Mr President - Part One
We speak to Blackpool FC president, Valeri Belokon after last weeks board meeting. This will be a two part series of questions, with part two coming tomorrow.
Hi Valeri, do you still believe your desire for Premiership football within 5 years is feasible?
VB - A life without great aims is like a nature without colors - if you have great aim which seems almost unreachable and if you see a rainbow in a sky you understand how wonderful is life and how wonderful is to live. Same applies to business and football as well, because it is important part of my life. Besides, I like to enjoy process itself of reaching aims and I hope to enjoy elevation of Blackpool F.C. to Premiership, as well. (I apologize for such a philosophic answer, may be it is connected with my feelings during pre-season, but during season I will use more practical expression! [:)])
What infrastructure needs to be put in place both on and off the pitch to achieve that, and more importantly sustain Premiership football at Bloomfield Rd?
VB - All energy of the club` s management is focused on how to improve the ground in order to make it bigger, more comfortable and more attractive, keeping in mind that one day Blackpool F.C. could play at Premiership. I am happy to announce that at last week` s board meeting we have accepted long- term investment plans on improvement of the ground and the first phase of this will be building of a new South Stand.
With regards to the training facilities; there was a quote that you were actively looking for a new site to accommodate training - with one site said to be a serious option - how far down the road are we on that?
VB - Indeed good training facilities are important for the development of the club. We have been working on this issue during the entire season. Together with Simon and Normunds I even visited Blackburn training facilities to get feel of what is needed. We also have discussed about training facilities in last board meeting. We have several options how to proceed, but we have not taken a decision yet.
Is using your own money to build the south stand an option or likelihood?
VB - There is neither need nor likelihood of such a choice. I would like not even to mention judicial obstacles to implementation of such a speculative assumption. As I have said previously in the board meeting we have decided to start building a new South Stand. It remains only to settle details regarding organizing flow of finances in order to build a building what is so necessary for football, supporters and Blackpool city.
Given your family are settled in Southern England, what was the specific attraction of Blackpool to invest in?
VB - It all started with my business development plans in England which led me to Oystons family, Blackpool F.C. and their home city - Blackpool itself. I was attracted by Karl`s and Owen`s enthusiasm and passion for football, which fascinated me so much that I decided to verify it by myself and visited a game at Bloomfield Road and there I was caught by the same football fever as Karl and Owen. I was lucky that my newly gained friends sought an investor for their club. I used given opportunity and took part in Oystons` family`s darling - Blackpool F.C. If you have possibly noticed, I have investments starting from Central Asia to South America and it happened to stop at Northwest England as well. Not every place where I invest is related to my place of living, although sometimes I would love that it would be true.
What is happening about the feeder club, we were told that Normund would be working toward this and at one point we were told it was close to starting?
VB - Well, this question is still on my agenda, although we have to deal with a complex of uneasy questions like luck of proper training ground, search for players and various bureaucratic procedures. It will take some time till we will come to making crucial decisions on this subject.
What - if anything - has disappointed you during your first season with BFC?
VB - During every game we have gold-bond lotteries in the club. I remember that in spring during one of least attended games I won a jackpot. Due to bad attendance my jackpot was quite small - around 800 pounds. I donated the money to Centre of Excellence for trip to Latvia. Perhaps, if game would be much more attended my jackpot would be bigger and new football players would have received more money…[:)]
And, apart from reaching Wembley, highlights?
VB - First thing, apart from unforgettable game at Wembley, was last season`s opening game. I remember it was with one of the League`s favorites, Nottingham Forest. Although we lost I and my friends admitted that game was interesting. Perhaps, on that first game of season one could notice the team which would win at Wembley`s and be promoted to the Championship - at that moment almost a dream. Second thing, I remember was my conversation with Simon after some 10th or 11th game in the season when the club showed poor results. I asked where problem lays and what would be his opinion if the club would search for a new manager. I remember that Simon said he is ready to step down, but he would like to stay at the club. I was astonished by Simon`s belief in the team, although we were at bottom of the tournament`s table. And third thing, I am still not accustomed to situation when almost everyone in Blackpool recognizes me and welcomes me. In any case, main heroes are players, but anyway I like supporters` attitude. [:)]
How many Latvian footballers could you foresee wearing the famous Tangerine shirt in the not too distant future?
VB - It is a coach`s main responsibility and task to form the team, inspire it and achieve results. He has last word about who will play in BFC. Of course, I would be happy if the club would employ more Latvian footballers, but neither I nor other board members interfere in Simon` s decisions. I vote for more Latvians in Blackpool, but without making any pressure on the coach, I believe by the time there will be more players from my homeland wearing Tangerine shirts.
Will we see any young Latvian players come over to join the Centre of Excellence?
VB - I can possibly assume that there are quite a lot of children in Latvia who would like to play in Blackpool. However, for a teenage boy it is a tough decision - to be far away from parents, friends, in an unknown country, with unknown language, where you can rely only on yourself. However, during time it is a possible that there will be young players from Latvia going to Blackpool`s Centre of Excellence.
Is there a possibility of an official Blackpool FC Latvian Supporters Group being set up?
VB - I am not directly involved in this process but as far as I am informed there are people in Latvia who have become real Blackpool FC supporters and would like to organize themselves. I have received offer to co-operate in opening special pub for Blackpool FC supporters in Latvia, as well. I support the idea, because I have noticed that in Latvia people have started to show more interest about Blackpool F.C. and interest will rise if more Latvian players will be in the Blackpool.
Do you feel that your investment in Blackpool FC has been / will be financially rewarding?
VB - I am happy to announce that my investments already has been rewarding during my first football season. It was rewarding in sense of emotions, impressions, new friends and new ideas. It was also rewarding in business terms, because I started as president of F.C. in Coca - Cola League One, but ended season as a president of a football club in Coca - Cola Championship. It is for sure that the Football club has become more valuable. Of course, I would not have any objections if my investments would start to pay off soon in money terms too, because football is business. It is more business, than charity. There is a common joke: "A question: What is football? An answer: A game where 22 millionaires are running after ball, but millions of ordinary people over TV sets are sympathizing with them even so far as to lose consciousness"
Given yours and Normunds history in the army, and Karl Oyston`s hobbies; should the grouse on the Trough of Bowland be worried?
VB - Taking into account last events and despite the fact that Karl has not served in army, if anyone has to be worried, then it should be referred to Latvian wild boars, and they have a very serious reason for that!
Personally I wasn't expecting any smilies from Mr Belokon; I thought I'd best keep them in! [:)]