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Blackpool Files: Transcript #1

Blackpool Files: Transcript #1

The first full transcipt of the meeting surrounding issues about the ground. It's a two part article only because the transcript won't fit in one sole article, so apologies about that!

Make your own mind up about the meeting.

Karl Oyston Interview Transcript; 1st December 2007.

Person's present;

Karl Oyston (Chairman) and Matt Williams (Press Officer) on behalf of Blackpool FC.

SirHarryThompson, Platos, Mrs Platos, Layton_Seasider, seasidertony, SeasideEssexExile, Mrs SeasideEssexExile, Jerry, Nige, Toronto_Pool, Crossy, BisphamTangerine and Sandgroanun on behalf of BlackpoolVital.

The Ground.

SeasideEssexExile; Summer of 2006 groundwork on the SW corner would begin on 23rd September. July on Radio Lancs, an announcement about the start of the South Stand would be made public within 'a few weeks'. Current situation?

Karl; Well, I'll just turn to these announcements. We've said a lot over the time I've been here and there's a lot of misreporting. I always carry out whatever I say very carefully to make sure we don't make promises that we can't keep. So I would say that before I continue.

As far as the South West and South stands go, the same with the rest of the business, I'll always do what's right for the business and in my considered opinion - which is the opinion that counts - it's not right for the football business to borrow £3.5 million at least - which is what it will cost for the South West and the South - and then take the payments out of the football business - which will probably amount to around £400,000 per year - which is directly out of the manager's budget for players and in this division probably amounts to 2 very good or 4 "squad" Championship players.

So I don't think that's the right thing to do I don't think, and my thoughts are backed up by the experience of a number of requests when we sell-out or ticket office staff - I get actual facts other than the varied speculation that flies about the place about the number of supporters who can't get seats. My estimate, I think we said between 50 and 100 possibly some games, certainly the Preston and Burnley games will be a lot, lot more but on an average match the number of supporters who can't get in the ground isn't enough to guarantee income to pay back that £3.5 million. The revenue that the football side would generate isn't enough, and I am not going to preside over making a commitment, a 25 year commitment, to take £400,000 out of the playing side of this club.

SeasideEssexXile; Just to spin it on its head then, if we built a stand for 3,500 say, which is a figure that has been banded around...

Karl (interrupting); Well, that's right...

SeasideEssexXile; ...and we split it half and half, you're talking this season - the likes of The Championship - you're talking at least 12/13 teams at least a year that will fill that with away fans, demand will outstrip supply.

Karl; We've actually said 6 or 7 and if you've got 6 or 7 well, you do the sums, you're obviously a bright bloke, I've done the sums, what are we talking? 10-15,000 people isn't it over a season? 20,000? Average a tenner each when you've knocked the VAT off and all the other bits and pieces, it's not enough money.

SeasideEssexXile; It isn't, but there's spin-offs from that as well, obviously...

Karl (interrupting); Not enough.

SeasideEssexXile; Well, you say 6 or 7, I think we - most of us say round here - would say 12 or 13 teams...

Matt (interrupting); The 6 or 7 was based on the average away attendance from clubs in The Championship. There's a benchmarking that's done every close-season in The Championship whereby the average away support, obviously we take into account the Blackpool factor, but we've gone out and speaking to other clubs in the division when we were toying with the idea of a temporary stand it was only 6 or 7 that would have requested an additional allocation over the 1,900 that we supply.

Karl; Well, just a slight off-shoot, we did consider having a temporary stand with 3,000 seats in which would have cost us about £400,000 to buy, put up and to have all the toilets and catering facilities but we just felt that was a...

SirHarryThompson (interrupting); So what we're saying then, is there no plans at this moment in time, no start dates or anything then?

Karl; No, I'm not saying that, I'm just saying that I'm not going to take...I'm not going to...I have 2 hats...with my football hat on, I'm not going to make a decision that takes £400,000 per year out of the football side because it's not sustainable, it won't generate that money.

seasidertony (interrupting); That's something along the lines there of what I was going to say, when do you foresee...what would be the situation where you would say 'I think there's enough supporters knocking on the door that can't get in so I'll build the stand'? Would you ever get that situation?

Karl; I don't think I will.

seasidertony; So you'll never build the stand?!

Karl; No,'ve said that. Don't put words in my mouth. I've said I'll build it when it's right for the football business and it isn't currently right for the football business. It'll be right for the football business when someone else is paying for it, i.e. The Property business is paying for it by the pre-lets.

seasidertony; You need to attract the fans to the club, I mean if I've got a job and I want to move house and I have a certain wage and I refuse to leave that job, I'll never buy the next house up the ladder. You've gotta make a move somewhere, even if it's to borrow a bit of money. We all borrow money to buy houses to improve our lifestyles which we have done over the years...

Karl (interrupting); So you're saying I should take £400,000 a year out of the player budget?

seasidertony; I think you should move up it's like moving up the ladder...

Karl (interrupting); I'm sorry, answer that question. Do you think I should take £400,000 a year from the manager's playing budget to build that stand?

seasidertony; If you get a couple of bars and different things and if the shop starts sorting itself out and other items here, there's a lot of commercial...

Karl (interrupting); No sorry, we've got all that, it's not the bars, I'm dealing with one specific thing and that's the South West and South so lets not go off at tangents, lets just deal with that as a stand-alone decision.

seasidertony; Yeah, I think you should and I think you should lower prices and I think you should let a lot of people fill it for virtually a low, low season ticket...reduce all season tickets or let us bring a friend every other game or something. Some sort of policy that would bring people who are not really a little bit reluctant to come, we could encourage our friends and relatives to come with us, if there was seating for them and the price was a little bit lower and you'd still be taking more income.

Karl; Most games we sell-out probably the night before the game - today wasn't a sell-out - so this demand thing is a complete red herring...

Toronto_Pool (interrupting); You've got the MK Dons situation though haven't you? Where last year they were in an awful ground weren't they and they had no gates did they? They've built a new ground haven't they and it's a nice ground and everything and their attendances have gone through the roof haven't they?

Karl; I'm not interested in MK Dons, I'm interested in Blackpool...

Toronto_Pool (interrupting); It's an example though of where it's a new stadium, people want to go and see the stadium...

Karl; So's Darlington, an example of a new stadium, so lets not have examples, lets talk about Blackpool 'cause that's what we're here to talk about...

Sandgroanun; You're still saying that you believe on supply and demand, you're only getting potentially 100, 150 on an ongoing basis who you believe are asking for tickets but can't...

Karl; No, no. What I believe is that I need £400,000 a year and I don't want to take £400,000 a year from the playing budget which is where it would have to come from to pay for that stand for 25 years.

Crossy; So you're saying if you could get £400,000 from somewhere else, you would go ahead and build the stands on pre-lets?

Karl; Yes.

Mrs SeasideEssexXile; Are you then looking for other funding streams at the moment...

Karl; Sorry, just to finish off that other point, with a pre-let it's not just the £400,000 per year, because when we build the stand for £3.5million, the South West and South, then we've got to create approximately between 60 and 80,000 square feet of let-able space behind it, but there's a cost to fit, that's just a shell. So then you've got to fit that out, so the South West corner stand, for instance, will cost another £2million on top of the £3.5million to fit that out ready for office occupation so it's not as simple as just the rent-roll...

Crossy (interrupting); So how would it work with the pre-let, how would you finance a stand with pre-lets? Bearing in mind you've just said you've got to fit it out, is there rent involved as well as them paying up front?

Karl; Sorry, is what? A pre-let is effectively someone comes along and signs a lease, to occupy space over a period of time...

Crossy (interrupting); Right, so that is their space, so there is no rent on top of what they've already paid then?

Karl; I'm sorry, I don't understand?

Crossy (interrupting); Per month of per year to actually be within that building?

Karl; 'Course there is. All a pre-let is, is a commitment from them to occupy that space on a lease for so many years, there's no money changes hands when you sign a pre-let. The money changes hands on a quarterly basis. That's generally the pattern on a per square footage rate. And one of the big issues we've had in Blackpool, as you're all well aware if you know Blackpool at all, is that rental values in Blackpool, especially commercial ones, are very very low. For instance, and I know I'm going to shoot myself in the foot here, Swansea get £25 p/sq. ft. for their rented space, we're getting about £10.75 p/sq. ft. but the build costs are just the same. So we're in a depressed letting market, but we have got a couple of pre-lets...just about signed up.

Sandgroanun; Would one of the options have been to actually have had the hotel built into the South Stand, rather than have it done separately as a Travelodge across the road?

Karl; Nope.

Sandgroanun; Why not? Other ones like the Reebok do that don't they?

Karl; Travelodge wanted a stand-alone hotel.

Sandgroanun; It was down to Travelodge themselves was it?

Karl; Travelodge signed a pre-let, that's why we built the hotel.

SeasideEssexXile; Was that a Travelodge pre-let 'cause Bolton is De Vere's?

Karl; Travelodge signed on the dotted line and then we built the hotel for them.

SeasideEssexXile; So the hotel is part of Blackpool Properties? Or is that courtesy of the club at all, the Travelodge receipt?

Karl; The hotel won't directly benefit the football side if that's where heading, might as cut a bit of time on that.

BisphamTangerine; So that thing that was on Radio Wave, about balconies and...

Karl (chuckling); No comment. I mean don't ask me questions that are borne out of anything that's in the Gazette, Radio Wave or anything else please.

seasidertony; So do you see the future for Blackpool Football Club as an L-shaped football ground, maybe a new type of ground that others could follow in the future?

Matt (chuckling); The Italians didn't like it today from QPR let me tell you that to start with! It played into our hands that.

Mrs SeasideEssexXile; So when you've got a couple of pre-lets hopefully going to sign up, or you've got them signed up, if they sign up are you going to build the temporary stand then?

Karl; Well I'm not going to build a temporary stand...

Mrs SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); Or permanent stand or whatever...

Karl; I'm only really interested in building the whole of the South West and South in one go and I think if I can't achieve that...

Mrs SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); So you'd have to have an awful lot of pre-lets signed up to...

Karl; Nothing's black and white particularly. If I get enough where I don't have to rob too much money out of the player's budget, I would probably take a flier on it and do it on that basis, on the grounds that we would make a bit of money as we go along with other events.

Platos; The two pre-lets you say you think might be in the bag...

Karl; Well they're in the hands of our solicitors now...

Platos; Yeah but what I'm saying is, is that to go onto develop the South or is it...

Karl (interrupting); Well one of them is for the Drop-In centre, that's for the North and one's for the South-West corner.

Platos; Right, so you might lose that pre-let then...

Karl (interrupting); Until it's signed...

Platos (interrupting); No, I mean if you don't get a few others because obviously you aren't build...

Karl (interrupting); Not at all, if we sign, we'll get underway.

Platos; So we could have a South?

Mrs SeasideEssexXile; Or a South-West...
Karl; It's all property driven. The whole thing is property driven. It always has been. This was property driven, what we're sitting in now (the West Stand). That's just the way we decided to go.

< discussion about buy-to-lets from seasidertony, not worth transcribing, Mrs SeasideEssexXile cleared up his worries about pre-lets leaving due to not affording the rent >

Karl; Let me worry about finding leases, finding tenants isn't the easiest thing to do. Everyone seems to think Blackpool (as a town) is this vibrant place and it isn't, there's office space for £5/£6 p/sq. metre in Blackpool.

Layton_Seasider; Is there anything, Chairman, you can offer us optimistically...

Karl; I'm very optimistic (laughter). Seriously, I am optimistic that we'll achieve what we're all after. That's what we work towards...

seasidertony (interrupting); Are you after what we're after?

Karl; That's a bit of a cryptic question isn't it (laughter).

seasidertony; What do you see for the future then, what's your plans? Not ambitions, I mean ambitions go on forever, what are your plans for the club?

Karl; Well I think we just...

seasidertony (interrupting); Short term.

Karl; I don't have short term plans. 'Cause you can't have short-term plans, if you have short-term plans, they're pretty pointless. If I'm going to spend the best part of £8million building and fitting out a massive y'know, it's a massive undertaking, then I'm going to balance that from pre-lets y'know, it's pretty straight forward isn't it. You've got something there that's let for 25 years and that's a long-term plan isn't it? It's a long-term commitment and that benefits the football club to the tune of 3,500 seats for no real...errm...the football club doesn't pay for that so the football club gets a free stadium which it can generate funds from...

seasidertony (interrupting); I can see how you're working it, but are we prepared to let away fans sit in that stand...

Karl (interrupting); Too right!

seasidertony (interrupting); ...season after season...

Karl (interrupting); Too right!

seasidertony (interrupting); ...chanting 'what a shit ground', as they were tonight?

Matt; That's what happens, I mean Gillingham is exactly the same, it's a temporary stand behind the goal...

seasidertony (interrupting); We don't have to be Gillingham, we're Blackpool! Let's talk about Blackpool...

Karl; You tell me what the alternative is...
seasidertony; I don't know, you're the Chairman...

Karl; Well y'know, you're here to ask questions, I've told you what my stance is, I've told you what I'm going to do, I've told you what I'm not going to do, if you've got some bolt from the blue that I'm not aware of that's going to achieve what you want, then spit it out. If not, then we are where we are.

Toronto_Pool; Karl, can I talk about the state of the current stands? The chipboard for the pre-lets and the panels down under the West stand near the turnstiles.

Karl; I don't know if we should waste our time with that...

Toronto_Pool; Well it gives an image about the football club, doesn't it?

Karl (sighs); Does it?

Toronto_Pool & Crossy; It does, yeah.

Toronto_Pool; I think everyone around here agrees that it does, yeah.

Karl; So what should we do with the chipboard?

Toronto_Pool; Well we're talking about the panels really...

Karl (interrupting); Well you said the chipboard then you moved onto the panels...

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); I'll talk about the chipboard, Jack. It's by the nursery, which has now got new plants outside, we're talking about something that we come here, what...24/25 times a season...

Karl (interrupting); I'll just stop you. Because that's one of the pre-lets that we're talking about, I've applied for and got planning permission to get a bigger window, effectively cut into the cladding, it's going to be a bigger shop-front.

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); Is that for the club shop?

Karl; No, the chipboard area in the North Stand next to the nursery is one of the pre-lets.

SeasideEssexXile; Can I ask what it's going to be?

Karl; It'll be a drop-in centre for the Health Care Trust, on 2 floors. So I think we should just park that because IF they sign on the dotted line, then the chipboard's out, new shop front's in...

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); One of the things we've looked at is, people come to Blackpool early-doors, people travel a long way to come to Blackpool because we are quite remote as far as a football ground goes, we thought about a Cafe. Now if we're talking as a business, you've got the nursery, you've got the Primary Care Trust (PCT), we're thinking we've got a cafe that can serve coffee, tea, sandwiches, whatever to them businesses to make money for yourself or to whoever...

Karl (interrupting); You want to rent some space?

SeasideEssexXile; Ex-caterer, in a totally different job nowadays, I know there's big money in food.
Karl; Well, rent some space off me then, I'm not going to run a cafe.

SeasideEssexXile; I work for the government so I can't, so my argument would be, if I was a businessman, I'd look at investing there as a cafe. For the club, I'm thinking of the club now...

Karl (interrupting); Well I'm not...

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); You're not a businessman?

Karl; I'm not looking at investing in a cafe, thankyou.

SeasideEssexXile; I'm thinking of something that runs and operates, can provide a service for the companies that have purchased pre-lets, i.e. PCT and the nursery.

Karl (interrupting); Well rent some space off me and open one...

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); Karl, I work for the government...

Karl (interrupting); Well I'm not interested in running a cafe, thanks. There's thousands of cafe's in Blackpool.

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); There is, but there's none that are as close as here...

Matt (interrupting); There are catering facilities for the PCT...

Karl (interrupting); We do have canteen within the...

SeasideEssexXile (interrupting); Is that the 53 Club?

Karl; Well, it's part of it, yeah. About 1/4 of the space. So there's a canteen within that, there's a canteen planned within the South West corner within the office space in there.

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Date:Thursday December 6 2007
Time: 4:03PM

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