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BST Gazette Column 25/01/2019


It really is starting to feel like the ‘last days of empire’. Admittedly, many were thinking the same this time last year, but in the intervening twelve months the true state of affairs behind the façade at Blackpool FC has merely deteriorated further, with no significant development to resolve the High Court award against the Oystons.

It appears as though Valeri Belokon has given Owen Oyston more opportunities than were merited to come to the table with a sensible proposal to mitigate and resolve the situation, but Oyston seems never to have discovered the reality principle, or at least he’s never come to terms with it. As a consequence, Mr Belokon’s legal team has finally applied for a Court Receiver to be appointed, the hearing to take place in early February, which news has understandably caused lots of comment, speculation and discussion about what happens next for our football club.

The announcement this week that a consortium fronted by ex-Blackpool player Paul Stewart is actively seeking to purchase the club has certainly added to the drama. It should be no surprise that interested parties are starting to declare their intent, as the long battle for Bloomfield Road enters what could and should be its decisive final phase.

The Trust’s preference remains unchanged: for local investors who have a real passion for Blackpool FC as a club and a community asset to take charge at Bloomfield Road, in some form of partnership with Valeri Belokon.

It should be remembered that there have been a number of speculative expressions of interest in Blackpool over the last few years and almost all of them have made contact with BST. They did so recognising that Blackpool fans are customers and without having the fan base onside, there is no football club. The Trust has advised them all that fans expect to see the departure of the Oystons from Blackpool FC and that a return of supporters en masse is unlikely to happen until that is the case. Finding an effective way to prise the club from Oyston’s grip has always been the issue, for it appears he will not willingly sell.

These are uncertain times for Blackpool FC and its anxious and long-suffering fans. The difficulty for supporters lies in not knowing exactly how this saga is going to play out and where we will be at the end of it. One thing is for sure. It makes sense for any business to want their customers onside and BST will always endeavour to represent Blackpool fans, whoever ends up owning the club.

Anticipating that a ‘Tangerine Spring’ may be in the offing, social media have been awash with suggestions of how the football club can move forward under new owners, what measures should be put in place as well as suggestions for how the return to Bloomfield Rd could be celebrated; all positive signs that the fanbase-in-waiting is daring to dream again after months of inertia.

The away game at Accrington Stanley on 2nd February presents a great opportunity for that fanbase to turn up in numbers at what is probably the best run community club in the country. The Trust would like to remind all Blackpool fans of what is planned for the day and how to purchase tickets directly from Accrington. We received this message from them recently:

‘We are going to operate a shared FanZone with a live band, face painting, etc. and the selling of match badges with the proceeds going to Blackpool supporter groups via Blackpool Supporters’ Trust. It is going to be a community-driven match with all supporters there to enjoy the pre-match entertainment and the game. We have had nothing but support and praise from both Stanley and Blackpool supporters and fully expect the day to go really well.

‘Away fans can purchase their tickets either in person during normal office hours or via telephone on 01254 356950 and can pay via cash in person or by card over the phone. We can either send out the tickets recorded delivery (£2) or they can be collected on the day of the game. We would prefer to post them out if possible to ease congestion on the day of the game.

‘We would also encourage Blackpool fans to purchase their tickets in advance but any unsold tickets will be available to purchase right up to kick off. Prices are as follows: £20 adults, £15 concessions/students, £10 12 to 17 year olds, £5 under 12 years old.’

BST would like to encourage as many Blackpool fans as possible to attend this fixture. We are now famous for our home boycotts but we would like to turn this away fixture into another statement to show that Blackpool fans are still here and are waiting in our numbers to return as soon as our club is Oyston free. It would also be an endorsement of a real community club, which Accrington Stanley epitomises under Andy Holt's leadership, and a chance to show our support for the way that club is run.

Prior to the Accrington game, the Seasiders are away at Coventry City tomorrow, another club in crisis. The Sky Blue supporters’ campaign against their owners, SISU, is gathering pace. Coventry has only nine home league games remaining before the current agreement with Wasps rugby club to use the Ricoh Arena expires. If no new deal is done, the Sky Blues will have no home ground and may therefore be ejected from the EFL and as a result, could cease to exist. As SISU are continuing with their futile court action against Wasps, no further deal seems likely. This is a desperate predicament.

Sky Blue fans are calling their campaign ‘Countdown to Homelessness’. As part of the campaign, a small group of Sky Blue Trust members will be sleeping on the street outside the Ricoh Arena tonight with two aims: to highlight the impending homelessness of the football club and to raise money for a local homelessness charity. They will be there until just before the kick off, near to the Jimmy Hill statue, at the opposite end of the ground from where away fans will be seated. It would be great if Seasiders fans going to the game tomorrow could take a few minutes to meet the campaigners and show support for their cause.

BST committee members will be at our ‘open office’ outside Bloomfield Road before Tuesday night’s home game against Wycombe Wanderers and are happy to talk with any supporters about all things Tangerine.

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