This week’s column can only be about one thing, Saturday’s community march and demonstration. Our appeal to everyone who cares about Blackpool Football Club and its importance to the town is simple: get out on the street, come and be counted and make your feelings heard by all lawful means. We need a massive show of love for our football club and we need to send an unmistakeable message to the Oystons that the club belongs to its fans.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust believes that fans that are the heart and soul of any football club. Active numbers may grow or diminish according to the success of the team, but once a supporter has forged a true connection with a club, that bond is hard to break.
That being the case, BST is certain that the fans are the only group who can truly be expected to act as guardians of the football club, having the best interest and the success of the club as their primary consideration. Any successful club needs to combine achievement on the pitch with long term viability as a business. However, without a profound connection to its supporters, upon which professional football in particular depends, a club becomes simply like any other business, deserving of no more interest and achieving no more community benefit than any other trading company. Anyone watching television advertising will see just how many businesses try desperately and at enormous financial cost to develop the deep loyalty for their brands that football clubs achieve with minimal effort.
At Blackpool FC, our loyalty has truly been tested. The love and sense of belonging that the majority of supporters feel has been stretched to breaking point. For many, it is as if the owners of the club have taken advantage of that loyalty and acted with complete disdain for the important emotional bond fans have with the club; money is not at the root of our relationship - feelings are.
This presents many dangers in situations like the current one at Blackpool. Feelings have been running high for several years. Given the absence of any notable changes in the way the owners run the club, conduct themselves publicly or deal with supporters, it becomes increasingly likely that those feelings will manifest themselves in ways that are not appropriate. This must not be allowed to happen. However inappropriate or provocative the Oystons may appear to be during the course of their stewardship of the club, they and their families should be free from harassment, intimidation or prejudicial treatment of any kind. BST is implacably opposed to the Oystons’ methods. Despite this, we supporters must retain the moral high ground and conduct ourselves both lawfully and as the very best of what it is to be Blackpool fans. If we fail to do so, then any claim that we have to be the guardians of the club and its traditions will be hollow.
It also follows that every supporter of the club, no matter the choices they make in supporting it, must be free from blame, criticism or attack by fellow fans. We are a club at breaking point, severely damaged by the mis-management and repercussions of the last few years. It will need all supporters pulling together to restore it to anything like full health. We cannot afford in-fighting. This conflict is sometimes incorrectly described as a civil war. It is not that at all. At Blackpool, supporter does not fight supporter, and we must avoid that at all costs; for when we turn upon each other there will be nothing left worth saving. What we are actually engaged in is a form of revolution, with the supporters attempting to effect regime change.
Saturday’s demonstration will attempt to impress on the Oystons and the rest of the football community just how resolute Blackpool fans are about ensuring that their club flourishes in the future; that no matter how much the owners are committed to running the business in their unique style, the supporters’ passion remains undiminished and we are undaunted by the odds arrayed against us. ‘We are Blackpool FC’ when spoken by fans is not an aspiration - it is a statement of fact.
The Trust urges all supporters to stake their claim in Blackpool FC this Saturday. Join us at 10:30 am on Church Street, or outside the Town Hall at 11:00 or the Comedy Carpet at 11:15 and march with us to Bloomfield Road. Help us determine a positive future for our club. Show those that own the club and run the game that money does not speak loudest - that football clubs will always belong to their communities. Fans united, we are Blackpool FC.