Few who were watching last Thursday night’s play-off semi-final in their local pub can have failed to get caught up in the drama of a late Blackpool comeback. The excitement of our team doing well is infectious for sure and Gary Bowyer and the squad of 2016/17 have defied the odds and most people's expectations by reaching the League 2 play-off final at Wembley. At the start of a season which saw the majority of fans voting with their feet and choosing to boycott Bloomfield Road, few would have predicted such an achievement or the pull it would make on supporters’ heartstrings.
The manger and players are to be thanked and congratulated for their efforts, achieved against the most turbulent off-pitch backdrop that anyone could imagine. Such a stoic performance from the team is very fitting given the fortitude with which the majority of Blackpool fans have had to face the last few seasons.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust would like to take this opportunity to wish Gary Bowyer and the Blackpool squad success at Wembley on Sunday. The Seasiders’ track-record against Exeter is a good one, but whatever happens in the play-off final we are proud of our team and proud to be Blackpool supporters.
Of course, that off-pitch backdrop has meant another tough decision for so many fans. Thousands have been maintaining an unprecedented season-long boycott and they are not going to waver from that position even though the team has reached the final. Yes it is an important game and promotion back to League One would be good for the club but there is a bigger picture and a bigger agenda as far as most fans are concerned.
This is about much more than a day out at Wembley, about much more than Blackpool winning promotion. It is about keeping up the pressure for a change of ownership at the club, a principled stand that can’t be conveniently parked just for one game. Almost certainly the owners are clinging to the belief that success on the field will bring the supporters flooding back. Almost certainly Sunday will prove them wrong.
The Seasiders have been to three play-off finals at the new Wembley stadium in the last ten years. On each occasion they’ve taken between 30,000 and 40,000 supporters to the game. It will be a surprise if there are 5,000 Blackpool fans making the trip south for Sunday’s game. It’s a graphic measure of the extent of supporter dissatisfaction with the Oyston regime and the way they have squandered a legacy. It’s another damning judgement in May. That so many Blackpool fans are willing to forgo the pleasure of seeing their team play at Wembley is testament to the strength of feeling behind the ethical boycott and we sincerely hope that the owners of our club will finally take note. No football fan should ever have to face such a dilemma.
Given the horrific events in Manchester earlier this week, it is to be hoped that fans making the trip to Wembley have a safe and enjoyable day in the capital.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust had great hopes that the Big Screen event would give supporters who have chosen not to go to Wembley the chance to get as close as possible to the atmosphere of being at the play-off final while still observing the boycott. We looked to give fans the opportunity to watch the match and support the team along with friends, family and other supporters in a Fanzone environment in Blackpool. It is with sincere regret that we have had to abandon our efforts to make this event happen. Many people have worked very hard to make it possible and we are deeply upset that Blackpool Cricket Club, having given agreement that they would host this event, had to pull out at the eleventh hour due to licensing issues. At such short notice, it was impossible to reschedule the Big Screen event at another venue as there was insufficient time to organise a licence elsewhere. We can only apologise to everyone who was looking forward to spending Sunday afternoon watching the game at the Fanzone. We hope that many of you will choose to give your local hostelries your custom instead, just as you did on the night of the semi-final second leg.
While Sunday is the last game of the season for Blackpool fans, June sees the beginning of a different kind of match at the High Court in London. The long awaited second court case between club President Valeri Belokon and the Oystons is due to begin on 5th June and has been scheduled to run for a five week period up to 7th July. It is clearly something which will be of great interest to fans of Blackpool Football Club. This trial could be a game-changer as, whatever its outcome, the future of our club potentially hangs in the balance. It is not realistic to expect any significant forward steps until the outcome of the dispute is known, so the Trust will monitor the case closely, in the hope that a better future lies ahead for our once proud club and its fans, a set of circumstances that will enable every Blackpool fan to return from exile to active support of the team we love.
Enjoy the game on Sunday, wherever you may be watching it. Come on you ‘Pool.