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BST Gazette Column 30/11/2018

BST30/11/2018

FA Cup 2nd round glory live on terrestrial television awaits for one of Solihull Moors FC and the Seasiders tonight. Much is sure to be made of the fact that the visitors were famously FA Cup winners in 1953 (incidentally, the year that the Solihull club was founded). It will probably also be remarked that Blackpool was a Premier League outfit as recently as 2011 whilst Solihull Moors has worked its way up the Non-League pyramid until this season it is pushing for promotion to the EFL (currently just a point behind AFC Fylde in the Vanarama National League with a game in hand). Solihull Moors even had more home fans at the last game at Damson Park than turned up for our last home game against Burton.

What might not get quite so much attention is the curious disparity in the training facilities of the opposing clubs. Solihull Moors developed an all-weather training facility in conjunction with neighbouring Boldmere St. Michael's FC, back in 2016. Their development is a state-of-the-art facility with 3G pitches and two floodlit 5-a-side courts which are used by their first team and all five teams from their youth academy (set to rise to eight teams next year).

Blackpool on the other hand have a joke of a training ground at Squire’s Gate whose facilities are so dire that it has been unusable for months, as a result of which the first team has been training for most of the season out of town at a site in Preston – this despite Chairlady Natalie Christopher announcing back in August that remedial work would be undertaken to ensure Squire’s Gate would be usable again ‘in a month or so’. Quite how unsatisfactory even the current arrangements are was highlighted to Terry McPhillips and the players when they were able to train at The Hive, National League Barnet FC’s training set up (with two floodlit full size 3G pitches) prior to the away game at Southend.

It’s well-known that 3G pitches produce a rapid return on capital invested as well as providing professional club’s with the all-weather training facilities that are a standard in this day and age. Locally, AFC Fylde has projected a two-year return on the cost of building their 3G training centre, after which they would be in profit whilst the facilities at Fleetwood Town FC's Poolfoot Farm training ground – built for about the same amount of money as Oyston ‘borrowed’ from Blackpool FC in order to purchase the Travelodge - are quite superb, possibly the best outside of the Premier League. Poolfoot not only provide the Cods with somewhere to train but also benefits the local community as well while still making a healthy return on investment.

It is quite astonishing that the Fylde Coast football club which won the football jackpot back in 2010 and has had countless millions of pounds flooding into its coffers is the club which has no fit for purpose training facility.

Eventually, when regime change happens and new owners come into Blackpool, maybe then finally the club will secure the decent training facilities it has repeatedly been promised for the last twenty years. If a new training ground could be located closer to the football club and perhaps developed in partnership with local institutions such as the Council so that it would also serve and benefit the community of Blackpool, then that would truly be a progressive move to a brighter future.

Perhaps if Owen Oyston, a fan since he was two apparently, had been willing to invest just a tiny fraction of the money earned for the club by Ian Holloway and his team rather than immediately planning to illegitimately strip the assets from the club for his own benefit (as proved in the High Court in London last year) then Blackpool manager Terry McPhillips wouldn't have to be considering doing some work on Squires Gate himself so that his team would have somewhere local to train; maybe Gary Bowyer wouldn't have needed to source an alternative venue at Fulwood and pay for it out of his own pocket; and maybe Blackpool fans would be supporting their team in person in their thousands rather than continuing the long-running campaign to show the rest of the world exactly why we need to boycott our own club and why Owen Oyston must not be allowed to continue using Blackpool FC as his personal play thing and cash machine.

For those fans who are boycotting Blackpool FC games which bring any financial gain to the Oystons, cup matches have always been ‘off limits’, whether they are played home or away, as gate receipts are shared between the two participating clubs. As stated in a recent column, the Trust feels sorry for any negative financial impact this has on Blackpool’s opponents (notably Exeter in the FA Cup first round). Although there will be few Blackpool fans at Damson Park tonight, at least Solihull Moors will receive substantial revenues from the fact of the game being televised live. It will also give thousands of boycotting Blackpool fans a chance to watch their team in NAPM- compliant mode (not-a-penny-more).

The owners and directors of Blackpool FC are obviously keen to present a picture of all being well at the League One club, of business as usual. It is but a thin veneer of normality as any outsider with an inclination to read between the lines will quickly discover. We hope the message gets out there tonight - that nothing is normal at Blackpool FC and cannot be as long as the Oystons are in charge. As for the boycotting fans who are still having to make this principled stand in an effort to bring about regime change at our club, it is frustrating and upsetting that we cannot be there in Solihull to cheer on our team tonight, but we wish Terry McPhillips and the squad good luck and success.

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