As previewed in last week’s BST column, the early day motion of no confidence in the Football Association was debated in the House of Commons on Thursday 9th February and was passed by MPs. The message to the FA was clear: demonstrate how you are going to reform or the government will intervene.
It is a widely-held view that the FA is not fit for purpose. As one of the UK's most opaque and non-diverse institutions, its dithering reluctance to create an accountable governance structure that is representative of and responsive to the needs of the supporters is obvious to anyone who cares to look. In tandem with the equally unresponsive EFL, it has resisted calls for substantive change for decades, but patience with the football authorities is running out on all sides and substantial reform must be on the cards.
It is understood that Tracy Crouch, Minister for Sport, has set a deadline of end of April for the FA to make its comprehensive response. Whilst the prospect of state intervention might not sound particularly attractive, its mere threat represents a landmark decision in the campaign to bring about long overdue changes in football governance.
Last week's early day motion at Westminster was the culmination of the lobbying of many members of parliament by supporters’ groups. Those MPs whose constituencies contain ‘crisis’ clubs are to be commended for speaking out. Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden based his three minute speech around information he has received from meetings with BST representatives and it was heartening to hear our club's name mentioned by various MPs in recognition of all the Blackpool fans who have been pushing for regime change at our famous club for years. BST will continue to give a lead in what is now seen as a national fan initiative to press for changes in football governance and fairer representation for fans in the running of our clubs.
As well as continuing to lobby our local and national representatives, the Trust is also playing a key role in the North-West Football Supporters Federation, building momentum amongst ‘crisis’ clubs and pushing for all 92 league clubs and fans’ groups to 'March on Wembley' on FA Cup Final Day in May.
Pompey were able to attract 15,000 supporters to Fratton Park for Tuesday night’s fixture against Blackpool. By contrast, there were estimated to be less than 1,000 inside Bloomfield Road for the previous Tuesday night’s game. That highlights the real difference between on the one hand a club that has sunk to the depths but has restructured with a significant percentage of fan ownership, direction and involvement and on the other a club that is still floundering with owners who have alienated the majority of the fan base in the way they have managed Blackpool FC and squandered its potential.
The future of the FA is uncertain but one thing all Blackpool fans can be sure of is that Blackpool Supporters’ Trust will not stop campaigning until we achieve the changes both in the game and at Blackpool FC that the majority deserves and that will bring the fans back.
The Trust is there for all Blackpool supporters, whether they purchase a season ticket or not. It is dedicated to a vision for our club that brings back the sense of connection between supporters and the team they support, that restores the simple match day pleasure of watching the ‘Pool play and that re-energises the community based on footballing success – but that bright future can only be based on three equally important elements: sound and inclusive principles of governance, respect for the fans as the soul of the club and strategic investment to improve the infrastructure and the squad.
The Trust has linked up with Fylde Coast Radio and members of the committee will be taking part in the station’s Sports Preview show next Friday, 24th February from 5pm. If anyone would like to ask questions of the Trust on any issue connected with football, what the Trust stands for, what the future might hold, how the vision can be achieved, you can email your questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org as of now.
You are also very welcome to attend BST’s open meeting tomorrow, Saturday 18th February at the newly re-opened Bar 1 on Bloomfield Road from 1pm. Fans make the Trust just as fans make the club. The one is there for the other. Get involved and help make a positive difference.