Here we are at the sharp end of another league campaign and most long-time Seasiders fans will be feeling a mixture of contrasting emotions over the coming weeks.
For the first time in four years and after two successive drops, Blackpool FC is not embroiled in a relegation battle. That’s a small relief in itself, for demotion out of the Football League would surely have been a disaster - even though there are those who believe it might have hastened the departure of the current owners. Getting out of the National League and back into the EFL is a mighty challenge. Just ask Gary Brabin, Micky Mellon or Andy Morrell, all ex-’Pool players who have tried their hand at managing Conference sides. The unthinkable has been avoided – for this season at least.
For the first time in six years there is even a chance that Blackpool might make the play-offs. The club’s form isn’t obviously that of promotion chasers, as consecutive defeats against Luton and Grimsby have shown, but there is still a possibility that the Seasiders could be in the mix by the 6th May. While some fans might relish the prospect, many appear to be completely indifferent given the current regime and then there are those who actively don’t want the club to achieve the play-offs or to gain promotion. Such an attitude by lifelong supporters towards the team might seem bizarre and heretical but that is the predicament that many find themselves in while the Oystons are in charge.
The stark fact is that when the club has been successful in the last decade it has been the owners who have benefitted, not Blackpool FC. There is no guarantee that if the club is successful again the owners won’t simply divert monies earned by the team on the pitch into other non-football-related interests, just as they have done before.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust sees nothing wrong in owners making a reasonable profit from their investment in a football club as long as they use the majority of revenue to improve the standing and prospects of the team. That simply has not been the case with the current owners and that fact lies at the root of why thousands of passionate Blackpool fans won’t come back to Bloomfield Road unless there is a change of ownership. Any success on the field is almost an irrelevance at present.
In the circumstances, and given all of the above, it is probably worth restating quite clearly the Trust’s position regarding attending games or not. The members of BST have endorsed the ethical boycott and the Trust would like fans to comply with it as far as they are able, to demonstrate to the owners that we do not want them at our football club. The near-empty stadium is the most significant protest of the season. However, there is a world of difference between suggestion and coercion. Fans (including members of BST) who choose to attend games to support the team are exercising their loyalty to the club and the team, and it is their right to do so. Admittedly it makes apparent opposition to the owners less unified, but everyone has freedom of choice in the matter. If they cannot be persuaded by rational appeals to join the boycott then that should be an end to the matter. They should certainly not be abused or intimidated if they have made the decision to still go into Bloomfield Road. (However, it might help defuse the situation if they could somehow indicate that they are there to support the team and not the Oystons!) By the same token, those people who choose to engage in the ethical boycott of Bloomfield Road should not be accused of letting the team and the club down. They are acting on principle for the long-term good of Blackpool FC.
That long-term good can only come from a change of ownership. It appears to be the only positive and constructive solution to the problems at the club. There are parties interested in buying Blackpool FC – but it would have to be outright and not as a franchise. Quite understandably, those parties are waiting on the outcome of the pending Belokon court case in the summer.
The fact that regime change hasn’t been accomplished yet doesn’t mean that it will never happen, as some doubters appear to think. What is required right now is a bit of patience, a lot of discipline not to turn fan against fan, and a massive commitment to a show of solidarity on May 6th, Judgement Day 3, the Fans United Day Of Action. 2,000 supporters turned out for the original Judgement Day in 2015. 4,000 mobilised in protest against the owners on Judgement Day 2 last April. The call for JD3 on May 6th is for all football fans and everybody who cares about the future of Blackpool FC as a community enterprise and an asset to the town to come together and get involved in the day of action, to join the demonstration march and rally. It promises to be the biggest protest yet against the owners of our football club. Change must come.