Karl Oyston, the businessman who oversaw Blackpool's ascent from League One to the Premier League, plunged the newly promoted club into crisis last night after resigning as chairman.
No reason was given by the Lancashire club for the 43-year-old's shock decision to quit, although Oyston had recently offered to step down after hitting out at agents as attempts to bring players to Bloomfield Road left him and Ian Holloway, the manager, frustrated.
Only last week Oyston, who has endured a difficult relationship with supporters during his 11 years at the club, was forced to deny claims that Holloway had walked out as a result of a lack of signings, while there were reports that players were unhappy at the late payment of promotion bonuses owed to them. That dispute, however, did not stop them from going to Wigan and recording a stunning 4-0 win on the opening day of the season last Saturday.
It is Oyston's dealings with agents that are thought to have triggered last night's announcement, one game into Blackpool's return to the top tier for the first time since 1971. Described as shrewd but stubborn by those who have dealt with him, Oyston went three months without a breakthrough in the transfer market before Holloway was finally able to sign six players. But the manager largely removed himself from the process, leaving Oyston to haggle. That often meant facing serious competition from League One clubs for potential recruits and walking away from deals for Championship players.
"I expected the landscape to be a lot different and the way that people behaved to be a lot different," Oyston recently said. "I've been very disappointed in the way that some agents have conducted themselves. It's a shame the way agents get in the way of football sometimes. They stymie their players' careers rather than enhance them, and I think that needs to be resolved.
"The offer to step down is still there. I'm not sure that I've got the right approach for this division, and the more I talk to people at other clubs, the more I realise that I'm a lone voice. Everyone else seems to subscribe to the way that business is conducted and things that I find unacceptable."
Blackpool's rise to the Premier League is something of a fairy tale. They were still a League One club three years ago and their rapid climb has surprised many, even those at the club.
Blackpool asked the Premier League for permission to switch the opening game with Wigan, which was due to have taken place at Bloomfield Road, to the DW Stadium to allow more time to bring facilities, including the completion of a new stand, up to scratch.
Oyston's resignation is unlikely to hit the club's finances. Valeri Belokon, Blackpool's president, is worth an estimated £200m through his interests in finance, food and media, and set up the Baltic International Bank in 1993.
Owen Oyston, the millionaire businessman and Karl's father, also remains a director at Blackpool and majority owner, while the club's promotion under Holloway, who is set to give his response to Oyston's resignation today, has secured something in the region of £100m over the next two years. Belokon will now spearhead the hunt for a new chairman, although Oyston Jnr will remain at the club as acting chief executive until the end of the season.
Blackpool have attempted to calm supporters' fears that Oyston's resignation will disrupt the attempts of Holloway, who is keen on Everton's James Vaughan, to make further signings before the transfer window closes. "The club would like to emphasise that there will be no interruption in the recruitment of players or the workon the stadium," said a club statement.
Despite Oyston's volatile relationship with fans, Glenn Bowley, chairman of the Blackpool Supporters Association, believes his departure will hurt the club. "When he took over the ground was falling apart, the club was haemorrhaging money and we were about to get relegated to the bottom tier," Bowley said. "But he has done an exceptional job and the club is now in the Premier League. Sometimes it's better the devil you know.
"Karl had a good relationship with Ian Holloway. Yes, they probably fell out and argued but every chairman and manager argue at every club. Ian has always spoken out in defence of Karl Oyston over the last 12 months."Reuse content