Blackpool Supporters’ Trust column: Attendances don’t add up

Bloomfield Road

Bloomfield Road

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A recent article on the history of English football showed the average crowds at each club for every season since the early days of the Football League. It made for interesting reading.

Blackpool FC’s lowest average gate was 1,640 way back in 1898. Fifteen years ago, the last time the club was in the bottom division, approximately 4,500 people attended each home game.

Even during the early 1980s, when Blackpool were in the old Division Four, the lowest crowd was just over 3,000.

Fast forward to 2016 and the official attendance at last week’s game against Carlisle was given as 5,471, of which over half (2,751) were visiting fans, leaving supposedly 2,720 home supporters.

However, photographs from inside the stadium tell a different story, so Blackpool Supporters’ Trust asked for a forensic count of how many home fans were actually there on match day.

We are interested to monitor the impact of the ethical boycott on attendance at Bloomfield Road. The forensic count showed approximately 1,000 fans in the home stands – that’s 1,700 fewer than the official figure, which admittedly includes all season-ticket holders, even if they didn’t pass through the turnstile on the day.

We are led to believe Blackpool FC has sold less than 1,500 season tickets and many of those are concessions.

We are also advised that the club has been giving away large numbers of free tickets and including those in the official attendance figure, whether the tickets were used or not. The photographic evidence from inside the ground would suggest many of the free tickets are not being used either.

Digital and social media have revolutionised the way we gather information and communicate with each other. No longer do we need to wait for the local newspaper report to be published to find out what has gone on at a game.

Today there is nowhere to hide and every comment, every statistic can be dissected by thousands within seconds.

As a Supporters’ Trust with the long-term interests of our club at heart, we need to keep stressing that the ethical boycott is not something we take lightly.

We will continue to endorse it until the current owners sell the club or implement the radical changes that our members believe are a pre-requisite for turning this toxic situation around: a complete cessation of the very divisive suing of fans, the replacement of Karl Oyston as chairman, democratic supporter representation in the boardroom and a sizeable investment in the team to enable Blackpool FC to challenge for promotion not just to League One but back to Championship level.

Right now, unfortunately, there is not the remotest sign of any one of those changes being implemented.

On a more positive note, we are pleased to say that Blackpool Supporters’ Trust will soon be able to donate more than £5,000 to the Gary Parkinson Trust as a result of the recent Brett Ormerod celebration game.

There are a few alternative shirts and signed match day programmes still available for sale and all proceeds go to the Gary Parkinson Trust, as BST is a not-for-profit organisation. Thank you all for your tremendous support.

Finally, back to attendance figures. There were over 3,600 Blackpool fans at the Brett game, clearly a ground record for the new AFC Fylde Mill Farm stadium. More importantly, everyone remarked what a fantastic occasion it was – a sea of tangerine recapturing briefly the true spirit of what it is to be a Blackpool supporter.

We will do something similar, when the opportunity arises, to keep the flame alive while we wait to get our club back.

This is a campaign in which numbers and practical support are significant. The Trust has just shy of 2,000 members currently and yet there were nearly twice that number at the Brett game.

If everyone who holds Blackpool FC dear to their hearts would sign up to the Trust, that would further strengthen the supporters’ cause.

It would also send a very powerful message to the owners of the club and to the organisations that run the game that our dedication to the future of our club is passionate and committed, and that we have an agenda for change in the way this club is being run that cannot be ignored.