Blackpool FC is nicknamed “The Tangerines”, so naturally when the club was relegated, supporters threw… eggs. And pyrotechnic devices, which is not cool, because that’s dangerous and you can’t make an omelet out of a firework.
Blackpool is one of those rags-to-riches-to-rags stories that European soccer does so well. Only this time, it’s not overspending that’s the root cause of their woes – but the reverse.
A powerhouse until the 1960s, and basically useless since, in 2010 Blackpool was an ultra low-budget outfit run by the controversial Oyston family and Latvian businessman Valeri Belokon, and English soccer’s top purveyor of bizarre quotes, Ian Holloway, masterminded an improbable ascent into the Premier League.
This was a great story. Blackpool beat Liverpool at Anfield. Blackpool had Charlie Adam. And everyone lived happily ever aft… oh wait, they didn’t. Of course they didn’t.
Despite the Premier League windfall, hardly anything was spent on players, yet the team took their relegation fight to the last day of the season. The club reached the playoffs the next year, but Holloway quit for Crystal Palace in November 2012. Since he left, the side has finished 15th, 20th and it’s now 24th and bottom of the Championship, ten points adrift of the club above, also-doomed Wigan (remember them?).
Last summer Blackpool canceled a preseason tour because they only had eight players, none of them a goalkeeper. (Incidentally, in January they signed ex-New York Red Bull Saër Sène, who’s made just a single substitute appearance.)
In 2012 the Daily Mail revealed that, in that heady year in the Premier League, while players rowed with ownership over small bonus payments, director Owen Oyston was paid 11 million pounds – more than the entire first-team wage bill.
(As a mildly ironic aside, the club’s jersey sponsor (until the summer) is Wonga, a controversial payday loan company which attracted censure for charging an annualised interest rate on loans of nearly 6,000%.)
During the 1-1 home tie with Reading last weekend, a day after their drop was confirmed, protesters called for Oyston’s ouster and chanted “we’re relegated because of your greed”.
The attendance was less than 10,000. But the club’s in robust financial health, because it’s been making a profit for years. Let’s see if the Oystons’ business model holds when the club’s playing in front of a handful of fans in the third division.
And yet, only four years ago, just one point sent Blackpool back to the Championship. Who knows what might have happened, and where the team might be today, if some of that 11 million pounds had been used to sign a player or two. If there’s such a thing as irresponsible non-spending, Blackpool is the poster club. It’s not just the broken eggs that stink at Bloomfield Road.