This is the 40th and final BST column of the season, traditionally the cue for an end-of-campaign wrap.
Speculation back in August was all about whether Blackpool FC was experiencing a false dawn. Although there have been momentous developments (mostly off the pitch) it’s fair to say that the much anticipated new age isn’t quite with us yet.
Yes, Judge Marcus Smith called the owner’s siphoning away of Blackpool FC funds for what we all know it was, ‘illegitimate stripping of assets’, followed by an order to compensate Mr Belokon to the tune of £31.2 million; and yes Karl Oyston was finally sacked as chairman of the club; and yes, Owen put Blackpool FC up for sale - but as of today he’s still in control, hanging on dog-in-the-manger fashion and continuing to preside over the managed decline of a club that had every right to deserve more of its owners and of the legacy which that hard-won promotion to the Premier League brought.
Therefore, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust ends this season as it ended the last one – at the forefront of the fight for positive change, maintaining the ethical boycott and ready to work with new owners as soon as regime change happens.
The growing credibility of BST, locally as the conscience of the football club and nationally in the campaign for proper governance of the game, has been one of few positives to emerge from the whole post-2010 debacle. It is important that everyone realises the Trust is here for the long-term good of Blackpool FC, to be the democratic and representative voice of the fans, working to ensure that Blackpool FC is rebuilt as an ethical, inclusive, family-oriented club that the community can be proud of once again. Structured supporter engagement is key to addressing some of the issues that currently beset a sport in danger of losing touch with its roots and BST's involvement in football governance nationally is an opportunity for us to pave the way for changes in the way our game is run. We cannot allow what has happened at Blackpool to be swept under the carpet. Using our experiences for the good of football generally will be a way of making something positive out of a situation which has been so damaging and negative.
Of course it’s a worry that we go into the close season with so much still unresolved at the club. The next few weeks are all about managing uncertainty: about whether the club will be sold or not; about player contracts; about recruitment, building a team and planning for the 2018-19 campaign. Where is the focus of the owner and the Chairwoman? Do they recognise the need to maintain the value of the asset they are probably going to have to sell sooner or later? Judging by the state of the stadium, the answer is no. The ground has been deteriorating for several years now, a state of affairs that highlights a lack of pride and professionalism on behalf of the owners. It is to be hoped the squad isn’t decimated in similar fashion to the summer of 2014, when Blackpool FC only had eight registered players a week before the new season commenced.
The club has announced an offer on season ticket prices that holds until 27th July. The Trust strongly recommends that anybody thinking of buying or renewing a season ticket might defer that decision as long as possible to see if the sale of the club goes through. If new owners arrive pre-season, the demand for season tickets will likely be high. If the Oystons are still in place in two months’ time, the majority of fans will continue to uphold the ethical boycott – and in that event, BST would urge those who held season tickets this year to consider joining the boycott until such time as the Oystons are no longer in any way connected to the club.
The BST committee is very grateful to the individuals who have given their time and expertise over recent months and years to help make the Trust the strong and relevant organisation it is today. We are very proud to be part of such a talented and motivated group of supporters. We also appreciate the support and sacrifice of the thousands of Blackpool fans who have stood firm in the struggle to save our football club. Never before has there been such a sustained and lengthy action taken by a football community. Whoever you are and whatever your contribution, we salute you.
Hopefully all of the uncertainty will be resolved sooner rather than later and new owners with the backing of fans will start to rectify the situation and reverse the decline. When the present torpid atmosphere inside Bloomfield Road is replaced by a vibrant and vociferous crowd once again, then the team will see and hear what Blackpool supporters are all about. When the family experience of going to watch the Pool again on a Saturday afternoon is restored in an overhauled stadium with fanzones, better facilities for all, safe-standing for those who prefer it, and community involvement at all levels, then we might feel we have got our club back. Roll on the day! It will be refreshing to write about positive developments for a change.