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BST Gazette Column 28/10/2016


November hits next week and with it the FA Cup first round proper. Blackpool’s was the last tie to be drawn and we have Kidderminster Harriers at home on Sunday November 6th.

The Harriers are an even older club than Blackpool but only reached the Football League for the first time in 2000 (becoming the only Worcestershire side ever to do so). Their hold on league football was a short one. After five seasons they slipped back into the Conference and today they play in the sixth-tier National League North along with AFC Fylde. They do have a reputation for causing upsets in the FA Cup!

Normally an away tie against EFL opposition would be a good source of revenue for a club like Kidderminster, with FA competition rules giving them up to 45% of the gate receipts. However, with so many Blackpool fans adopting the ethical boycott (for reasons that are well understood), the attendance at Bloomfield Road on 6th November will possibly be the lowest for decades.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is not proposing that fans should abandon the ethical boycott for this FA Cup game, but we are putting forward a different, creative solution that we hope will benefit both Kidderminster Harriers as a cash-strapped club and our own fans who are facing legal action from the owners.

We are suggesting that any fan boycotting the FA Cup match could make a donation via the BST website ‘donate’ button. If each supporter were to donate between £6 and £13 (£6 represents the percentage of the £13 ticket price that would normally go to Kidderminster), the Trust will gift the sum of all the £6 donations to Kidderminster Harriers to compensate them for the boycott and will forward any additional amounts to the independent Justice4Fans fund.

This proposal has the grateful support of Kidderminster Harriers (who are a supporter-owned club). It also provides an opportunity to quantify the reach of the ethical boycott: in simple terms, for each donation made, we have one person boycotting the club. You don’t even need to be a BST member to support this initiative – just log on to the website at then select ‘About The Trust’ and the ‘Donate’ option from the pull-down menu.

Also next week and just three days before that FA Cup game, another Oyston court case is scheduled to be heard. This one relates to an incident that occurred two years ago in October 2014, the night of a Championship game at home to Cardiff City. Oystons v Jeremy Smith, a lifelong Blackpool fan, is due to take place at the Civil and Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool on Thursday November 3rd. Mr Smith is being charged with defamation. His misdemeanour? On the day of the Cardiff game, Blackpool Gazette published an interview with Owen Oyston. Its front page had a large picture of the owner and a banner headline that read We Are Not Thieves. Jeremy Smith was handed the newspaper with the word Not already blacked out and he held it aloft at the game in silent protest.

Following on from last week’s call to the club to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Trust over the issue of litigation, BST’s chairman has written to Owen Oyston this week proposing a meeting without prejudice to discuss specifically the cases being brought by the owners as a result of the peaceful pitch protest in May 2015.

The Trust is clearly of the opinion that current and future litigation against supporters can only cause significant personal and financial distress to the fans concerned while also doing lasting damage to the good-standing of Blackpool Football Club – and that both eventualities are to be avoided if at all possible.

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