As we emerge from possibly the darkest period in the club’s history and into the hope and possibility of a new era, the simple joys of going to a football match are once again a thing that we can all take part in. The town’s affection for the football club remains as strong as ever: the support is raucous and enthusiastic, the attendances are higher than they have ever been at Bloomfield Road when playing at this level and there are initiatives aplenty in terms of blogs, video diaries, fanzines, coach travel and every other aspect of fanaticism for the football club. After perhaps the worst period to be a fan of the club we are experiencing some of the best of times.
A large majority of Blackpool fans had not been to games for several years and are now making up for lost time. The money previously unspent in the club shop and concourses is flooding back into the club. Tickets and merchandise are selling out and there is enormous goodwill towards the new ownership. The fans are once again fully engaged in the narrative of the team – the footballing story that excites the imagination and plays havoc with the emotions. We are at last, thankfully, something approximating a normal football club.
This presents a huge opportunity for Simon Sadler and his team to develop and further cement the relationships that the club is now enjoying with supporters. The positivity that fans feel towards Blackpool FC needs to be harnessed and developed for the long-term future of the club and its community. The supporters are the lifeblood of the club and genuine, lasting success cannot be achieved without them.
Of course, as Blackpool fans are only too aware, another necessary component of success is responsible and committed ownership. The situations at Bury and Bolton are stark reminders of just how much chaos and danger surrounds the business of football. There are far too many people in the game who really do not understand the fundamentals of professional sport. The obligation of an owner cannot simply be to make a profit. Professional football clubs, as the people of Bury will attest today, are not like any other business.
The impact of the closure of a football club reaches far beyond the employees, suppliers and partners. It reaches deep into the heart of the community, right to the very identity of the place that the football club represents. When we sing about Blackpool FC on a Saturday it is not just the football club we are singing about, it is also the town that we celebrate, the community of people that makes the place what it is. The football club is a focal point for expressing local pride and reinforcing local identity, a sense of camaraderie and belonging – a basic human need as old as the existence of humanity. This is something that Bury has lost, hopefully temporarily, but it is a significant blow to the town’s prestige and sense of importance in relation to the rest of the country.
For these reasons alone, it is more critical than ever, that football’s governing bodies are effectively regulated. This is something that BST together with many other fans’ groups is actively working towards. The demise of Bury football club has its roots in a complacency and negligence that exists at the centre of football governance in this country. When the situation was at its worst with our previous owners, the very best that the EFL, PL and FA would do was quietly sympathise. It is hard to imagine that such sympathy will console the fans of Bury any more than it did the fans of Blackpool when our club was being so obviously stripped of its assets.
Many in the game like to talk mawkishly and patronisingly about the football family. Usually it is for the purposes of creating a soundbite and establishing a sense of connection where none actually exists. However, in the case of Bury, we truly have lost one of the family and as much as it ever has been, a minute's applause and the wearing of black armbands by all professional teams in England’s top four divisions is warranted. Such an act would signify not only a sense of that shared loss but a desire and a determination to prevent further casualties.