Speculation among fans over the summer has questioned whether Blackpool FC is currently experiencing a false dawn. After a promotion in May that took the owners by surprise (don’t they all?) Gary Bowyer has achieved what Steve McMahon last did 16 years ago in bringing Blackpool out of the bottom division at the first time of asking. That play-off final victory over Leyton Orient in 2001 was, if you like, the beginning of the rise (admitting the hiccup of the Hendry years) that took us all the way to the Premier League. Of course there was the small matter of the boost given by Valeri Belokon’s arrival and investment along the way, and Owen Oyston by his own admission, says Blackpool FC would never have achieved what it did without that investment from Belokon.
Gary Bowyer has been quietly rebuilding his squad for the new League One campaign that kicks off tomorrow. Quite how the team will fare in a tough division remains to be seen. As devoted supporters, we hope for the best on the field even though many thousands of us will continue the ethical boycott with even greater conviction given some of the revelations about the Oystons’ management of the club that emerged in the High Court last month.
That second Belokon vs Oystons court case was the other significant action of the close season, running for 5 weeks in London. Each day was well attended by a variety of Blackpool fans and other interested parties and daily summaries of proceedings were posted to social media by an army of volunteers, under the banner of Justice4Fans. For anyone who would like to know more of the details of this case, you are directed to www.fansonline.net/blackpool where there is a dedicated court thread containing summaries in layman’s terms from every court session. They make for fascinating reading and BST would like to thank every person who gave of their valuable time, paid their own expenses and utilised their own expertise to make this information available to the wider public.
Although judgement has not been handed down yet – that is expected in a couple of months’ time - what is abundantly clear from the information which came out in court is that the fears and concerns of Blackpool fans about the way the Oystons have run the club for so many years are well founded. Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has been highlighting these concerns ever since we were formed back in 2014. Whatever the implications of the judgement when it arrives, there has to be a satisfactory resolution to the problem of our owners if this new season is to be anything more than that false dawn. The key question in the minds of the majority of Blackpool fans is: how long will it be before we are able to return in good conscience to Bloomfield Road?
Meanwhile, Blackpool travel to Bradford tomorrow for the first true test of the new-look line up. The pre-season appears to have been a decent one for a change, but it remains to be seen how the squad will acquit itself at this higher level of competition; better than in 2015-16, it is to be hoped. With six other north-west teams on the fixture list (including Blackburn, Bury, Fleetwood and Wigan) there are plenty of opportunities for fans to get behind the team at away games.
BST will begin this season as we ended the last one – at the forefront of the fight for positive change, maintaining the ethical boycott and representing all Blackpool fans whether they are attendees or not. Committee members will be on hand outside the stadium before every home game and will be at most away games, to interact with anyone who wishes to speak with us, sign up to join the Supporters’ Trust or just wants to pass the time of day! It is important to stress that our being there week-in-week-out is not a protest, but simply a ‘moral presence’ outside the ground, making ourselves available to all fans and ensuring that the owners know we are not going away and we will never give up on our club.