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BST Gazette Column 09/09/2016

BST09/09/2016

The Case for an ethical boycott

The 2016/17 season for Blackpool FC, back in League 2, represents the lowest point in the fortunes of the club. Whilst it is true that Blackpool have been in the basement division before, this time is different.

Speak with many Blackpool fans and you hear comments such as these:
"Normal service will be resumed once the Oystons have disappeared from the scene and Blackpool FC is in the safe hands of owners who hopefully intend to take the club forward and have our very best interests at heart"
"We are fast becoming the laughing stock of Lancashire and Bloomfield Rd is in its death throes, having had all the life sucked out of it"
"Oyston Out! Don't you realise all of the harm you are doing to our club? We're dying - it's a grave your 'dedication' has dug"

All very familiar words to Blackpool fans today - yet these quotes are actually taken from a Blackpool Fanzine from February 1999! Seventeen years ago Blackpool fans were saying the same things as they are today; we were unhappy with the lack of investment, the lack of communication, the total disregard for the views of the fans.

The Oyston family have owned Blackpool FC since 1987 and seemingly they have learned absolutely nothing. Most of the improvements to the stadium we have seen have come about as a consequence of investments made by others , be it via grants or Valeri Belokon. Our promotion to the Premier League was as a direct result of Valeri Belokon's investment, Ian Holloway's inspiration and the sheer hard work and determination of a unique bunch of players. Holloway famously said that the only legacy we had to show for all the millions of pounds which poured into the club following promotion were some new sprinklers. It would be funny if it wasn't so utterly disgraceful.

Blackpool FC appears to be run for the benefit of the Oyston family only and in spite of stacks of evidence that a different approach would pay dividends for both the club and the owners in the long run, the Oyston train just continues to roll along, stuck on the same track. An investigation into the years of broken promises, (new training ground, anyone?) disrespect of fans, shambolic administration and poor performances on the pitch raises the question: why have Blackpool fans been so tolerant for as long as they have when the facts are there to show that the Oystons will never run the club differently and that progress is only likely to be achieved through a change of ownership?

When Owen Oyston attended the BST meeting at the Hilton in July, he claimed that Blackpool fans only became unhappy with this running of the club following relegation from the Premier League and that a few good results on the pitch would see them returning. The reality is very different, as the Fanzine from 1999 clearly shows; the fact that fans have been complaining about the Oyston ownership of BFC since the late 1990's speaks volumes. All attempts by various fan groups to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Oystons have come to nought; many now ask if it is reasonable to expect supporters to keep pressing for such dialogue when history shows us that it never makes any difference?

The decision that's been taken by so many lifelong fans to boycott their own football club is an immensely difficult one. Support for your club runs deep, often through generations within the same family so to feel that there is no alternative other than to turn your back on something you love is an incredibly tragic state of affairs . Owners of innumerable football clubs, not just Blackpool, take fan loyalty as a given, but ultimately there comes a point when enough really is enough.

For Blackpool fans, the relegation to League 2, set against a backdrop of boasts by Karl Oyston that Operation Conference was underway coupled with the plethora of legal actions commenced against fans who have spoken out against their running of the club has really proved the final straw.

The Oystons have repeatedly sought to create the impression that protesting against their regime is futile in an attempt to convince the many who are now boycotting that it is pointless to challenge their policies. The reality however is that no family, however wealthy or powerful they perceive themselves to be, is omnipotent. The current revenue streams flowing into Bloomfield Rd compared with what is needed makes their approach to the football club and its fans unsustainable long term. Collectively the voice of the fans cannot be ignored.
BST members have chosen to support the ethical boycott as a strategy for bringing about REAL change at our football club; not everyone will choose to adopt this stance, however every Blackpool fan needs to make their decision based on facts, not sentiment.

Football without fans is nothing; the heart and soul of Blackpool FC is ours, whatever the rights of property ownership may be and it is up to us to stand up for our club.

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