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BST Gazette Column 27/01/2017


Under normal circumstances, Blackpool fans would be crowding into Ewood Park on Saturday for the 4th round FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers. We haven’t played our Lancashire neighbours in this competition since 1960, when Kaye’s goal earned the Seasiders a 1-1 draw (again in the 4th round at Ewood Park) in front of a crowd of over 50,000. We lost the replay 3-0 at Bloomfield Road.

However, these are far normal circumstances in a couple of key respects.

In the first instance, as is well known, thousands of Blackpool fans are engaged in an ethical boycott this season. While many have adopted a policy of attending away games only and paying on the gate to do so, the rules of the FA Cup stipulate that, unlike league games, 40% of the gate receipts from cup matches go to the visiting club. For that reason, many Blackpool fans have also decided to boycott this away game as a matter of principle.

In the second, it happens that our hosts, Blackburn Rovers, are also a club in crisis – in the relegation zone from the Championship and with owners, the Rao family of Venkys, who are the target of ongoing criticism from Rovers’ supporters for their poor custodianship of that club.

Much as we hope Gary Bowyer can inspire this Blackpool squad to victory over his old club on Saturday, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has liaised with our opposite numbers in Rovers Supporters’ Trust and Blackburn Rovers Action Group to organise a show of off-field unity, fans united in a peaceful demonstration against the owners of both clubs and in favour of change at our clubs and in football governance in this country.

The march, which everyone is invited to join regardless of whether they are going into the game or not, will leave the Brown Cow Pub on Livesey Branch Road, Blackburn BB2 4LU and head down to Ewood Park for a peaceful protest outside the stadium. We hope that many Blackburn and Blackpool fans will join the march and demonstration, with appropriate banners, flags, placards and scarves; that it will be both colourful and noisy; and that it will broadcast a message to our owners, the football authorities and the general public that all is far from well at our clubs, that football without fans is nothing and that we have a legitimate expectation that the situation has to be changed for the better.

Many of us will remain outside Ewood Park for the duration of the game to maximise the impact of the protest. All fans are urged to keep the event legal and to show tolerance and respect for each other, whether they are boycotting the game or not.

With so much widespread discontent at the poor custodianship of Blackpool FC in recent years, it would be easy to form the impression that Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is just a protest group. This is far from the case. In the interest of working with the local community, the committee of the Trust has met with the Blue Room Community Pub group on a few occasions and we are giving the project to ‘Save The Stanley’ our tacit support.

The Stanley Arms, which many will know as ‘The Blue Room’, should need no introduction as it is certainly a landmark pub in the town centre. Having built a reputation as a local live music venue and enjoyed considerable success over the years, the pub has also featured in the rich history of Blackpool FC, for the club itself was founded in the Stanley Arms Hotel (as it was then) back in July 1887.

Unfortunately, the Stanley has recently suffered a fate common to many national pubs and become part of a downward spiral involving the ever increasing burden of rental and stock prices and demotivated landlords. The Blue Room was forced to close its doors in 2015 and is currently on the market, with an auction anticipated in early February.

Fearing the worst, that this iconic building could be turned into a local convenience store or even flattened for development, a group of locals sought to register the building as an ACV (Asset of Community Value) in the same way that the Trust registered Bloomfield Road stadium. This allowed the group to invoke a six month stay of execution while they sought funding options to buy the pub and hopefully develop it as a community hub.

The Blue Room Community Pub group has registered itself as a Community Benefit Society and has put together a fantastic business plan, which provides potential investors with an insurance-backed investment plan and potential 3% return on investment and they are seeking pledges from local individuals and businesses to enable them to put forward a bid in February 2017.

The project needs to raise funding around the of £200,000 mark. However, with the pledges already received, the financial commitment from the group itself and potential grants available, they are already part way to achieving this goal. With further support they aim to inject new life into the pub and ensure that The Stanley remains a part of the Blackpool landscape for many years to come.

Any individual or group can become a shareholder. The minimum pledge for a share is £100 (and there is no upper limit) but the co-operative principle of one share one vote prevails. The BRCP group are looking to get as many pledges in as possible by a deadline of 6th February.

If you wish to lend your support to this fantastic local project, you are encouraged to act quickly to get involved and make a pledge. For further information on how you can support the venture to ‘Save the Stanley’ visit, Email or see twitter

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