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.
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.
Some people are listening, others are yet to choose
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.
Just this weekend 2.5 million people heard boos when the Oyston’s name was mentioned on Radio 4.
Many fans who are boycotting their football club are choosing not to go back to the club until the Oystons go. Many chose to set up a supporter’s trust and work to turn Blackpool into a fan-owned club.
But there are other people who have not, yet, made a choice:
- Fans: There are a dwindling number of fans who choose to still go to home games. They need to choose whether to continue to fund a family that takes legal action against 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 need to choose whether to continue to support the Oystons or whether to speak out like their fellow football professionals.
Newcastle’s Chronicle newspaper takes a firm stance against their club’s owner, Mike Ashley.
- The local newspaper, the Evening Gazette, occasionally runs a strong leader article but too often resorts to reporting on football games as if they were all about what happened on the pitch rather than a club that had a £90m windfall just 5 years ago. They need to choose whether to accept the club’s fate or to actively campaign for the Oystons to go.
- The local town council have been quiet despite the lost opportunity to regenerate one of the most deprived towns in the country and the damage being done to the town’s reputation and residents. They need to choose whether to stay quiet or to speak up and find out what will make the Oystons go.
- The footballing authorities banned Karl Oyston for 6 weeks when he abused a fan. Other than that they have done next to nothing despite the damage the Oystons must be causing to the reputation of English football. They need to choose whether they want football to be run for the benefit of owners or for fans.
- The Oystons. The fans have offered to buy the club. The Oystons refused to even negotiate a price. The relationship between the Oystons and many fans is clearly irreparable and the damage that will have been caused to their reputation by the press stories is astonishing. Yet the Oystons would not leave even when the opportunity was there. They could choose to apologise for their actions, negotiate an exit and go.
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.
Many fans choose not to accept ownership by the Oyston family. We get to work to change it.
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 and frustration. They have chosen to give something up 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.
What will people’s choices be?