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BST Gazette Column 18/11/2016


Now that the FA has effectively scuppered the EFL’s ‘Whole Game Solution’ project (aimed at creating 5 divisions of 20 teams each), would it be too much to expect the EFL to use the time thus freed up to address some of the more pressing governance issues in the game? And would it be too much to expect the FA to give its support? There is much that needs attention.

In a week in which the FA has summoned the Chief Executive of Charlton Athletic to explain what is happening at that club, it is important for fans of all clubs in crisis to keep up the pressure on football’s governing bodies to take note of the level of dissatisfaction that exists at Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Charlton, Coventry and Orient.

The EFL and FA may not like the phrase ‘Clubs In Crisis’ but it is a reality they need to get to grips with and do something constructive about. Existing controls, including the self-assessed Owners and Directors Test (which replaced the Fit and Proper Persons Test), are wholly inadequate to ensure proper custodianship of our football clubs and the more money that pours into the game, the more important it is to get good governance in place and to ensure that the fans are properly recognised as key stakeholders in the game and get well represented in the process.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust members (and any other Blackpool fans are welcome to join in) will be holding a demonstration in conjunction with Leyton Orient fans ahead of and during the game at Brisbane Road on Saturday. Supporters of both teams will join together as fans united to send an unequivocal message to their clubs' owners: ‘WE WANT OUR CLUBS BACK’.

BST and LOFT (Leyton Orient Fans Trust) are calling on both sets of fans to send a clear message during the game to their clubs' respective owners and to football’s governing bodies that they support their teams, but not the current regimes.

It is reassuring to see the Seasiders moving closer to the play-off places than the relegation slots after a run of good results. This recent improvement has led to the inevitable discussion amongst fans as to how many people are likely to break the boycott and start paying to go into Bloomfield Road again, if the football on offer is getting better.

Whilst the decision to attend or not is a matter of personal choice, the suggestion that the majority have only been staying away because of poor results on the pitch is an insult to the many lifelong fans who have made the incredibly difficult decision to commit to Not A Penny More. Of course BST respects the democratic right of each fan to choose how to support their team but the Trust would also encourage those who have taken this stance on a point of principle to stand firm.

To suggest that a few wins for the team will make everything alright again is completely erroneous. Even if Blackpool FC were to be promoted, the events of the past few seasons have proved beyond doubt that success on the pitch means a massive pay day for the owners and precious little for the fans or the club. In the past, we hoped and believed that success would bring investment and progress but sadly we now know that under the current regime this is not the case.

A string of good results will not bring the fans flooding back, any more than an end to litigation by the owners would if/when that happened.

What is required is regime change at Blackpool FC and fans withholding their revenue, coupled with the very visual protest that is a near empty stadium, is helping to create another ‘perfect storm’ and sends the strongest of messages to the current owners that their time really is up.

These are pivotal moments for Blackpool FC and its future. There has to be resolution to the toxic situation, one which manages to get rid of the tumour without killing the patient. It is vital for the recovery process of the club that the fan-base emerges strong and united. To that end it is important that, no matter how slow or frustrating the process of bringing about change might seem, it has to be achieved by being principled and tenacious; by winning the arguments while respecting every fan’s right to support the team as they choose; by focussing on the real cause of the problem and avoiding divisive acts of infighting, intimidation and bullying.

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