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Blackpool Evening Gazette – BST Column (October 2021)

Looking forward to Saturday’s game against our closest neighbours we must all first congratulate Neil and the players for a wonderful result at the Madejski Stadium, lift-ing the Seasiders up to twelfth position in the Championship. This three goal second half comeback reflects how 2021/22 is becoming a season of slim margins and vary-ing fortunes. It was only a month ago when Blackpool conceded three second half goals against Huddersfield so the familiar trope that supporting Blackpool ensures a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ rings true. Let’s hope Neil and the boys continue their win-ning ways on Saturday in what is shaping up to be a great game.

Off the field too, for those who have been following the Fan Led Review, these are al-so exciting and dare I say ‘unprecedented’ times for British Supporters Trusts. In the next two weeks Tracey Crouch MP is expected to propose a raft of far-reaching re-forms which will be the biggest change to the way football is managed in this country since its inception in the 1860’s (The FA) and the 1880’s (The EFL). These measures will include taking away regulatory functions from the FA the EFL and EPL and vest-ing these powers in a truly independent body which will be well staffed with the remit to change English football for the better.

We also expect that steps will be taken to ensure that the supporters, through their democratically elected Supporters Trusts will have a far greater say in how clubs are managed and a greater voice in the strategic decisions that will affect their future. Unprecedented times indeed.

As Blackpool supporters we know only too well the bad energy and dysfunctionality that can be created by unchecked and rogue ownership. On the plus side we also now know what can be achieved when fans unite together to boycott and to fight for a common purpose.

BST is in contact with a growing number of supporters groups at clubs such as Old-ham Athletic, Southend United, AFC Rochdale, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Northampton Town all of whom are currently experiencing difficulties. Whilst the situations at each of these clubs have their own unique set of circumstances there are commonalities surrounding ownership models and financial irregularities.

Amongst Tracey Crouch’s proposals we expect she will outline a new way of distrib-uting TV revenues removing some of the huge inequalities that currently exist throughout the football pyramid and a clear statement on how the Independent Foot-ball Regulator will have powers to identify and sanction rogue owners before they cause irrevocable damage to the country’s football clubs.

Whilst change is in the air it is fitting that the BST Annual General Meeting will take place in The Billy Ayre Lounge (upstairs) at The Armfield Club on Saturday 4th De-cember from 11:00am until 1:00pm. Refreshments will be available as will be a Zoom facility for those who can’t make it in person and for those still uncertain about mixing closely with others.

This is an important meeting and we are hoping for a good turnout. We can confirm that the club’s Chief Executive Ben Mansford will be joining us to give his view on current events at the club, what progress we are making and he will also take ques-tions. We have also extended invitations to three parliamentarians and a key member of the DCMS’s ‘Fan Led Review’. We will consult BST members well in advance about what you would like our guests to address, so everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

Also on the 4th December we will be announcing the outcome of our annual elec-tions. An invitation to stand for election went out to members last week and voting will get underway on 13 November. This year there are three vacancies on the BST committee and we look forward to the added impetus that new blood and fresh ideas will bring to the work we do.

Doubtless there will still be a lot to fight for, even if her Fans Led Review is a huge, step forward so if you see yourself as able to rise to that challenge and help effect positive change there will never be a better time to put yourself forward to join BST.

Foodbanks and Volunteering

Whilst work on the national stage is important so too is work at the local level that can make such a difference to our own community. On Foodbanks and Football Boots, we are working in partnership with our colleagues at Blackpool Foodbank, Blackpool FC and the BFC Community Trust to make sure that all members of our community get the support that they deserve. Collections will continue and on match days from December the 4th you should be able to see separate collection bins for food and boots at strategic points around the ground in which you can any contribu-tions. So more news to follow on this and other initiatives very soon.

It is likely you will be reading this a day or so before our eagerly anticipated West Lancashire derby with Preston North End. For away supporters the occasion will be tinged with sadness at the recent passing of owner and long-time benefactor, Trevor Hemmings. Mr. Hemmings largely shunned publicity but did significant philanthropic work for the community of Preston and beyond without any fanfare or fuss, a very de-cent quality.

That said the weekend’s battle lines are already being drawn and there is great antic-ipation from both ends of the M55 about what will happen when Saturday comes. For younger fans it will be their first taste of a home league fixture between these two old rivals, with our last meeting being November 2009 with honours even in a hard fought 0-0 draw. That was a fateful season in a number of ways. It saw Blackpool win pro-motion to the top flight for the first time in over 30 years and the following season saw both clubs relegated. As our decline continued down to the fourth tier we passed Preston travelling in the other direction, as has happened on previous occasions. With both clubs approaching the game from a mid-table position on the back of mid-week come backs, as these meetings are quite rare let’s all savour and enjoy the prospect of a feisty and entertaining local derby.

Come on you Super Seasiders !

Blackpool Supporters Trust

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