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BST Gazette Column 22/12/2017


Another day in court, another strong suggestion from Judge Marcus Smith that he is less than impressed with the Oystons’ machinations, so much so there was even talk of an official court receiver being appointed.

While there are rumours of various parties being interested in buying the club, BST looks in the first instance to Valeri Belokon and suggests publicly to the Oystons that it might be in the best interests of all if they act to mitigate their situation by agreeing to talk with Latvia about a deal that sees them relinquish any interest in Blackpool Football Club and its infrastructure (stadium et cetera). It is an option they have spurned on several occasions but it is an opportunity that surely won’t be available for much longer, now the schedule of further payments has been set.

At the heart of this week’s column is the fourth in a series of personal testimonies by ordinary members of the Trust. It should never be forgotten that fans are the primary reason why football clubs exist in the first place:

“‘Trust me’ he said when he paid £1 for Blackpool FC. We did.

‘Trust me’, he said as he stood by the image of a futuristic Bloomfield Road that would be the envy of the footballing world. We did.

‘Trust me’ he said when we reached the promised land of the Premiership. For a while we did. After all, he was an owner who loved the club, would promote the club and would make supporters proud. We, the fans, trusted - but did the owner trust the fans?

Is there any need to list the many examples of how, to our horror, not only were we not trusted but were mocked, abused and ripped off? Four times I have read the full decision of Judge Marcus Smith and each time I seem to discover another unpalatable shock.

And now the club is up for sale. A year ago I thought I might never see the Seasiders at Bloomfield Road again but is there a cautious optimism in the air again.

Cosseted in his ivory tower, he couldn’t grasp a basic concept - good will. He might own the club, for now, but the moment the good will started to evaporate his tenure was mortally wounded. Owners move on, as do managers, players and background staff which leaves only one permanency.

We, the supporters, are that permanency and so need to be treated with respect in that we are the conscience and the barometer of goodwill within the club. So, today, I am cautiously optimistic.

It is great that we will have new owners - but what if the new owners have the means to buy but might not be too concerned to respect and safeguard our goodwill?

In all of this there is one constant, Blackpool Supporters Trust, which is a true democracy. Asked if I would like to contribute a Friday article, what conditions were laid down? None. I could write what I like on whatever I liked irrespective of BST’s views. So looking forward, not knowing what BST’s stand will be, I share my personal hopes, as an ordinary Trust member, in the hope that it will kick-start a meaningful discussion.

How best to ensure supporters feel appreciated? First of all, the distracting shambles of groups like FPG must be confined to the dustbin of irrelevance. BST is the largest supporters’ group and to ensure an immediate ground swell of good will the new owners need to recognise them as the official line of communication with us. But I feel that does not go far enough. The new owners must understand they need us - the heart and soul of the club. They need our goodwill.

Trust them? I desperately want to be convinced, but I have been stung once and endured years of regret.

My favoured option is for BST to have a minimum of one representative on the new Board. Normally, each board member has an area of responsibility and who better to hold the community awareness portfolio than the BST representative? Looking at recent successful campaigns BST’s CV for the post is impeccable. The Trust has the experience and expertise to ensure and develop opportunities whereby we, the supporters, feel valued, feel we are being listened to and where our loyalty is treasured. Hopefully, the future custodians will buy into our goodwill.

By nature, I am the eternal optimist desperate to relive the Blackpool dream. Soon it will be New Year - and will this be the year when, once again, I will proudly proclaim from the rooftops ‘I am a Blackpool FC season ticket holder’? I hope so.”

Our ordinary member of the Trust might be reassured to know that next week’s column will be dedicated to an updated draft of BST’s ‘manifesto’ of the principles by which we’d like our football club to be run in future.

For those of you who may have missed the posting on our Facebook page and Twitter account earlier in the week, a few words from Valeri Belokon/ Belokon Holdings sent to the Trust in a Christmas card: ‘Dear Blackpool FC supporters! We appreciate your enthusiasm and love in supporting the Blackpool Football Club. Thank you for your efforts and endeavours to make BFC great again! May the new year be filled with memories you will always cherish!’

Finally, the committee of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust would like to take this opportunity to wish the manager, staff and players of Blackpool FC, all Trust members and every Seasiders fan wherever in the world you happen to be, plenty to celebrate over the holiday period and in the coming year.

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