Fans who have visited Portsmouth FC recently may have noticed a blue plaque on the wall. It simply states:
‘On this site once more stands a mighty football club.
We cannot change the past but we can shape the future.
Dedicated to all those fans who took a stand and refused to allow Portsmouth FC to die.’
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust was formed for just such a purpose - to ensure that Blackpool fans will be at the heart of our football club and that it will once again be a community asset, one which every supporter and the whole town of Blackpool can be proud of. There is much to be done to rebuild our famous old club.
BST is sometimes caught between a rock and a hard place. We operate wherever possible as a normal Supporters’ Trust, working on behalf of supporters, working with the local community, encouraging the manager and team. In different circumstances we would be forging links between the club and the fan base. The owners’ repeated refusal to work with us has rendered this impossible. We are something akin to the exiled European governments during the Second World War, forced to represent their citizens from afar but without any real power or authority within their own countries which had been occupied by an alien force.
In spite of a lack of recognition by the owners of Blackpool FC, the Supporters’ Trust has been instrumental in achieving a number of positives. In a very short time and having secured the status of Blackpool FC as an Asset of Community Value, BST established itself as the largest fan group and has quickly become a well-respected organisation, recognised not only by Blackpool fans and other supporters’ trusts but also the football authorities, politicians and the media. The Trust influenced both Labour and Conservative policy in the run-up to the formulation of the Expert Working Group report on Fan Representation. It was also BST that took the initiative in organising collective action from fan groups throughout the country to lobby MPs for the early day motion which was finally heard in Parliament last week and it was the BST Chairman whose statement was read out during the debate. We are very active in the area of football governance and will continue to lead from the front in this respect.
The hard work and dedication of our members has paid dividends. Our links with the wider world of football and our success at publicising the problems both at our club and in the game of football as a whole has meant that we have become a force for positive change. In spite of having no practical link to our own football club, we have been instrumental in focusing fan attention on the many problems at our club and the reasons behind those problems. BST is seen by many as a beacon of hope in the darkness which currently envelops our football club and has given fans something positive to unite behind.
Our links with various charities, including the Gary Parkinson Trust, The Boathouse Youth and Variety, are essential parts of the work of a Supporters’ Trust and the fund raising activities we have organised so far are testament to the generosity and compassion of our members and fans of Blackpool FC.
We look to a future where Blackpool FC is in the hands of new owners. For the majority of supporters, this is surely now the only way that our club can heal its wounds and divisions and move forward. BST has the stated aim to be the link between owners and the fan base and having a strong and credible Supporters’ Trust is essential to the future of Blackpool FC. Blackpool supporters have been through too much to accept anything other than proper fan involvement in the running of our club. Potential owners will be aware of all that has transpired over the last few seasons and it will be in their best interests to engage fully and co-operatively with supporters. Interested parties will need to be reassured that the fan base is still there waiting to return, and having a respected Supporters’ Trust already up and running will be a major factor in negotiations. BST is already planning for the next era and envisages that there will need to be at least one fan representative on the board of Blackpool FC, with voting rights and a real say in how the club is run. We would like to see an enthusiastic, effective and visible Supporter Liaison Officer (or maybe two) to help with the bridge building that will need to take place between club and fans. The role of SLO is fundamental to the success of any club/fan relationship and this is something that has been conspicuous by its absence under the current regime at Bloomfield Road.
There is deep concern amongst fans that we have already lost too many supporters, people who have disengaged from the whole toxic situation currently prevalent at Bloomfield Road. There is a danger of the club losing a generation of fans, youngsters who should be attending games with their families but who are deprived of this activity due to the ongoing boycott which so many supporters agree is necessary. BST is acutely aware that fans are sacrificing their ‘now’ so that this club can have a positive future. That sacrifice must not be in vain. We believe there are real grounds for hope, that change is definitely coming and it is up to every one of us to play our part. We are all Blackpool fans and need to look ahead to the time when we can all return to our beloved club and pull together to rebuild. This will not be easy but it will be worth it. We cannot change the past but we can shape the future.