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BST Gazette Column 12/05/2017

BST12/05/2017

Blackpool Supporters Trust would like to thank everyone who turned out to support the Fans United/Judgement Day 3 in such numbers on Saturday. There was a real buzz in the air and an atmosphere of anticipation and camaraderie that has been sadly missing on most Saturdays for the last several years.

It was a timely reminder that fans are the lifeblood of the game, that boycotting Blackpool supporters are still passionate about Blackpool FC and that the protest movement is not a “busted flush” as the Oyston propaganda machine has been claiming. It should also be remembered that the ethical boycott has been the defining protest of the season and Judgement Day 3 was just its book-end. The fact that there were three times as many Seasiders fans outside the stadium as inside tells its own story.

Of course it was not just about Blackpool. The Seasiders were joined by a large contingent of Leyton Orient fans and by supporters from Aston Villa, Blackburn, Brighton, Coventry, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston and Portsmouth (apologies if anyone has been omitted) in a noisy and good-humoured parade from the Pleasure Beach to Bloomfield Road. It was very heartening that fans from so many other clubs marched in solidarity with the Blackpool and Orient supporters and it was great to have the endorsement of the Football Supporters Federation for the event.

Marching with fellow fans from Leyton Orient was an act of solidarity and an honour. What has happened to their club is arguably worse than has happened to Blackpool FC and our commiserations go to Orient fans at losing their league status after 120 years, with the threat of administration still on the horizon. One of their supporters remarked after Saturday’s event: ‘Thank you for such a great end to the season! It was wonderful to join your march, and it made what could have been a very upsetting day for us into one when we really felt the support of the football family!’

Kevin Miles from the Football Supporters’ Federation reminded everyone at the rally outside Bloomfield Road of the importance of a passionate fan base and he had this message for discredited owners: ‘The one constant that remains in the football club is the fans. Owners come, but owners also go! They should take the subtle hint that they’ve been given here and get out of our game.’

The Trust contends that owners of football clubs ought to be bound by a duty to do the best they can for club and fans alike. Football clubs are not like other businesses. They are social enterprises and owning one comes with a certain obligation. The Oystons and Becchettis of this world have failed in their duty. We don’t want them in our clubs anymore.

Karl Oyston could certainly do worse than follow the example of the Port Vale’s Norman Smurthwaite. Vale’s four year run in League One has ended in relegation this season and Smurthwaite, chairman at Vale Park since 2013, has resigned his position saying: ‘I have seriously damaged our club, resulting in its relegation, which was never my intention.”

Blackpool Supporters Trust will keep up the campaign for the Oystons to agree to sell Blackpool FC. It will keep up the campaign to change governance in football until the authorities overhaul the rules of ownership and fan representation. As fans united, supporters can and will change the game – then as fans we can all get back to the simple pleasure of watching our teams play football again and the Supporters Trust will continue to ensure that the club is run ethically and for the community.

Against the passionate back-drop of JD3, Saturday’s Blackpool v Orient game may have been almost a sideshow in the circumstances, but congratulations go to Gary Bowyer and his players for managing a top seven finish. Most fans, whether boycotting or not, would wish the team success in the upcoming play-offs.

Huge congratulations go also to the Youth Team who have completed a rare double this season in winning the North-West Alliance League and the Lancashire FA Youth Cup, a most impressive achievement for any football team. It is an indictment of Blackpool FC’s lack of ambition that youth coach Ciaran Donnelly has opted to leave after 13 years to take up a position at Fleetwood Town. Surely any chairman with a half-way decent plan for his club’s future would have looked for a way to retain such an asset.

Blackpool Ladies’ teams have also enjoyed success this season, the under 10s, under 13s, under 14s and under 16s winning two County Cups and two League Cups between them, a fantastic effort by players and coaches alike.

Blackpool Supporters Trust will not be hosting an end-of-season event this year but would encourage fans to support the Former Players Association dinner being held on Thursday 25th May. It is the 25th anniversary of the 4th Division Play-Off Final victory over Scunthorpe United and many players from the Billy Ayre era and later have been invited. It is being held at Viva in Blackpool, will consist of a 3 course meal plus entertainment and dress code is smart casual. Tickets are £25 each. See the BST website or FB page for more information or email chairman@blackpoolsupporterstrust.com

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