Since its formation by ordinary fans of the club, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has been at the forefront of attempts to encourage the Oystons to respect the traditions of the club whilst embracing a more inclusive and co-operative approach to fan involvement.
The owners’ persistent misuse of, and disregard for, the relationship that the fans have with the club has been unique in the history of English football. Their decision to completely ignore not just the Trust's reasonable requests, but the Trust itself and the thousands of supporters it represents, has led to the introduction of an ethical boycott.
The purpose of this boycott is twofold:
1) To give supporters an opportunity to express their discontent with the regime and their unhappiness with the state of the football club in the most tangible way.
2) To impress on the owners that supporters make a vital financial contribution to the club and that we are genuine stakeholders in the business of Blackpool FC.
It is important to note that the ethical boycott was only adopted by our members after two years of the Trust trying to engage positively with the owners. Attempts to negotiate, demonstrations, direct public and private appeals were all either ignored or dismissed. The Oystons clearly felt insulated from the supporters. We were considered a small but vocal minority, lost in a miasma of fanciful and extreme thinking so often apportioned by the ignorant to football fans. The Trust and all supporters who want a better future for our football club are none of these things.
It is evident – and will continue to be - that more than ten thousand fans have abandoned the Oystons in recent years. Just to be clear, they have not abandoned the football club, they have abandoned its owners. Temporarily removing our active support for our football club is the greatest and most meaningful sacrifice any supporter can make. If any other better choice were available, you can be sure it would have been adopted. Furthermore, not everyone can make that sacrifice; but to assume that all of the people still attending games at Bloomfield Road support the actions of the Oystons would be a mistake, albeit an understandable one. We expect that the owners will be too canny to make the same misjudgement.
The ethical boycott will continue as long as the Oystons refuse to make real change at the club. By real change, we include as a minimum:
1) An end to all litigation against supporters
2) The establishment of a consultative fans body representative and open to all supporters
3) The removal of Karl Oyston from any involvement with the football club.
It is essential that we clarify this next point, as it continues to be a matter of some discussion. The Trust firmly believes that the economic impact of the ethical boycott is the most effective means of conveying the strength of feeling that supporters have to the club's owners. That said, the ethical boycott is a matter of personal choice and is not something to be imposed on, or demanded of, anyone. Supporters must be able to make their own minds up about not buying season tickets or match-day tickets, boycotting the club ticket office, the club shop, refusing to buy from the concessions in the ground, deciding whether or not to enter Bloomfield Road at all. Individuals pick and choose as their conscience dictates and that right has to be respected. The Oystons pride themselves on being astute businessmen, so it may be safe to assume that the financial failure of their previously successful business will perhaps finally indicate to them that they have to take real action.
The supporters of Blackpool FC may not own the businesses that comprise that entity but we are its heart and soul. Without us there would be no business to run. We are the guardians of the club and no matter how long the Oystons choose to put their own pride and selfishness before the well-being of club, supporters and community, we must never choose the path of civil war. The frustration and disappointment that the last several years have brought to all Blackpool fans has been profound and hard to bear, but we must not turn on each other. As fans, we must remain united in the quest for that better future.
The Trust encourages all supporters to respect one another and the choices that we each make. The changes that require to be made to improve the situation can, at this time, only be made by the Oystons. They appreciate that themselves and some of their worst excesses are a result of that knowledge. There are already attempts to divide us and to undermine the unity that gives supporters such strength. Only by standing together can we win back our club and bring about the changes necessary to restore the health of Blackpool FC. Not everyone will adopt Not A Penny More (NAPM) or the ethical boycott, but we can all demand change from the owners, whether from within Bloomfield Road or when we are stood outside the ground. We all want the same thing, a healthy, vibrant club whose owners put football first. We must work together to achieve it.