BST column: Failing EFL needs to reform or be replaced

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Another week, another court hearing. The saga of Blackpool FC rumbles on but the judgement handed down by Justice Marcus Smith on February 5 must surely be the final nail in the coffin of Oyston ownership of BFC.

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Valeri Belokon has had his hands untied and is now able to enforce the full balance of what he is owed against all and any Oyston assets to ensure the debt to him is repaid.

For Blackpool fans, the future of our club is hanging in the balance and it is to be hoped the situation can be resolved quickly.

Belokon (pictured) has maintained his interest in the club and has gone out of his way to keep contact with supporters.

We believe that owning the club remains his aim, whether that be the whole or in partnership with another investor.

Belokon’s statement on Wednesday, though guarded and probably issued after legal advice, is positive and highlights his concern for the club and hopes for a better future.

It is not unreasonable to assume he would like to be part of that future. Which brings us to the English Football League and their role in all of this.

Last week BST made public a series of email exchanges with EFL chairman, Ian Lenagan. For some considerable time, we have been urging the EFL to take action to address the issue of rogue owners in general and the Oystons in particular.

We have been met with stock answers, platitudes and an astonishing lack of awareness. The frustration felt by football fans around the country at the lack of any tangible support for the stakeholders in our game is building. The EFL represent the clubs themselves i.e. the owners.

For too long, this organisation has sat on its hands while football clubs, their fans and their communities suffer, claiming they do not have authority to act. In the case of the Oystons, they have long contended that as no EFL rules have been broken there is nothing they can do. Our response is: in that case it’s time to get some new rules and, perhaps more importantly, a whole new structure for football governance.

Astonishingly, given the EFL’s inertia on matters of football ownership, they were able to make a very swift decision last year to disqualify Belokon from being a director at Blackpool FC due to a court ruling in Kyrgyzstan. The fact this ruling was delivered in absentia id not prevent the EFL taking action. Apparently a custodial sentence means an automatic ban. There is an appeal process but to date the ban has not been overturned.

We call on the EFL to attend to this matter promptly. The demise of Blackpool FC and the “illegitimate stripping of assets” took place on their watch, and clearing the way fo Belokon to take control of Blackpool FC if he so chooses is the very least they can do.

Having made contact with many supporters’ trusts and organisations and the media, we are confident there is a real appetite for real change.

BST is launching an online petition, calling on the EFL to tackle the problem of failing clubs and to use the situation at Blackpool FC as a case study for the reforms needed to make their organisation effective and accountable.

If we can gain 100,000 signatures, this matter will automatically go before Parliament for debate. We believe that if the EFL is unable or unwilling to reform, then the government needs to appoint an independent regulatory body instead.

There is a quiet revolution among supporters and it is time for the football authorities to realise it.

BST holds a general meeting at 1pm tomorrow at the Excelsior on Lytham Road. Vice-president Tim Fielding will host a question and answer session. All are welcome.

A BST social at the Brew Room on Church Street tonight (7pm) provides an opportunity to meet the BST committee and other members. Jimmy Armfield memorial scarves and BST badges will be available.

BST is hosting a race night and supper at the Hilton Hotel on Friday, February 23 in aid of The Boathouse Youth Charity and Trinity Hospice. £5 tickets are available via www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com (doors 6.30pm).



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