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Supporters Direct Elections

BST30/06/2016

Supporters Direct (SD) is the largest network of democratic supporters’ organisations in the country and arguably the fans’ most powerful and influential voice at national level.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust spokesperson Andy Higgins is standing for election to the Board of Supporters Direct with the intention of seeking to increase the influence that supporters have on their football clubs and on the sport’s governing bodies. The full details of Andy’s campaign platform are detailed below and available on the SD website.

Only full member Trusts/Clubs can vote in the election and the closing date for votes to be received is Wednesday 13th July at 5pm. Ballot papers were e-mailed to Trusts yesterday so if anybody is a member of a Trust and is are unsure whether or not your Trust/Club is eligible to participate please send an email florence.huntley@supporters-direct.org.

Please help spread the word about Andy’s campaign on social media and if you know any individuals who are connected to any Trusts up and down the UK (from any sport) please make contact and request their Trust votes for Andy. There are three candidates standing for two available seats and the more people we have in these posts who are sympathetic to the injustices at our club the better.

Everyone associated with Blackpool FC knows of the extreme challenges supporters of the club have faced in the last few seasons. Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is determined to ensure that the way all clubs deal with their supporters from this point forward is changed profoundly – we aim to ensure that no other supporters have to make the choices we have been required to make at Blackpool and if Andy Higgins is successful in his application, he will be strong advocate and that ambition will be one step closer.

Andy Higgins – Candidate Statement – this and the two other statements are available on: www.supporters-direct.org/news-article/board-of-directors-candidates-statements

As an individual Andy is a highly motivated, hard-working and passionate campaigner for social justice within football. He is also a dedicated football supporter, a footballer, a coach and a manager with a deep understanding of the game and a belief in how it could be improved and protected.

Since becoming an elected committee member of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust Andy has been involved in organising various demonstrations, campaigns and protest marches (Judgement Day 1 and Judgement day 2 each attracted in excess of 3,000 marchers) to expose the issues and injustices at his local club which has seen many fans being sued by the owners for a variety of civil offences.

Andy has taken the lead in heading up the governance sub-committee of BST and has had a lot of dealings with parliamentarians and public bodies on various levels. Dealing with MPs and public officials is something he is very familiar with. Andy has been active in meeting and recruiting the support of all four local Blackpool MP’s, Blackpool Councillors, the Football League and prominent figures such as Andy Burnham. He is a passionate activist and campaigner for social justice standing as an independent candidate in the 2015 General Election on behalf of Blackpool Supporters Trust.
This experience is important when it comes to getting things done, as authorities often kick issues into the long grass and avoid the difficult questions.

Although his local club is an extreme case, Andy has been instrumental in trying to restore ownership to disenfranchised fans and believes this applies to a varying extent with all clubs. Well run clubs should also be encouraged to be accountable to their fans (even in good times) and should always retain a critical independent voice because in football things can change very quickly.

In terms of his footballing background Andy has been involved with amateur football on many levels. As a lifelong Blackpool supporter, Andy has been to over 125 English football league grounds and followed his national team at 6 World Cups and 6 European Championships. As a player he played up to semi-professional level on Saturdays in the North West Counties, West Lancashire and Lancashire Leagues. Andy coached in the USA in the mid 1980’s and has always been actively involved with local amateur football. He managed successful junior teams from under-6 to under-16 level with teams winning league and Lancashire Cup titles. He currently co-manages his youngest son’s senior team and still plays and manages a 5-a-side team at the tender age of 51.

One of Andy’s main campaign objectives for July’s election is to try and strengthen the governance regulations relating to club ownership. Club owners ideally should realise the privilege of managing such an important asset as a football club and display a ‘duty of care’ to both the club and community. Football has always been far more than a business and with increasing commercialisation the importance for protecting the sport and our clubs from mismanagement and unscrupulous exploitation purely for commercial ends also increases. The disgraceful revelations surrounding Hillsborough and the belatedly exposed activities of UEFA reveal that football governance needs changing and changing quick. There is so much that needs to be done within football and SD as a recognised body needs to be right at the forefront of supporter representation.

In terms of specific measures the current ODT needs strengthening and changing. This should be conducted independently rather than as a self-certification exercise by the club / director. Fan engagement should be ‘meaningful’ and not just a token, box-ticking exercise because the FL/FA decree it should take place. Ideally engagement should take place with independent, democratically elected and accountable SD-affiliated supporters groups.

Andy also supports the key recommendations of the EWG and the four key democratic tenets on which it is based. Just as ‘politics is too important to be left to the politicians’ so too ‘football is far too precious to be left to the football authorities’.

Unfortunately many key people within the sport neither share nor appreciate the needs and expectations of ordinary supporters. Whilst the advertising campaigns of major sponsors might pay lip service to the fans being the lifeblood of the game the major stakeholders are increasingly divorced from the fan-base.

The actions of owners at crisis clubs such as Blackpool, Charlton Athletic, Leeds United and Newcastle United highlights a massive gulf of understanding and it is a major issue which needs combatting. Supporters created our clubs and have sustained them for generations before the sport became flooded with money.

From his personal experience Andy is convinced that the majority of supporters are fair-minded people who love their clubs, appreciate the need for sound financial management but also want their clubs to be cared for and nurtured as a sustainable asset for their future generations.

As an SD board member Andy will bring his considerable energies and passion to the table. In addition to a deep understanding and passion for the game, Andy can also bring some other qualities to the position. He has numerous professional and academic qualifications (even a PhD in politics) and has spent many years in sales management and training so is familiar with negotiating at a senior level. He is also a musician and has run a DIY not-for-profit punk label for over 25 years, writes for various fanzines and underground publications and teaches the guitar to anyone who is interested.

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