Blackpool Supporters’ Trust maintained its moral presence outside Bloomfield Road before Tuesday’s Carabao Cup game against QPR – and well done to Terry McPhillips and the team for a fine win on the night. In fact the BST delegation arrived two hours before kick-off, having been advised that the club was planning to invite a slew of possible VIP sponsors into corporate hospitality. BST handed letters to the few potential sponsors who did turn up; letters which made them aware of the background to the present situation and asking them to consider if, in the circumstances surrounding the club and the ethical boycott, they really wished to be seen giving their endorsement to a family whose cynical custodianship of Blackpool FC has been so publicly exposed in recent months.
One Blackpool fan approached BST outside ground and asked: ‘Which league do you want Blackpool to be in once the Oystons have gone?’ The answer was easy: ‘The highest league the team can manage in the circumstances’. The fan came back sharply with: ‘That’s why we go into the ground, to support the team’ then quickly turned on his heels before further debate could take place. The Trust is sure that many of the 1,400 who attended Tuesday’s match are of a similar mind-set, so here are the points that BST would have made had the fan not hurried away having said his piece.
The first, and most obvious, is that Tuesday’s match was an EFL Cup game – so nothing whatever to do with how high the Seasiders can finish in the league! If Blackpool do find themselves at home in the fourth round when the draw is made, then it might be an opportunity to step up the protest against the Oystons. This will surely be discussed at BST’s Annual General Meeting at the Excelsior on Lytham Road tomorrow (from 1pm). The AGM is a public event, open to all.
The second pertinent point is that a loyal following at Bloomfield Road is simply no guarantee that the team will do well. Look what happened during the disastrous decline of 2013 to 2016. Conversely, spartan support as a result of the ethical boycott/NAPM has not led to the team doing badly. In an ideal situation, a full stadium roaring on the Seasiders to success is what every supporter wants (for the atmosphere, for the revenue, for the sustainability of the club) but this is not an ideal situation. In point of fact, the success of the team is much more down to the qualities and aspirations of the manager, his back-room staff and his squad of players – and it is clear to all that Blackpool FC has done well in spite of the Oystons’ poor custodianship in recent seasons, possibly in part because of the siege mentality that exists. Just think what might be possible, then, with conscientious owners, a business plan, decent infrastructure and a level of investment appropriate to building the vision of getting back to Championship or even top-flight football.
The third point is that resolving this far from ideal situation and making such a step-change is not going to happen while the Oystons are still in charge at Blackpool FC. Thirty years of broken promises have made that abundantly clear. The only significant uplift in our footballing fortunes came on the back of Valeri Belokon’s investment in the club and look how quickly the owners managed to destroy that achievement. Therefore, whether they like to think of it in this way or not, the 1,400 fans who continue to pass through the turnstiles on a regular basis are wittingly or unwittingly allowing the current regime to cling on – to the detriment of Blackpool FC and the whole town – for far longer than if the boycott had been 100%. The judgment made against the Oystons last November has proved, if proof were needed, that it is they who have damaged our club and it is surely the priority for every Blackpool fan to do whatever they can to speed up their removal. Only then can our club heal its wounds and rebuild for the future.
Of course, BST upholds the absolute right of every fan to support the team as they see fit and to go to games if they wish to (and this includes BST members) but there is no evidence to justify such attendance on any other grounds than your need to watch your team play; and please concede that the many fans who are sacrificing their opportunity to watch their own team, week after week, season after season, are doing so to ensure that Blackpool FC has a future. No football fan would take such action lightly. Supporters continuing to attend helps to perpetuate the life of the current regime, allowing Owen Oyston to delude himself that his position is viable; affording the board of Blackpool FC the opportunity to suggest to the EFL and the outside world that all is well at our football club.
BST will continue to maintain its dignified protest outside Bloomfield Road until the current regime departs. As a legally constituted and democratic fans’ organisation, the Trust is much more than a protest group and the stand its members have chosen to take is supported by national fan organisations as well as supporters the length and breadth of the country. One of its main aims is to hold the owners of our football club to account, whoever they may be. In front of the fading club signage (paid for by the fans, as ex-chairman Karl Oyston did not think it was the club’s responsibility to provide it), under the rusting metalwork and between the neglected statues to our footballing heroes of yesteryear, the boycotters will hand out fliers encouraging visiting fans to support our not a penny more stance, to help in the ongoing struggle to rid Blackpool FC of owners who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.