Peter,

We have tried to answer your questions as best we can, answers are below against each of your questions in {italic} text.

Just to be clear the members of the FPG have not benefited in anyway from our membership, we have not benefited from any use of the hospitality box, nor in any other way. We pay the cost of the hire of a room away from Bloomfield Road for our our meetings, and have paid for our own website and anything else that needs to be paid for. We only use Bloomfield Road when we have met with the club for our quarterly meetings. As we have said before we are a supporters liaison group that is truly independent of the football club and its owners.

In response to your final comment “To be clear I intend to publish any answers in the spirit of creating a more transparent and open debate about Blackpool FC”, we’d like to draw your attention the Email signature below (*) as we take supporter confidentiality seriously. However we have no objection to you using the answers provided below but would hope that you use them in a way that ensures your debate is fair and balanced, and not solely used to discredit the FPG.

I’m interested to know what your view is to the announcement of a meeting invite to all main supporter groups with the club. I listened to Christine Seddon of the BST on radio Lancs describe it as an invite to meet the FPG which is wholly incorrect, yes we will be there and can meet each other. Understandably some are skeptical about the meeting intent but what some seem to be missing is that it is an opportunity for all groups including the FPG to question Karl Oyston further and seek answers regardless of their pre-conceptions.

1. In this posting on your site you provide an opinion on the club/Oyston’s position on legal action against fans. I cannot find this position on the club’s website. If a fan was to follow your opinion but still face legal action form the club/Oystons would you be willing to take responsibility?

This information is provided in good faith based upon our understanding of information received from Karl Oyston, the wording was confirmed as accurate by Karl before publication, however fans are advised to check with the club first. The FPG cannot accept any liability for any loss or damages sustained or for any legal action taken by Blackpool FC, its owners or others. If a fan has concern about this perhaps they should raise it through their supporter group that they may be a member of at the 10th March meeting with the club. This amnesty was referred to in the clubs news release on its website 6th Feb 2016, which states :

“A report on legal actions, both civil and CPS/Police initiated, will also be on the agenda. The club will confirm its intention not to commence any further legal action, other than that relating to the pitch invasions, where a limited number of individuals have been contacted and further small number of individuals are currently being identified with the assistance of Lancashire Police.

The club has offered an amnesty, via the FPG, to the vast majority of those individuals involved in the pitch protests on 2 May 2015 and 11 July 2015. This is subject to all those involved accepting the amnesty and attending the club to sign an acceptable behaviour order”.

2. In this posting on the Blackpool FC site it refers to “Iain Tarpey’s attendance at the club’s last board meeting.”. When was this board meeting? Who was present? When do you intend to publish your notes from the meeting?

The meeting was held mid December, all board members were present in person or via conference call, along with our own chairman. The minutes have not yet been issued, but given BFC Ltd is a private company the FPG has no control over the release of board meeting minutes, particularly if they contain commercially sensitive information, consequently we are not in a position to comment on the meeting, unless the club gives permission for us to release any minutes once issued.

3. In this posting on your site you discuss the club’s hospitality box. How many times have the FPG had access to a hospitality box? How many, and which, members of the FPG were in the hospitality box on each day? What was the value of any hospitality provided by the club to the FPG members in the box? Did those FPG members pay for match day tickets?

No member of the FPG benefited from the use of this box, nor watched any matches from it. The box was provided by the club for the FPG to donate to local charities, a member of the FPG went to meet the persons using the box to say hello, take some photo’s and make sure they were all OK, then returned to their own season ticket seat to watch the match. The value of the box is unknown and irrelevant to us. This box is a genuine gesture on behalf of the club in response to our request for the club to donate a box for one match to a local charity, the club did this but extended its offer for all remaining home games of the season. Players will also be making visits to the box to meet the charity users for photo’s and sign autographs etc.

4. According to this report in the Gazette the FPG have confirmed their attendance at a meeting with the club on March 10th. Which members plan to attend?

We have not confirmed to anyone that we will be attending, be cautious of what is written including AVFTT. However it is our intention to attend and we will reply to the club in due coarse, we have yet to decide upon who will be attending. We hope that the supporter groups accept the clubs invitation and attend, they all have the opportunity to place their own issues on the meeting agenda. This is not a “meet the FPG evening”, but an opportunity for all groups (including the FPG) to ask questions of Karl Oyston directly and seek answers etc.

5. Can I ask when and where you intend to hold your first open meeting to hear the views of Blackpool fans?

Yet to be decided, although we receive many views and opinions from supporters like yourself via Email or our website contact form, and those supporters we talk to both at matches and elsewhere and those we known personally. The FPG isn’t a fee paying members group, but more of an independent supporters liaison group. Remember we are barely 6 months old and are still in the early stages of evolving.

6. The names of current FPG members does not appear to be on your website. Can I ask what they are?

There is no particular reason why not, nor is this dissimilar from the BST or BSA, however names were made public via our first press release which was published in the Gazette and the clubs website before we established our own. Anyone who has asked for them has been given this info.

Current members are : Iain Tarpey, Terry Greenhow, Peter Wadeson, Ron Matthews, Rachel Haines and Nick Bell

To be clear I intend to publish any answers in the spirit of creating a more transparent and open debate about Blackpool FC.

All the best,

Peter

Additional note: at this point I would like to rem that

(*) the email signature is very formal. It says:

The content of this message and any attached file(s) are private and confidential and Without Prejudice and / or privileged and are for the named recipient only, re-transmission, dissemination, copying, or disclosure of this Email and it’s contents onto others not listed by the sender, whether electronically, printed or verbally, is strictly prohibited unless prior approved by the sender. If you are not the named recipient, any unauthorised review, use, re-transmission, dissemination, copying, disclosure or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon this information is strictly prohibited. If you receive this message in error please contact the sender immediately and delete this Email from your system. Any attachment with this message should be checked for viruses before it is opened. The sender shall not be held responsible for any failure or loss by the recipient who should test for viruses before opening any Email or attachments. Should you communicate with the sender by Email you consent to the sender reading and forward communicating any such correspondence. Any information provided in this Email is provided in good faith, supporters should not take any action in reliance upon it and are advised to check with the Blackpool FC and/or its owners or others first. The FPG cannot accept any liability for any loss or damages sustained or for any action taken by Blackpool FC, its owners or others. Opening and reading this Email confirms your acceptance of these terms and conditions. As a Blackpool FC supporter who has contacted the FPG you have been added to the FPG’s mailing list, should you wish to unsubscribe from this mailing list, please send a return Email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject field.

Interesting times for Blackpool fans

While the football is irrelevant this is still an ‘interesting time’ for fans of Blackpool football club. There are ups and downs but despite their appalling owner, and against a background of continuing legal actions, there is a glimmer of hope. An upcoming meeting with the club provides a way to test how fast this progress will be.

I made my choice a couple of years ago. I want change. Like many other fans I will not go back to Blackpool football club whilst the current owners, the Oyston family, remain in charge. Their actions against the fans, the club and the town are unforgiveable. The Oystons need to go and we need fan ownership to help stop events like these happening again.

A snap, by me, of Blackpool football club 30 minutes before a game. This car park and that stadium used to be full of cars and coaches carrying both home and away fans who spent money in Blackpool.

A couple of weeks back the Blackpool Supporters Trust spoke to Blackpool council about these issues. To put it mildly the response from the leader of Blackpool Council, Simon Blackburn, was gobsmacking. He said that politics and football don’t mix and that his meetings with the Oystons would stay private.

This was surprising. Even if Simon Blackburn is not concerned about the Oyston’s ongoing legal actions and threats against fans; or their failure to invest a £90m windfall earned by the football team back into the football team you would have thought that a council leader would know of the estimated £30m loss to businesses in Blackpool due to the club’s failures. We know that Simon Blackburn has met with the Oyston family. On 19 February we should find out more about these meetings and what Simon Blackburn knows.

Whilst Simon Blackburn is currently failing the town of Blackpool there are signs of progress and real leadership elsewhere.

The Blackpool Supporter’s Trust have got a number of members of parliament to choose to stand by the fans, another local councillor has called for a truce and mediation between the owner and the fans and, after three years of requests!, the football club has finally agreed to meet the fans.

(For some strange reason the football club has decided that as well as the democratically run and nearly 2000-strong Blackpool Supporters Trust and long-standing groups such as BASIL and Yorkshire Seasiders they want to invite another group, the “Fan’s Progress Group” to that meeting.

The “Fan’s Progress Group” is a strange beast. It was set up last year when the club refused to speak to other fans’ groups. The club’s staff personally selected the people who joined it and even then four quit after a single meeting with the chairman, Karl Oyston. Just like the club’s “Supporter Liaison Officer” the group has never held a public meeting to talk with fans. I understand that there are five members left and, judging by polite email exchanges with a couple of them and transcripts of their chats with Karl Oyston, they are significantly out of their depth. Now that the club has (finally!) agreed to meet with the fans’ democratically elected representatives I trust that this infamous five will choose to stop their secret meetings and join their fellow fans in the trust.)

A leech by GlebK. I would like to avoid Jason Manford’s mistake and issue an apology to leeches for the unfortunate analogy before they make a complaint.

The trust wrote last week that there is still a long way to go. This is a risk. The Oystons could try and cling on to the club like a particularly unpleasant leech sucking the blood out of its victim. If the Oystons do this the fans, the club and the town will continue to suffer. The current incarnation of Blackpool football club could even die.

But there is an argument that the Oystons may be keen to go. After all they have an impending court case alleging ‘unfair prejudice against shareholders’; the pressure from politicians will only grow now that they are starting to understand the damage that the Oystons are causing; the Football Assocation have been asked to investigate the club on ethical grounds while we can expect that the Oystons will have yet another round of bad publicity when their company accounts are published at the end of April. That will be unfortunate timing given the club’s need to persuade fans to renew season tickets rather than join the growing boycott. Perhaps the Oystons are listening to fans and are keen to exit after all.

The meeting with the trust provides an excellent opportunity to test this by presenting a rapid way out for the Oystons. I would suggest a short agenda:

  1. Stopping all legal action against fans and refunding all money gained from legal action against fans.
  2. Appointing an independent valuer to put a price on the club.
  3. Timetable for the fans to raise the money and for the Oystons to get out of our club.

If the club accept this agenda and we start to see an exit timetable for the Oystons then that will be real progress for fans. Football will become relevant again and we can go back to being more interested in what happens on the pitch than the failures of the boardroom.

If they don’t accept the agenda then the fans will know that they are in for the long haul and more years of hurt. This may seem daunting but it won’t dampen my resolve.

Like many others I will continue to stand side by side with my fellow Blackpool fans.

I will stick with the Blackpool Supporters Trust.

I will continue to fight.

And one day we will win and we will get our club back.

(If you want to help Blackpool fans then you should join or donate to the Blackpool Supporters Trust and help their campaign to put football first.)

Blackpool FC: it’s time to make a choice

Thousands of Blackpool fans are boycotting their football club, because of the owners, the Oyston family. Many will not go back whilst the Oystons own the club. We don’t care if the team do well, it’s irrelevant.

The fans have been complaining about the Oystons for a long time. As Karl Oyston said after protests in 2008:

it’s been the case ever since I first arrived here when there were people marching around with coffins and banners slung from motorway bridges on the M55

In 2014 Blackpool fans recreated the coffin march from the 90s . Photo by Chris Vaughan/CameraSport

But the protests have escalated significantly over the last 5 years. Not because of the performances on the pitch, dreadful though they have been, but because of the owners’ increasingly grotesque actions. Actions that damage the club, the fans and the town of Blackpool.

The Oystons have loaned millions of pounds from the club to other companies, taken legal action against fans, taunted them and abused them by text. A fan has been jailed for 6 months for his actions following an abandoned game. A police officer alleged that Karl Oyston was ‘beckoning and enticing’ fans.

Some people are listening

A chart the local council should be looking at. The blue line is internet searches for “Blackpool” the town. The red line is internet searches for “Blackpool FC” the club. Data from GoogleTrends

Many football professionals and journalists have joined the fans in speaking out about the appalling behaviour and dreadful management of the club by the Oystons.

Millions of people have heard those views and heard of the actions of the Oystons. Actions that have damaged the town, the club and the fans.

Many fans who are boycotting their football club are choosing not to go back to the club until the Oystons go. They chose to set up a supporter’s trust and work to turn Blackpool into a fan-owned club.

Others are yet to choose

But there are other people who have not, yet, made a choice:

  • Fans: There are a number of fans who choose to still go to home games. They can choose whether to continue to fund a family that takes legal action against fellow fans or whether to sacrifice some football and stand with their fellow fans.
  • The team’s players and manager. They have not spoken out in support of the fans and against the acts of the owners. In fact the manager has criticised the fans. They can choose whether to continue to support the Oystons or whether to speak out like their fellow football professionals.

Newcastle’s Chronicle newspaper chose to take a firm stance against their club’s owner, Mike Ashley.

A full stand at Bloomfield Road in 2006. Picture by Matthew Wilkisnon, CC-BY-2.0

If the Oystons do not leave then in a few years there may be nothing left apart from an empty stadium just outside Blackpool town centre. An empty stadium where a football club used to be.

Fans from other teams, football professionals and journalists stand with Blackpool fans. They choose to speak out against the Oystons.

It is time for others to make their choice: the fans who still go, the players and manager, the local paper, the town council, the football authorities. Rather than choosing to do nothing they could choose to help stop the damage that the Oystons, and others like them are causing.

The old rollercoaster tracks at Blackpool Pleasure Beach by Dave Pearce, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

I suspect everyone who has chosen to boycott, protest, speak out and try to change things has made that choice with a mix of sadness, hurt, frustration and hope. They have chosen to do something in the hope it will bring change and make things better.

If the Oystons remain the club will surely fade and die. It will just be one more memory of Blackpool’s past. A rollercoaster ride that ended in disaster.

With the Oystons gone the fans will come back. They can rebuild the club and put football first. They can start to make the club something the town is proud of again.

It’s time for people to make their choice.

What journalists say about Blackpool FC

Thousands of Blackpool fans are boycotting their football club, because of the owners, the Oyston family. They will not go back whilst the Oystons own the club.

Many football professionals have joined the fans in speaking out about the appalling behaviour and dreadful management of the club the Oystons.

As Blackpool loses yet another game and Karl Oyston is accused by a police officer of inciting violence from fans I thought it might useful to pull together some of what the journalists (*) who write for our national and local newspapers have said. It is useful to know what it is legally safe to say and who has heard journalists saying it.

Quotes from journalists on Blackpool FC

Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail reported:

Murky goings-on are nothing new at Bloomfield Road. Part of the £26m to have left the club includes a deal whereby the Oystons are understood to have bought up land — owned by Blackpool FC — behind the stadium for £650,000 only to then sell it back for £6.5m after a lease for a Travelodge had been secured.

Henry Winter of the Telegraph wrote:

There are many unanswered questions over where the funds generated in the Premier League have gone. The Football League needs to be more robust with the likes of Karl Oyston. Call him to account. Go through the accounts.

At that time Karl Oyston sat on the board of the Football League. No action was taken.

Paul Wilson of the Guardian said:

The owners of the club — not the manager and the playing staff — appear to have some sort of death wish, at least as far as footballing survival is concerned.

In 2015 the Mirror asked “Professional football or Sunday league? Make up your own mind.” Picture by @derekquinncomm.

Before the end of the 2014/15 season when Blackpool were relegated the Guardian’s James Riach said

Protests instead have been targeted at Karl Oyston, the Blackpool chairman, and his father Owen, the club’s majority owner. It is they who have presided over a remarkable decline, one with no end in sight. Perhaps when the parachute payments from the Premier League dry up after this season, a clearer future will emerge.

The parachute payments have ended. The club look like they will be relegated for the second season in a row. The future seems clear.

The Independent reported on an apology to Karl Oyston:

Comedian Jason Manford has ‘apologised’ for describing Blackpool owner Karl Oyston as an odious ferret after being handed a solicitors letter from Oyston. Cheeky Manford has responded to the letter to say that he is sorry…to ferrets and ferret owners for comparing them to the Seasiders’ owner.

Last year the Telegraph decided Blackpool was the worst run club in Britain:

At the centre of all of this was chairman Karl Oyston, who was forced to make a public apology for sending abusive texts to a Blackpool supporter and whose Land Rover mocks the protestors with a OY51 OUT number plate.

After his abusive text exchange with a fan the local Blackpool paper said:

Given such disgusting and offensive comments, Mr Oyston’s weekly column in The Gazette has been scrapped with immediate effect.

Reporting on the Oyston family removing a statue of footballing legend Stan Morten before a fan’s protest march the Mirror said:

The Tangerines’ boss is Public Enemy No.1 for fans after branding supporter Stephen Smith a ‘retard’ in a text message, adding: “Enjoy the rest of your special needs day out.”

As Alyson Rudd of the Times wrote:

legal wrangles come and go at Bloomfield Road it is local people who are suffering the most from club’s decline.

You would have expected that this chain of thought would resonate with Blackpool’s councillors. The leader of Blackpool council invited Karl Oyston to his wedding.

Who hears the views of journalists

UK national newspaper print circulation in 2015. Source: Wikipedia

The Guardian, the Telegraph and the Mail have a combined print circulation of about 2.3 million people with 28.8 million online readers in November 2015.

Just this weekend 2.5 million people heard boos when the Oyston’s name was mentioned on Radio 4.

The blue line is internet searches for “Blackpool” the town. The red line is internet searches for “Blackpool FC” the club. Data from GoogleTrends

The seaside resort of Blackpool has been in decline for many years. Unfortunately Google’s search data tells the tale of an enormous drop in searches for Blackpool following the Oyston’s mismanagement of the club. Sport and entertainment could have played a significant part in regenerating the town. Instead Blackpool’s promotion was a wasted opportunity.

Internet searches for “Oystons”. Data from GoogleTrends.

The data also tells another tale. The growing number of people who are researching the Oystons.

Increasingly it is stories from the fans, the football professionals, journalists and their tales of the Oystons’ appalling behaviour that they are finding.

(*) I know Kelvin Mackenzie, ex-editor of the Sun, has also written strong words about the Oystons and Blackpool but he is no journalist. You can donate to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign online.

What football professionals think of Blackpool FC

At the weekend the current manager of Blackpool FC, Neil McDonald, criticised the fans of Blackpool FC saying:

the support needs to be better. They shouldn’t be shouting about their issues throughout the whole game. That’s all I’m hearing.

Excerpt of league table (c) BBC

His criticism came after Blackpool lost 1–0 against a team that was down to 10-men for the entire second half. The defeat took Blackpool back into the relegation zone from the third division. Blackpool had the second worst record in the football league in 2015.

Neil McDonald has previously said “the fans had every right to boo“ poor performances so the issues he refers to seem be different.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8oQS3IQ3bM

It was probably the performance of the club as a whole that the fans were protesting. Many Blackpool fans are boycotting the club until the owners, the Oyston family, have gone. Others go and protest.

Neil McDonald has never spoken up about the issues that affect the fans. Perhaps he doesn’t understand them. Lee Clark explained this phenomenon after he quit as Blackpool manager:

Nowadays players are often in a bubble, they don’t know the man in the street, they don’t understand how football affects supporters’ lives. Knowing all that is why Blackpool hurt so much.

I’ve always tried to have a relationship with supporters but I got labelled as a good friend of the Blackpool chairman, who was backing what he was doing, when I wasn’t.

Former Blackpool player and England international Trevor Sinclair, who’s clearly been keeping a closer eye on the issues at Blackpool than the manager, recently expressed his sympathy for the fans’ #napm (not a penny more) campaign.

Perhaps Neil doesn’t sympathise with the fan’s protests and issues though. Perhaps he only cares about the views of his fellow football professionals? If so, then to help Neil out I thought it would be useful to collect a few quotes and stories from the last few years.

The Oystons take legal action against football professionals, just as they do with fans, so most quotes are similarly carefully worded.

Christian Purslow, the ex-chief executive of Liverpool said:

Blackpool are the only club in the history of the Premier League who didn’t give their manager a chance or spend anything. They just trousered the money and said “sod it we’ll just go straight back down”

The owners even tried to get out of paying players a bonus for their promotion to the Premier League. In 2010 Charlie Adam took the club to court to get the bonus that he was owed.

In May 2015 Ian Evatt said:

It is so disappointing looking into the club from the outside,” Evatt said. “There was always a chance it could self-destruct. It was a ticking bomb that has seriously now gone off. It’s so frustrating to see that our hard work has just disappeared now.

Chris Basham said:

It was heartbreaking to leave but we could see what was going to happen. You could just see everything falling apart around us.

The secret footballer, whoever that may be, said:

Oyston has damaged Blackpool in a way that the club will do well to recover from any time soon but he has made a lot of money in the process

Paul Ince had nice words to say about the chairman who sacked him as manager by text message:

It was deeply disappointing to have been notified that my contract was to be terminated via text message after a lengthy meeting with the chairman on Sunday where no indication was given that any of the coaching staff, myself included, were going to lose their jobs. Neither I nor my coaching staff received a telephone call from the chairman at any stage after this meeting.

In the same round of text messages the chairman, Karl Oyston, sacked Steve Thompson. Steve Thompson had been with the club for 10 years helping the club to get promoted twice and standing in as caretaker manager twice.

Jose Riga who was sacked as manager after just 4 difficult months was asked whether clubs would loan players to Blackpool:

Could he imagine a top Premier League club loaning players to Blackpool in their current state? “I don’t think it is difficult to find the answer,” he says. “Of course they are going to think twice.”

Neil McDonald has recently discovered this for himself:

Being truthful it’s been difficult to recruit.

I’ve had one Premier League club who wouldn’t loan us a player because of the problems we have here.

Neil clearly didn’t do his research before he joined Blackpool but rather than the fans or a fellow football professional perhaps Neil McDonald or anyone else thinking of joining the club should have been listening to someone who has actually worked at Blackpool all along.

Bart de Roover resigned as assistant manager in 2014 claiming that he had worked unpaid and without a contract for two months. The chairman of Blackpool football club Karl Oyston responded to Bart’s complaints by saying:

He knew exactly what he was coming to when he came and if he didn’t, more fool him

For once I agree with Karl Oyston.

More fool Neil McDonald and more fool anyone else who attends a match or takes a job at Blackpool whilst the Oystons remain in charge.

If they had done their research and thought about the issues before joining the club perhaps they would have found themselves putting football first and joining the Blackpool Supporters Trust instead.

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