BST : MONTHLY GAZETTE COLUMN APRIL 2021
These are exciting times, if you are a Blackpool fan. Nine games remain, the team is unbeaten in its last thirteen, and seems well poised for a play off push.
That is not to say that the top two is necessarily beyond us. Nine wins from here on in would take us to ninety points and almost certainly the top two. But on the top of what we have already done in the last couple of months it would be a lot to ask of a squad that is doing all this with a long injury list. When you consider that no Blackpool side has ever reached such heights in the current era, it is no wonder that most people are concentrating on the lesser prize of the top six.
While the mood among fans is confident, there is still a lot to do. We face Lincoln this weekend, Sunderland twice and Doncaster, all of whom have play-off aspirations (or better) of their own. And Rochdale, Northampton and Bristol Rovers all have an equally desperate need for points. It won’t be easy, and things could still go wrong. But we are well placed, and back in October just about everyone would have gladly settled for this.
Whether ‘Pool fans get to see any of it live is still a matter of debate. The football authorities and the Government seem keen to run test events ahead of a bigger relaxation of COVID rules in June, but whether we will get to benefit remains uncertain. The team have done well without us, and as a club we have a play-off record par excellence in English football. Let’s hope that tradition, and our luck, hold for a little while longer.
A fanbase looking at an entirely different reality is that of Southend United. It seems barely credible that a little over eighteen months ago we met with them at Rootes Hall in an early season fixture. If last year was a campaign that they will readily forget, then this year is even worse.
It’s a familiar tale, in some ways. Boardroom upheaval, money problems, a steady procession of managers and players who either aren’t up to or ready for the task - the poor folk of Southend have seen them all.
They are not without hope. In recent weeks, the team have had an encouraging upward surge in form, especially away from home. With games against Barrow and Colchester - who are in free fall - still to come, their prospects are as bright on the field as they have been in some time.
Off the field, it looks a lot less promising. Ten years ago, the club was in crisis and an organisation called “Save Our Southend” (SOS) was formed to campaign for change at the club. In the last month or so, that organisation has been revived, in the face of concerns about tax bills, doubts about the future of a ground that sits on prime development land, a deeply unpopular owner AND poor results.
If it all sounds familiar, that is because it is. On the day you read this article, we at BST will be meeting with SOS for the first time to discuss their current predicament, and learn more about what they are trying to achieve. Our promise to them is a simple one - if we can help, we will. We have a lot of experience that is relevant to their situation and we think it is our duty to help the fans of other clubs where they are in trouble, if we can.
All this comes at a time when the fan-led review of football governance looks tantalisingly close. The Government seems to be actively preparing for it, which is a good sign, and we have all our fingers crossed that this initiative is close to getting under way.
Any review that is led by the fans clearly has huge implications for the national supporters groups. It is a one-off chance to influence the way the game is run for a long time to come, and we all need to make the very most of it. We continue at BST to play as active a part as we can to help our colleagues at the Football Supporters Association do just that.
Finally, back to COVID. In all the excitement about what lies in store in this current campaign, it should not be forgotten that the pandemic continues to inhibit clubs in getting ready for next season. We hope fans will be back in the ground - but can’t be sure in what sort of numbers, or how they will have to behave in order to be there. So pity the poor clubs trying to manage their cash flow projections for next year, in order to set season ticket prices.
Last year many of you took part in the BST Survey, and generated a lot of data about how you felt about these issues. It was especially interesting that a majority of you felt that supporting the club financially through a difficult period was far more important to you than the price of the season ticket itself. hat sort of intelligence about your attitudes towards the game and the club is priceless, especially when BST Members and non-members alike take part in the Survey in the way that you did in 2020. We are just about to begin our work to design the 2021 Survey ; if you have ideas about its content, then do get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We will be delighted to hear from you, and will continue to try to be a voice for everyone who loves the club.