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BST Gazette Column 22/03/2019


While not much may appear to have happened since our celebrated return to Bloomfield Road the other week-end, behind the scenes there have been two positive developments.

It was almost inevitable that Owen Oyston was going to file an application to appeal against the receivership. It has been confirmed this week that his appeal has been unsuccessful and he has no further recourse to challenge the court’s ruling.

It has also been confirmed that the submission by Blackpool Supporters’ Trust to have the ACV (Asset of Community Value) status of Bloomfield Road renewed for another five years has been approved by Blackpool Council.

And now, in the second of three columns that BST has turned over to our members to share their thoughts on what this return means to them, the question is posed…

After Frantic February, will this end up being Momentous March? It is often said “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and the he answer to the question is probably “ask the EFL”. As ‘Pool fans start to come to terms with actually going to games, debating the manager’s tactics and the novel idea of engaging with a club that wants to listen to them, the spotlight will be on the EFL and the much awaited decision about a possible points deduction.

The powers that be at EFL HQ have much to think about. They have rules on “insolvency events”, but, strictly speaking, our club isn’t insolvent. They are geared up to deal with clubs that spend far beyond their means, but none of their powers were designed for owners who siphoned off the Premier League windfall to cover other things. And in this case, arguably the bigger issue is whether the two major shareholders at the club are fit and proper persons under League Rules. It still seems incredible, after the way that the two parties that have behaved, that it is Valeri Belokon who is excluded and not Owen Oyston.

It would be nice if this issue didn’t have a bearing on our season, but of course it will make the difference between being on the fringe of the play-offs and being in the relegation shake up. Recent performances on the field suggest that we are struggling for form and points at the moment - although arguably as our play-off credentials fade, the powers that be may find it harder to plunge us into trouble with their decision. We can only wait, as the EFL’s recent pronouncements on the issue have been Delphic, to say the least.

On the upside, we are now only days away from the first Fans Forum of the new era, on 27th March. It will be good to swap ideas about how we make the match day experience more exciting, how we re-kindle interest amongst our younger fans and how we reach out and woo our many exiles. They are often the Unseen Tangerines, who swell our numbers when the team plays in far-flung corners of the country.

This kind of positivity is infectious and long overdue. For many, this kind of normality is reward enough after what the club has been through. But for others, this is a time to re-examine what we are and what we want our club to be. Four years of protest and struggling with footballing bureaucracy is bound to make us all more cynical in some ways. But we do now have a marvellous opportunity to put the club back where it belongs - at the heart of the local community.

We all know Blackpool to be a magical place, one that captured the hearts of all of us, but even the most fervent fan of the town would have to acknowledge that it has its problems. The more agencies there are locally who act as advocates for the town and its people, the more bodies there are promoting the interests of the more deprived parts of the community, the better.

Blackpool FC could and should be at the very centre of this drive to improve the town and the life chances of the people who live in it - whether they support the club or not, and whether they like football or not. The club should be a source of civic pride, rather than the sordid embarrassment it had become in recent times. Our next local challenge is to bring the club and its support together in this most noble of endeavours.

On the national stage though, the struggle for regulatory reform goes on. Whatever the outcome of EFL deliberations about us, the game will still be crying out for stronger governance, more principled and accountable club owners, and ruling bodies who see it as part of their job to protect the interests of supporters, rather than merely lining the pockets of their Members.

At Blackpool we are beginning to see a path out of the doldrums we have been in. Clubs like Coventry and Bolton are staring into the abyss; others like Port Vale and Notts County seem to still be in a relatively early stage of their decline. We owe it to them to make sure that our recent experiences count for something; we owe it to them to do everything we can to help them avoid the fate we have had. And in that respect, although all around us is exciting change, some things will stay the same.

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