Where are all the fans? Blackpool supporters continue boycott against Oyston family for Arsenal FA Cup clash

BLACKPOOL fans should be gearing up for a massive FA Cup showdown with Arsenal but instead many fans are choosing to stay at home or protest outside the ground.

It is hard to write down everything which has unfolded at Bloomfield Road – as recent as New Year’s Day, Sunderland fans were sharing pictures of the seats they had bought which were in need of repair and covered in bird mess.

Owen Oyston (left) and Valeri Belokon (right) have been battling it out in court for over a year
PA:Press Association

Here is the SunSport’s round-up of the events of the last 20 years.

Who are the Oyston family?

Owen Oyston

Oyston is the owner of Blackpool FC and has grown his wealth through Oyston estate agents.

In 1996, Oyston was convicted of the rape and indecent assault of a 16-year-old girl.

He served three years and six months of a six-year sentence in prison and was released after a judicial review of the of the Parole Board’s refusal to grant parole.

Oyston is married to Vicki, who took over the club as chairwoman whilst her husband was in prison.

Owen Oyston took over Blackpool FC in 1986
PA:Empics Sport

Karl Oyston

Karl Oyston is the former chairman of Blackpool FC.

He took over as chairman in 1999 from his mother.

Initially he took on the role of managing director, following the resignation of both the previous managing director Gill Bridge and Vicki as chairwoman.

Both stepped down from their roles following anti-Oyston protests by fans at the stadium.

Vicki believed that Karl needed to be given full control over the club to continue.

In July 2005, Karl was elected onto the Football League board of directors as a representative for League One.

Since then he has been re-elected for the position in League One in 2006 and for the Championship in 2010.

Sam Oyston, Natalie Christopher and Karl Oyston pictured) were frequently seen at Blackpool games
PA:Empics Sport

Oyston offered to step down as chairman in August 2010, stating that he struggled to communicate with other top flight owners and agents. He stood down as both chairman and director of the club with immediate effect but remained as Acting Chief Executive.

It was later reported that Karl had become bankrupt on the same date which meant he would have been unable to remain chairman as part of the Premier League rules.

He returned to the role in 2011 after his bankruptcy order was annulled.

On February 2, 2018, Karl resigned from his role as chairman after a rift formed with his father.

Natalie Christopher

Natalie Christopher is the daughter of Owen Oyston.
She was made chairwoman in February 2018, following Karl’s decision to leave the club.

Sam Oyston and George Oyston

Karl Oyston’s sons Sam and George became well known amongst fans for enjoying winding up fans with pictures on social media and acting out at matches.

From turning up with tennis rackets to counter-act a protest involving tennis balls to taking pictures on a bed covered in money, both sons have previously got into spats with fans at the club and on social media.

In April 2014, Sam tweeted a picture of Karl next to a billboard which had been created by Blackpool fans to protest against the club’s way of spending money.

Sam, was briefly made CEO after the removal of Alex Cowdy in February 2018 but lasted just 28 days in the role before being removed.

The news came as a shock to fans after Valeri Belokon released a statement late in 2017, wishing Sam well after he had been diagnosed with a long-term illness.

How long have the Oyston’s been in charge at Blackpool?

Blackpool Football club was sold to Owen Oyston in April 1986 after the board of directors put the club on the market after councillors rejected plans to sell Bloomfield Road for a supermarket site.

Oyston bought the club for just £1.

Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League on May 22, 2010 following a 3-2 win over Cardiff
News Group Newspapers Ltd

Whilst he has over seen the club, Oyston has seen five play-off final wins including the famous Championship play-off final in 2010 which saw the Seasiders promoted to the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.

Blackpool also lifted the LDV in 2002 and 2004.

The Seasiders are currently in the Sky Bet League One and are tenth in the league table following four defeats in five.

What are the problems at Blackpool FC?

Over the years, there have been many problems at Blackpool from the training ground facilities which have not been updated, to players not turning up or having to take the Oyston’s to court.

Whilst we cannot write down all the problems both on and off the pitch, here are five we have picked out.

Blackpool legend Charlie Adam was forced to take the club to court over bonus disputes
Bradley Ormesher – The Times

Charlie Adam fights for bonus

Following Blackpool’s promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2009-10 season, captain Charlie Adam was forced to take the club to court.

The dispute between Adam and the club was about unpaid bonuses which saw Adam owed £20,000 as part of his contract.

The contract stated that Adam would be paid a “survival bonus” for every season the Seasiders stayed up – which not only had they done, but they had also been promoted.

Adam and three other Blackpool players were forced to go to court to receive their bonuses.

Suing fans

As protests began to build at Blackpool, the Oystons began to take legal action over a number of fans.

These included 32-year-old David Ragozzino who made comments against them on an internet forum and Frank Knight was was forced to pay £20,000 in damages to the family.

Crowdfunding pages were set up by supporters groups to help those affected pay the money and in total 16 fans ended up being sued by the Oyston family.

One of those sued by the Oyston family Jeremy Smith, managed to win his case against the club and the claims were dropped.

He was being sued for holding up a doctored Blackpool Gazette front cover which read “We are thieves”.

In May 2015, Sam Oyston was also forced to pay £20,000 in damages to fan Andy Grice following a tweet which was said: “How come you left the casino? Or is this s touchy subject? #stickyfingers”.

Gary Bowyer stepped down just two days after the first game of this season
PA:Press Association

Gary Bowyer pays for training

Former manager Gary Bowyer, who quit after just one game this season, chose to pay for his own training facilities in Fulwood, Preston after the ones – which Oyston had been “promising” to upgrade for over 10 years – became unusable.

Karl Oyston charged for abusive messages to fan

In March 2015, the FA charged Oyston following a string of messages he sent to a fan.

The exchange saw Oyston say to Blackpool fan, Stephen Smith: “Are you sure we’ve met? I would have remembered such a massive retard.”

He then followed up with another saying “Enjoy your special needs day out.”

Karl Oyston left his position as chairman of Blackpool FC in 2018
PA:Empics Sport

Blackpool start the season with just nine players

With less than two weeks to go to the start of the 2014-15 Championship season, manager Jose Riga had just eight players on the books.

On the morning of the opening game of the season at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest, they had only nine.

Riga lost 27 players in the summer and after a quick fight and using two 17-year-old youth players they managed to get a squad together but still named only four players on the bench.

The Seasiders lost the game 2-0 and went on finish bottom of the Championship table come May.

When did Blackpool fans start boycotting?

Fans were protesting the Oyston family in the mid 90s – which saw Vicki Oyston step down from her position as chairwoman.

Protests and boycotting began to pick up the anti again during the 2014-15 season. On the pitch, Blackpool were relegated from the Championship and then the season after from League One to League Two.

Fans are planning to protest outside the stadium for the game against Arsenal this weekend
Getty – Contributor

But off the pitch, fans were fighting back against how the club was being run.

Seasiders Independent Supporters Association was set up in 2013 in the wake of Michael Appleton’s resignation.

Blackpool had had three managers in five months and fans were becoming unsettled.

SISA evolved into the Blackpool Supporters Trust and alongside other fan “anti-Oyston” groups such as the Tangerine Knights have coordinated protests alongside other clubs across the country and seen many fans take on a “Not a Penny More” stance – which sees fans not go to games unless they can pay on the gate at away games so Blackpool does not get any of the ticket gate.

Fans have been protesting against the Oyston family since the 1990s
Action Images – Reuters

Protests have included tennis balls and tangerines being thrown onto the pitch during a home game against Burnley in 2014 and their game against Huddersfield on the final day of the season in May 2015 was forced to be abandoned following a pitch invasion which saw fans – including a man in a mobility scooter – invade the centre circle for more than an hour-and-a-half.

Other actions of protest have included a ramble to the Oyston family property in Waddington, Lancashire and a coordinated protest outside the EFL headquarters in London and Preston which included a billboard which read: “English Fans Let Down”.

Protests and the boycott have continued ever since with less and less fans going to home games and Blackpool fans missing important games such as their recent trip to Wembley in 2017 which saw them promoted from League Two and their two cup matches against Arsenal this season.

What has been happening in the court case between Valeri Belekon and Owen Oyston?

November 2017 saw a glimmer of hope for Blackpool fans when the Oyston family lost a High Court battle with businessman Valeri Belokon.

The Oystons were ordered to buy Belokon out of Blackpool FC for £31million after his company, VB Football Assets – a minor shareholder in Blackpool – brought action against them for showing unfair prejudice against shareholders.

The court summarised that the Oyston family had “illegitimately stripped” the club of millions of pounds.

Since then there have been a number of other court dates which has seen Oyston and Belokon continue to battle it out and in November 2018, Oyston was ordered to pay what he owes or face the possibility of jail.

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