Every football fan knows that supporting a club is not a particularly rational thing to do, that emotions and passion have got a great deal to do with the connection between supporter and club, the commitment that one feels for the other – fanatic is at the root of the word fan, after all.
It is natural for fans’ passions to run high when the team is doing particularly well or particularly badly. Euphoria and despond are quite common emotions on the terraces and around the town in response to fortunes on the field. Owen Oyston professes to understand that. His son probably does not.
Such a simple model for supporting your football club ceased to be applicable at Blackpool FC in the wake of our season in the Premier League. The paradigm changed. What happens on the field is still important (even in division four), but for the last three years what has been happening off the field at the football club has dominated people’s thinking and reactions - and that has led to a decision by many supporters to show their passion and commitment to the club they love by actively staying away.
To an outsider, that might seem bizarre. To thousands of Seasiders it makes perfect and principled though rather painful sense. In this respect, Blackpool appears to be unique among football clubs at the moment. For so many fans to boycott Bloomfield Road for so long in protest against the actions of the owners is unprecedented. This season’s nearly empty stadium has been the defining protest of 2016 and has grabbed its share of headlines, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that thousands of supporters have been boycotting for two, three, four years already and will continue to do so until the Oystons go.
Owen appears not to understand the paradigm change. He seems steeped in his own mythomania and doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the Oystons’ manner of running of the club since reaching the Premier League is what has lost them whatever goodwill existed towards them from the fan base and from their Latvian co-owner as well. Karl probably understands exactly how things stand and is possibly much more comfortable with the level of financial demands being made on the company now that Blackpool is safely back in the lower leagues again.
The Oystons may have hoped and expected that large numbers of fans would come back once the team found its winning feet in this division. Patently that hasn’t happened. They shouldn’t underestimate the depth of antipathy towards their custodianship. Many supporters are convinced that club and community are suffering as a direct consequence of the owners’ handling of affairs and as fans they have no faith in Karl or Owen to act in the best interests of anyone but the Oystons – an unacceptable scenario in which Blackpool FC is merely a hostage to fortune.
Certainly very few fans can envisage a positive and progressive future for the Seasiders with the Oystons still at the helm, hence the insistence by Blackpool Supporters’ Trust that it is in the best long-term interests of Blackpool FC for there to be a change of ownership. Various attempts were made by the Trust in 2016 to represent the considered views of the membership to the owners but nothing positive has come of such initiatives and it doesn’t look as though Owen and/or Karl are interested in constructive attempts to remedy the situation, so the impasse rolls into the new year, when results in the civil courts may prove as influential as results on the football field. In one way and another, 2017 could be a pivotal year.
With both Owen Oyston and Valeri Belokon (in the latter’s recent message to supporters) confirming their passion for football and their love of Blackpool FC, it has to be hoped that, given they own practically 100% of Blackpool Football Club between them, they can settle on a way forward that does the right thing for the club, the supporters and the town: that completely restructures the ownership, replaces the Chairman, restores football as a priority, plans for advancement up the divisions with an appropriate level of investment to make it a reality and recognises the stake that supporters have in the club. Those are the circumstances under which Blackpool’s large and passionate fan base will come back through the turnstiles again.
In the meantime, for everyone who feels that their connection with Blackpool FC is on hold, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has this message. Don’t lose your passion for the club. Channel the emotion and keep faith in the collective power of supporters to help change the situation at Blackpool FC for the better. The Trust exists to safeguard a brighter future for Blackpool FC on behalf of all fans. However, there is also strength in numbers, so add your support in the most tangible way by signing up to the Trust if you haven’t already become a member. You can find out all about BST and its aims online at www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com. Make it a New Year resolution.
A Happy New Year to Seasiders everywhere.