On this date, August 25th, way back in 1923, Blackpool played at home to tomorrow’s visitors Oldham Athletic and drew 2-2 in front of 14,000 supporters. It was the first match of the season (which began later in those pre-League and European cup days) but what really marked it out in Blackpool’s history was this: the team played in new colours – orange jerseys – for the first time.
Albert Hargreaves, who was both a director of Blackpool FC and a Football League referee, had recently officiated at an international match in Amsterdam between the Netherlands and Belgium. He was so impressed by the look of the ‘Oranjes’ that he persuaded Blackpool to adopt those colours from the 1923/4 season onwards and we have retained them ever since, with the exception of a five-year period just before World War 2 (when we played in dark and light blue stripes).
The exact shade has varied over the years; it was quite a deep satsuma hue in the 1920s but by the early 1950s it had settled into the classic tangerine colour that has become embraced by the whole town and not just the football club as a marque of identity. Somehow it represents sun, sand and a zest for life.
The Seasiders are still the only English league club to play regularly in these colours, although Oldham themselves in the 1960s and Luton Town more recently (under the sponsorship of a well-known budget airline) have occasionally adopted orange for their first team kit.
Our tangerine strip is something which makes Blackpool FC unique on the fields of the Football League, instantly recognisable amidst all the reds, blues, blacks and whites. The year we lit up the Premier League, tangerine became many other supporters’ second favourite colour, though we might have preferred something other than Wonga emblazoned across the shirts.
There’s nothing quite so vibrant as the sight of tangerine shirts on a sunny Saturday afternoon racing across a pitch of perfect green to sweep the ball into the opposition goal, but it’s a thrill thousands of us have been foregoing for three, four, five season now.
Nick Hornby, in his book Fever Pitch (about his lifelong obsession with Arsenal) claimed: “In the end I learned that it simply doesn’t matter to me how bad things get, that results have nothing to do with anything… For us the consumption is all; the quality of the product is immaterial.” It is an attitude that most owners of football clubs have come to rely on – that no matter how incompetently or cynically those in control mismanage affairs, the fans will keep on stumping up at the turnstiles, concessions and club shops.
Blackpool fans, significantly, have bucked that trend. There certainly won’t be 14,000 inside Bloomfield Road tomorrow. That won’t happen again until regime change has been accomplished at Blackpool FC. We hope that time is not too far away. We love our club with a passion but are principled in the stand we are taking against poor custodianship. As a Supporters’ Trust we are committed to winning our club back for the fans and are determined that in future – as was recognised in the assessment of Huddersfield Town in last week’s column – any new powers-to-be will have the long-term interests of the club and its supporters in mind as well as Blackpool FCs potential for a positive role in the larger community.
It is a fight that we are winning and there are three significant events on the horizon in the next few weeks which will contribute to the momentum for change.
One is a quantum step up in the national campaign for reform in football governance. As fans, we are determined to make our voices heard and will campaign collectively for significant changes to the regulatory powers controlling our national game. More on this in next week’s column.
Another is the formal Supporters’ Manifesto currently in preparation which will be shared with all Trust members for approval prior to BST’s Annual General Meeting in early October. When change finally arrives, as it surely must, the task facing the new board will be a monumental one. As supporters, of course we want to be proud of Blackpool FC again. We should recognise that it could take time to get everything back on track, to bring the fans back together, to set a new direction - but if there is an obvious blueprint and if supporters are part of the process of change, there will be a huge amount of goodwill and there is every reason why the club can progress again – only this time on a more secure foundation.
The third and a major determining factor will be the judgement to be handed down in the Belokon vs Oystons court case, probably sometime in October.
In the meantime, there are practical steps that everyone who has tangerine in their DNA can take. If you are not a member of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, join this democratic fans’ organisation and stake a claim in the future direction of your football club – details of our aims and how to join are on the website at www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.com. If you are still attending home games (as is your prerogative of course) then consider showing your dissatisfaction with the current owners by wearing an Oyston Out scarf – these will be on sale outside Bloomfield Road on match days.
Remember, fans make the football club. We are Blackpool FC.