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BST Gazette Column 02/03/2018

BST02/03/2018

If there is a theme this week, it is about stepping up to the challenge. Well done to Gary Bowyer and the squad for the Seasiders’ current improved run of league form, including two useful away wins at Wigan and Pompey; and huge congratulations to the youth team on reaching the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.

It is important, amid all the uncertainty off the field, to remember that football is what it’s all about and a love of Blackpool FC is what holds us all together – though Owen Oyston and his new chairwoman should be under no illusions – the majority of fans will not return to Bloomfield Road while the Oyston family is in charge of the club.

Because of the Oystons’ antics over the last five years, Blackpool FC has become a by-word in the football community for mismanagement and crisis. Unfortunately, the EFL has shown little visible sign that it understands what its leadership role in this area should be, and as it appears somewhat reluctant to step up to the challenge, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust suggests that the Government must intervene to encourage the process of fundamental reform that is so clearly needed.

There can be no going back after what has happened at Blackpool and even though a final resolution has not yet been reached, it is important that everyone who loves the club and the game should do something to make sure such cynical mismanagement cannot happen again. Football clubs are too precious, and too much a part of the fabric of our national life, to be left to the mercy of unregulated and often unscrupulous ownership. They need the protection of a robust regulatory framework that offers a range of sanctions against wrongdoers and which provides mechanisms that allow problems to be confronted before they become deep-rooted. They also absolutely require a governing body that has the desire to use its authority to enforce good practice.

To that end, BST has created a petition calling on the Government to step in, take ownership of this issue away from the EFL and begin a complete overhaul:
‘We urge the Government to introduce an independent regulator for English football, charged with ensuring the highest possible standards of governance for all clubs.’

BST’s petition went live on the parliamentary website last week and will run for six months to 22nd August 2018. It has gained 5,000 signatures in the first week but requires 100,000 people to sign to trigger parliamentary action.

What is it that most annoys football supporters? It’s not necessarily a draw or a defeat when they might have hoped for a victory. It’s under-performance, when players don’t give their all to try and turn a situation around. By extension, as fans we all have it in our power to try and make a positive difference in the way our game is run. We can all step up to the challenge. It takes just a few minutes to overcome the apathy, log on to the website and support a petition that could start to turn our situation around. You will find a link to the petition on this website - see the news item Parliamentary Petition EFL. Please support it today and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

In parallel with that parliamentary petition, and in addition to our formal communications with the League, the Trust is also supporting the public campaign to put pressure of the EFL to act in regard to fans’ concerns.

The EFL has indicated in the last 24 hours that it is willing to hold a meeting with Blackpool fans’ groups, Blackpool MPs and the Gazette newspaper during March to discuss the situation.

Apparently ‘attendees will be given the opportunity to raise their concerns and EFL officials will endeavour to provide answers wherever possible and explain its position on a number of matters that have previously been raised in the public domain.’

Today’s planned demonstration outside EFL headquarters in Preston is intended to reinforce for the EFL the principle that fans are vital stakeholders in the game and to show the strength of our dissatisfaction with their response to date when it comes to dealing with rogue owners.. BST encourages all who are available to join this protest against the way that football is currently governed. It is important that the protest is peaceful and law-abiding, that it should make its legitimate point without intimidating either members of the public or EFL employees.

There is a train from Blackpool South at 13:48 (the ‘EFL Special’ to Preston) but for those who can't make that train, the plan is to meet at Preston Station for 14.30pm and then to march down Fishergate for the Fans United protest outside EFL House. BST has agreed to be a point of contact/liaison for Lancashire Police, who are happy with the arrangements.
BBC TV’s Question Time was broadcast from Blackpool last night. BST members were in the audience and hoping to pose a question about the state of affairs at Blackpool FC and its impact on the town, to get the thoughts of the panel and to give the issue of rogue ownership some national exposure. By the time you are reading this we will know if they were successful.

Finally, the Trust is pleased to announce that BST committee member, Tony Wilkinson, has been elected to the board of the Supporters’ Direct England and Wales Football Council for a 3 year term. Congratulations go to Tony. He will do a wonderful job representing football fans everywhere as well as being a great ambassador for BST.

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