Blackpool’s minority owner Valeri Belokon has promised fans his bitter dispute with the Oyston family will not jeopardise the club and said he hopes a “new chapter” is about to begin at Bloomfield Road.
The Latvian businessman bought a 20% stake in the club in 2006 but started legal action against the Oystons in 2015 over money they took out of the club after Blackpool’s season in the Premier League in 2010/11.
Belokon won that case last November, with a judge ordering the Oystons to pay him £31million in damages, plus interest, in four instalments.
Shortly after that decision, the Oystons put the club and several other assets up for sale and made the first £10million payment to Belokon. But, with no movement on the club’s sale, the Oystons missed their second £10million payment to Belokon, due on January 31.
On Monday, the High Court rejected a request from the Oystons to reschedule the payments and left the settlement of this debt, still £25million, up to Belokon’s “discretion” – a decision that gives him the right to seize the club or force its sale.
In a statement released to Press Association Sport, Belokon said he wanted to reassure concerned fans who have contacted him since Monday’s decision.
Thanking them for their best wishes, Belokon said: “I do not intend to take steps in enforcing the judgement that might jeopardise the future of Blackpool Football Club. I hope that the Oyston family will also seek to ensure that the club is protected over the coming months.
“The club has gone through a lot on and off the pitch in recent times. I have faith that the players and manager will continue working hard to produce a strong finish to the season and I hope that off the pitch a new chapter might begin soon that allows the Club to return to its former glory.”
Belokon then referenced the recent death of club legend Jimmy Armfield and urged everyone “to do everything we can to return to the golden era of our beloved club”.
The situation at Blackpool, however, is far from simple, with Owen Oyston, who bought the club in the late 1980s, eager to hold onto it, while his son Karl wants to sell up and settle the debt with Belokon.
This disagreement has become a family feud, with Karl being removed as chairman last week and his mother, Owen’s wife, quitting the board this week. Karl Oyston was replaced by his step-sister, while his son Sam has been installed as chief executive.
The matter is further complicated by Belokon’s own status in regards to the English Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test – a regulatory check he failed last year when he was convicted of money-laundering in Kyrgyzstan, a verdict he claims was politically motivated.
The EFL is understood to be reviewing his case but until that is resolved he cannot retake control of the club.
One solution would be to either sell the whole club or just the Oystons’ majority stake and work with new partners.
Press Association Sport is aware of at least one British-based group that has been in talks with the Oystons about a sale and is willing to work with Belokon.
In the meantime, many Blackpool fans are continuing to boycott the club to apply pressure on the deeply unpopular Oystons and the side is fighting an immediate return to League Two.