The football governance roadshows, which were launched last week in Blackpool, have been focusing on the many issues relating to the way our game is controlled and governed. One of the very important matters focused on is the necessity for proper fan engagement with the club and independent representation for the supporters. It is interesting therefore that the Fans Progress Group, Blackpool FC’s hand selected fan group, have recently published the minutes from their last meeting with the club, which took place back in June and which includes an interview with Club Secretary Rod Dyer.
As the only group of individuals that the football club is currently prepared to deal with, it would have been helpful if the FPG had posed some further questions in response to the information given them by Karl Oyston and Mr Dyer. Regurgitating information from the club is not particularly helpful to the fan base if it has not been challenged and examined.
Many of the financial questions put to company secretary Rod Dyer, were also asked in court during the Belokon/Oyston court case, which took place after the FPG meeting with the club. However, the answers given in court (or “not recalled” in some instances!) were contested and thoroughly examined by the legal teams from both sides. The impression gained by those listening in the public gallery was that most of these answers did not stand up to such intense scrutiny. It will be very interesting to see what Judge Marcus Smith has made of this once his judgment has been handed down, which is expected to be some time in October.
The minutes of the June meeting also stated: The FPG confirmed that the BST has been issued an open invitation to meet with the FPG or attend supporter group meetings with the club. The last invitation sent 28th April and left as an open invitation, but no reply from the BST had been received to the last communication.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust referred the invitation from the FPG to our members last October and they voted that we should decline to participate. The FPG made certain observations about the result of the vote and about BST’s position. Reproduced here is part of the formal response BST sent to the FPG in March of this year. The committee concluded that no further communication to the FPG was necessary – the message was unequivocal.
“The BST committee decided it was not necessary to offer any guidance to our members. The issues were clear and the matters widely discussed. There is no support whatsoever within the committee for the FPG; but there is some support for the principle of the Trust being open to discussions with all groups and individuals. However, such is the concern about the existence of the FPG and with the choices that you have made, that principle has been subsumed and your group have effectively become personae non gratae.
“You argue that a minority of our members took part in this most recent vote. That is true, but fairly typical of the number of people that vote in such plebiscites. You may be disappointed to learn that a significant proportion of the minority that wanted us to talk to you were keen only that we should seek to persuade you to dissolve and thereby cease to exist as an organisation.
“You state that the NAPM campaign is more damaging to the football club than the Oystons and yet you provide no evidence at all that such is true. If you genuinely believe this statement then you are truly lost and are indeed doing just as much damage to the future of the football club, if not more, than any NAPM campaign. Our members have decided that there is no future for the club with the Oystons in charge. Their only way of affecting the club is to withdraw their custom. BST supports an ethical boycott which includes NAPM and that is a matter of individual choice. Many of our members attend games both home and away and we respect their right to do so. If you wish to encourage fans to return and abandon the NAPM campaign, devote yourselves to working with urgency towards the removal of the Oystons from our club.
The FPG also wrote: “As you know this season, despite relegation to League 2 the club took the decision to ‘have a go’ rather than budget to break even, and in fact is willing to pay player wages that are considerably higher than league 2 average wage”
“If only the Oystons had decided to 'have a go' when we were in the Premier League. The club still has some money left from the Premier League years (set aside for a 'rainy day' as Karl said as we sank ignominiously from the Championship). You'll forgive us therefore if we are not overcome with gratitude that our benefactors have finally chucked a sum that is probably less than the amount they were ordered to pay recently to Valeri Belokon.
“We can easily find a way to work together - dissolve your organisation and join BST.”
Fan groups are supposed to hold owners to account, not act as a governance shield and mouthpiece for the regime. BST believes that a representative fan group must be democratically elected, not selected. We are in the process of holding committee elections, in line with our democratic principles and the guidelines set out by Supporters Direct. If you are a BST member, please remember that you have until 30th September to cast your vote.