Oyston Out!

Today saw the following press release:

“Blackpool FC can confirm Karl Oyston has stood down as Chairman and Director of the Football Club with immediate effect.

The 43-year-old will remain at Bloomfield Road as acting Chief Executive until the end of the season, or in the interim until a new Chairman is appointed. During this time he will continue to work closely with the manager Ian Holloway on player recruitment and to oversee the continued development and reconstruction of the stadium. The club would like to emphasise that there will be no interruption in the recruitment of players or the work required on the stadium. 

No further comment on this subject will be made by anyone connected to the Football Club at this present time”
Over the course of the last decade the chant of “Oyston Out” was a familiar one to Blackpool fans. Ironic then, that he should choose to go at a time when his critics have been more or less silenced by success both on and off the field. The timing of the decision is strange, but allows Oyston to bow out with ‘Pool in arguably their best position for well over 30 years.

What should ‘Pool fans make of this? As such a controversial figure, it’s difficult to draw any black or white conclusions, but I’d like to take the opportunity to chart his achievements, his shortcomings, and finally his motivation for deciding now is the time to stand down.

Achievements

  • Redevelopment of Bloomfield Road – Despite the slow nature of the rebuild, it is hard to argue that the ground is in a much better state than when Karl first took over. It can be easy to take this for granted, but only 10 years ago the ground was dilapidated and an embarrassment. On the field success has obviously aided this, especially in the case of the East Stand (who knows when that would have been built without promotion to the Premier League?), but it’s now looking like a ground worthy of a Championship club, whereas the old Bloomfield Road could have been consigned to the Conference, or perhaps lower.
  • Premier League football – It’s hard to quantify the role Oyston has played in getting Blackpool to the top flight, but it has happened under his tenure and so he must take some of the credit. It was brave to appoint Holloway when the easy option would have been to keep Parkes on after successfully keeping the club up in 2009/10. I felt Parkes had been hard done to at the time, but in hindsight Holloway was the breath of fresh air we needed.

Shortcomings

  • Conservative approach – Oyston has always been, shall we say, ‘careful’ with the club’s pursestrings, often to the chagrin of a significant section of Seasiders’ fans. Even the riches of the Premier League have failed to change this, when many thought top flight football would finally see a relaxation of the strict transfer policy. One can always argue the other side of the toss however, in that many clubs have encountered stormy financial waters in recent years – a fate unlikely to befall Blackpool in the foreseeable future.
  • Public image – To say Oyston has been unpopular with fans would be an understatement. He has had a small number of vocal supporters, but it’s fair to say the majority of Blackpool fans have a negative public image of Karl. This doesn’t seem to bother Oyston, and he often revels in his unpopularity, which only serves to exacerbate the problem.
  • Control – Perhaps the major issue I have had with Karl down the years has been his refusal to delegate power to others within the club, which gives the impression he is something of a control freak. Around 5 years ago Karl appointed Peter Orr to the role of Chief Executive, with the aim of improving the internal running of the club and establishing a better rapport with the fans. Ultimately Orr was never granted the freedom to effect any real changes due to all decisions needing to be approved by Oyston. One particular example this blog was told of was Orr’s idea to buy a DVD player for the club shop so that highlights from season DVDs could be displayed on the screen in the shop to provide entertainment for fans queueing at busy times. When presenting this idea to Oyston, Orr was told it would have to be ratified at the next board meeting. Frustrated at this, Orr ended up giving a member of staff £20 out of his own wallet to go to Argos to buy said DVD player.

Motivation for resigning

  • Frustration – Oyston has admitted himself in recent weeks that he has been fed up with the transfer complications during pre-season, specifically citing the role of agents. With agents playing a more important role the higher up the football pyramid you go, agents can no longer be ignored and are a necessary evil. Attracting players has undoubtedly been difficult, and with many other Premier League regulations to adhere to this season, it must have been a tiring summer
  • Family – It is no secret that Oyston’s partner has recently given birth and so perhaps Karl would like to spend some time with family. He neither needs the money the job of Chairman pays, nor is it a job he has any enthusiasm for, which makes spending time with his young family a no-brainer.

Where now?

In the short-term, little will change. Karl’s indication that he will stay on until the end of the season if necessary suggests that a replacement hasn’t yet been lined up. Karl is also not the owner, so it will be unlikely to have great financial impact on the club either. My hope is that the club takes the opportunity to appoint someone with the drive and passion to capitalise on the opportunity presented by simply being in the Premier League. Now is the time to set the club up to be a much more professional outfit, and if done right, the club can build itself a very solid platform indeed.

One has to thank Karl Oyston for his 10 years at the club, especially when it was never particularly a job he wanted. He has put Blackpool FC into a great position and it is financially stable. It is now for somebody else to push the club onto the next level.

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