We roll into the last week of 2018 with the dire situation at Blackpool FC still unresolved. It is now more than twelve months since the High Court judgement which found that the Oystons had illegitimately stripped the club of millions of pounds and still the majority shareholder clings on to his discredited position.
For those who think that nothing has changed or doubt that it will, it might be worth reviewing what Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has been involved in during the year – both to publicise our activities to people who are not (yet) members of BST and to make the point that the Trust is more than a protest group campaigning for the removal of the Oystons, vital though that objective is.
This final column of 2018 expands on the month-by-month report that BST’s chairwoman made to the Trust’s fourth AGM back in September.
January: we lost Jimmy Armfield, one of the finest servants the club ever had. BST organised an observance at Jimmy’s statue and also raised over £2,500 for Trinity Hospice in his memory through sales of a Jimmy Armfield commemorative scarf. BST was invited to address a conference in Rome for the Sport Integrity Global Alliance. This enabled us to highlight the problems at Blackpool and in football governance to a worldwide audience, including members of FIFA and UEFA.
February: the Trust launched a parliamentary online petition calling for an independent football regulator. Regrettably this petition fell short of the 100,000 signatures required to force a debate in parliament. BST committee member Tony Wilkinson was elected onto the Supporters’ Direct National Football Council for England and Wales.
March: saw the first big protest by Blackpool fans outside the EFL offices in Preston in response to a lack of action by the EFL to resolve the unprecedented crisis at our football club. It was also the occasion of a meeting with Shaun Harvey and EFL staff at the De Vere, Blackpool, to discuss the situation at the club with representatives from across Blackpool’s fan organisations.
April: provided more exposure for Blackpool’s plight at a meeting of the North West Football Supporters Federation attended by Chris Mathieson MP for Chester and member of the government’s DCMS select committee. It also saw a protest billboard organised opposite the EFL HQ in Preston.
May: most of the committee attended the Supporters’ Direct Members’ Day in Birmingham, a networking conference and a series of workshops on issues facing supporters’ trusts.
June: brought attendance at the Independent Football Ombudsman’s AGM, a BST fund-raising evening with Paul Stewart in aid of his charity SAVE and the launch of the BST Businesses and Services Network Facebook group for BST members to advertise opportunities between themselves.
July: in closed season, BST delegates attended both the Supporters Direct and Football Supporters Federation AGMs in London and represented BST members’ views concerning the proposed amalgamation of the two main supporters’ organisations into a new national body.
August: commenced with a large protest and rally outside Bloomfield Road prior to the first home game of the season as the ethical boycott/not-a-penny-more campaign entered its fourth year.
September: featured BST’s second Annual Golf Day in aid of the Gary Parkinson Trust and Boathouse Youth and a second protest outside EFL offices in both Preston and London in conjunction with Charlton Athletic fans groups.
October: was party conference time and BST representatives attended a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference with Damian Collins MP and representatives from the FA to discuss the growing need for changes in football governance.
November: brought around the “Shabby Anniversary”; twelve months since the judgment in the Belokon v Oyston case was marked by BST co-ordinating a fans’ vigil outside Bloomfield Road with 167 supporters each holding up one page of Marcus Smith’s judgement. The resulting photograph gained national and international coverage. BST also laid a wreath on behalf of the members at Blackpool Cenotaph to mark Armistice Day and Christine Seddon and Tony Wilkinson were elected to the new National Supporters’ Organisation committee.
December: Christmas foodbank collections were organised before two games in support of Home-Start Blackpool and HIS Provision on Central Drive. Armfield Academy pupils also made a collection in support of this effort.
Throughout the year, the BST committee, co-optees and helpers complete a huge amount of work as part of the daily, weekly and monthly routine of a busy and active Supporters’ Trust, much of it co-ordinated by the sub-groups responsible for community initiatives, enterprise, governance and media activities. In no particular order, here are some of those tasks:
Writing weekly articles (like this one) for the Gazette, approximately 40 columns per season; writing features for various publications including local and national media, fanzines and football publications; writing monthly newsletters to keep BST members informed of developments and plans; writing letters to the EFL, EPL, FA and Football Ombudsman, to MPs and Local Councils.
Making spokespeople available for TV, radio and media interviews, summarising the situation at Blackpool, stating the fans’ case, participating in debate and commenting on events as they happen.
Attending court hearings and reporting back. Attending meetings of supporters’ organisations, local councils, lobbying MPs and organising BST’s own general meetings and AGM, plus meeting with potential purchasers of Blackpool FC to advise them of the mood of the fan base and the aspirations of the Trust for how the club should be run.
Strategising, researching and planning events and campaigns to further the aims of the Trust and its members and to help bring about a more ethical and sustainable future for our football club.
Heartfelt thanks to every committee member, every BST member and every Blackpool fan who helps in any way they can. This is a collective effort and all contributions to the cause, whether big or small, are important and effective.
We hope that all BST members feel that the £5 annual membership fee is good value for money – and if you are not yet a member, details of our aims, constitution and how to join are all easily available on the Trust’s website: www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com or you can come and talk to us at the BST Outdoor Office opposite the West Stand before any home game. We are reasonable and approachable people.
A Happy New Year to all Blackpool fans everywhere.