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Looking forward to Wembley - Gazette article 28th May 2021

Robbie Whittaker - BST Secretary

Even by our standards, it has been an eventful time since our last column.

Play-off qualification was a comfortable and efficient process in the end, and finishing the regular campaign with four straight wins - and clean sheets - was very pleasing, if not very dramatic.

There wasn’t much drama in the first leg of the semi-final either, albeit there is always bucket loads of tension. The team and manager deserve great credit for choosing this time to put in one of their most clinical performances of. the season. Like us, Oxford had shrugged off a poor start to the season to finish it in some style - but for them, pushing on was just a step too far. A 0-3 defeat was just too much to overcome.

That said, they contributed massively to a momentous night at Bloomfield Road in the second leg. Leagues 1 and 2 have provided some fabulous entertainment in the play-offs this season, and this game was right up there with them all. Hopefully, the sheer single-mindedness of our team on the night laid many of the ghosts of 1996 to rest.

So to Sunday. Like you, we are desperately disappointed that more fans can’t be at this game. It is ironic that the bond between fans and club is stronger now than it has been for many years - and yet only a fraction of us are getting to enjoy it in the flesh. It augurs well for the time when we can all eventually get back to something like normality.

For BST, it continues to be a very busy year. We were very pleased to conduct a survey of fans over the last couple of weeks, specifically taking your mind about how you would like the club to handle the issue of season ticket and match day pricing in 2021/22.

This is difficult territory for the club. They don’t know yet which League we will be in, and that in itself makes a huge difference to the solidarity payments we will get from the EPL - over six times as much as we currently get if we win promotion. Nor do they know how many season tickets they can sensibly sell - the extent to which COVID restrictions are in place will make a huge difference to this issue, with all the financial implications that go with it. We also know that the club are acutely aware of what a tough year it has been for many of us, and how incredibly loyal many people have already been in making a huge financial investment in a season that they could only watch on TV. They have some tricky balances to strike.

Getting your input through the survey has therefore been even more valuable than ever this season. Nearly 1100 of you took the trouble to take part - and we are grateful to all of you.

Elsewhere, the big show in town is obviously the fan-led review of football governance. This was formally launched on 20 May, and the expert Panel who will support Tracey Crouch in her work was announced last weekend.

There are some interesting and familiar names on the list, most notably for ‘Pool fans being that of Clarke Carlisle, who many of us will remember wearing the tangerine shirt with distinction. His perspectives as the ex-Chair of the Professional Footballer’s Association will be important.

The fact that the Panel includes experts in both football finance and the world of regulation shouldn’t surprise anyone, and probably gives a good indication of where Ms. Crouch expects the big talking points to be. She seems determined to make sure that fans have a big say in the way the review goes ; she wants to talk to every Supporters Trust in person if she can, and our collective evidence to the review will count for a lot.

BST are putting our best foot forward on this. We know that we have some unique perspectives to offer on what BAD governance looks like - and we are working hard to make sure that we do them justice when asked. We also continue to put a considerable effort into supporting the Football Supporters Association in their national role - which will be incredibly important.

The sad fact is that failures of governance that throw clubs into crisis are still happening. At BST we are currently advising - or are about to advise - the fans of FOUR different clubs about how they can best mobilise to push for change in the way that their club is managed. It just serves to emphasise how important - and long overdue - wholesale reform is.

However, all this will still be here in the weeks and months to come. For the moment, what happens on Sunday is crucial. If you are going to the game, we hope you have a great day. The manager, staff and players have done remarkable things to get this position - let’s hope there is one more huge success to come.


May 2021

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