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BST Gazette Column 13/10/2017


In all the debates about bad owners, a divided fan base and ‘this is no way to run a football club’, it is easy to lose sight of the real human impact of the toxic mess that the dog-in-the-manger owners of Blackpool FC have precipitated. It is all about the football (‘put football first’), the fans (‘the heart and soul of any football club’) and the community (‘make Blackpool great again’).

Here is the real human impact. Brian is a devoted Blackpool fan and an ordinary member of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust. Today’s column is mostly in Brian’s words – and they are very eloquent ones. We hope this gets read in the boardroom:

‘There is no logical reason as to why I support Blackpool. I lived a very long way from the town. Growing up, I never envisaged living in the area. No-one in my family background had the slightest interest in supporting them. Indeed, their loyalty was to other sports. Yet, from my very early pre-teenage years I felt an irresistible bond with Blackpool. I idolised and loved club and team from afar.

Finally, I saw them live. Try to visualise that! Two of my heroes, Jimmy Armfield and Tony Green, majestic in full flow.

Then that magical night - that ‘I was there’ night - when Fred Pickering scored the hat-trick at Preston. Dreams do come true. Without him realising it, Bill Shankley summed up my deepest feelings. Standing in front of the Kop at Anfield after another old League One title he exclaimed, referring to the supporters, ‘We are in communion with each other.’

That's it. We are in comm-union, we are one. We are the club.

Bloomfield Road is my spiritual home. My heart and soul is deeply embedded in it. So as the club rules my life, in return I feel emotionally that every blade of grass in the hallowed turf is mine, is part of me. Not just a hobby, not just a passing interest, but every fibre attuned to its good and not so good days.

Of course, the club has, and must have, physical owners - and is it too much to expect that their hearts are as enthralled as mine?

Just as in the bad old days when the owners bailed us out financially so I have no problem with them rewarding themselves a fair profit especially with the hoped for legacy of the post-Premier League glory. (No-one, but no-one can take away from us - we graced the Premier League. Dreams do come true.)

But there is the rub - a fair profit. Physically, they own the club; spiritually I, and many more like me, passionately and psychologically believe - we own the club, we are the living heritage and history of the club. So, to me, the owners, are not just owners but diligent custodians protecting and ensuring our club's well-being and good name. In that sense they are accountable to us as guardians of our dreams.

So fifty years on from first seeing my team what is the diagnosis? Those were happy days; thrilled when we won, happy with a draw, consoled in defeat that there was always the next game. Today, these are unhappy soul-destroying days. The fan base is fractured. The majority boycott and the minority attend.

I, for one, have no problem with their presence at the home games even though I passionately disagree with them. Some of my closest friends still go citing a variety of reasons. Nor should they be vilified because they do. The majority who loyally and steadfastly stay away know the vilification is by no means one sided.

Bill Shankley would be horrified. Communion? More like dis-union.

With every heart-beat I despair that my Saturday worshipping at the shrine is no more. I feel divorced from my spiritual home. But somehow the two threads of supporters need to be reunited.
And sooner rather than later! We need to be the supporter base of old - united as one in our undying support. We need ownership, leadership, with the heart and desire and commitment to mend broken supporters.

I wonder what proposals and plans are being considered to bring about the unity my beloved club needs, so as to be no longer the laughing stock of the football league? It is so painful - Blackpool, my Blackpool, the laughing stock of the footballing world.

Does the present ownership have the inclination, willingness and ability to bring about this much needed sea-change? I feel a divided club cannot survive. Please persuade me, I desperately wish to be persuaded. Enable me and countless others to return. If not, then what is ownership if it is only ownership in name to so many?

It is not just that I want my club back; I want my club to be able to hold its head high again. And if the present owners can’t unite us then they need to accept they are the hinderance to the future unity of our beloved club. Or as Shakespeare said through Lady Macbeth - At once, good night. Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once.’

In a sense we are all Brians, feeling gutted at missing out on going to Bloomfield Road but feeling even more a deep sense of personal hurt at the way our club and its supporters have been treated with such cynical disdain in recent years. There is a general recognition, even among those still going through the turnstiles, that radical change in the make-up and attitude of the boardroom is required in order for any healing process to begin, before all supporters unite en masse again to rock Bloomfield Road in support of the team in tangerine.

Trust that the day will come. It is the prognosis of BST that post regime change, with a reunited fan base we can rebuild all the good things about Blackpool FC and work as a well-supported and credible Trust to ensure that club, fans and community don’t get taken advantage of again.

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