Whoever takes over Blackpool FC needs to invest in the stadium and training facilities for the good of the resort, a group of infuential figures have said.
The Blackpool Pride of Place partnership, which includes senior business leaders in the resort, has made an impassioned plea to ensure the club will "play its full part at the heart of the town again” and restore a sense of pride.
As the deadline for bids from prospective buyers looms, a letter sent by the group, which also includes representatives from local government and charities, refers to “the unfortunate recent history of the club – the fans’ disenchantment, combined with the appointment of the receiver”.
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“We sincerely hope that we can move on from the club’s unhappy past,” it adds.
A series of recommendations are laid out for the club’s future owner, including:
* Excellent stewardship and corporate behaviour and consider letting the community own some shares in the club
* Help deliver the town’s 2030 vision
* Encourage players to be ambassadors for the town and act as role models for Blackpool’s young
* Help tackle deprivation by adopting learning from the best football community trusts around the country
* Upgrade the training facilities and allow access to the community
* Upgrade the stadium and pitch
* Rebuild the relationship with the supporters’ trust, the community trust and most importantly, the fans.
The partnership has said it would be happy to work with any owner who is seen to be addressing the issues that have plagued the club in recent years,
The letter adds: “Whilst our only motivation is to help the club to be a vibrant community asset, getting these things right would also make the club more commercially viable compared with the wholesale desertion of the fan base that we have seen in recent years.”
Kate Shane, head of Blackpool cluster at Merlin Entertainments Group said: “The last four years have been devastating for the fans and for the wider community.
"The atmosphere at the game against Southend was testament to the tenacious spirit of Blackpool football fans, giving a glimpse of what the future could look like if the club was operated correctly.
"I hope the new owners, whoever they are, can see the strength of feeling in Blackpool about the club, understand the significant role it plays in the local community and embrace the opportunity to restore civic pride.”
Christine Seddon, chairman of Blackpool FC Supporters Trust said: “Football clubs should be at the heart of the community they serve. Blackpool FC’s supporters have proved that they are loyal, passionate and determined, qualities that will help our football club to progress.
"We hope that new owners will embrace this untapped resource and look forward to a constructive and co-operative relationship.”
Rt Hon Lord Tom McNally, of Blackpool, said: “I have been saddened to see how a proud football club with such history as Blackpool FC, came to have a toxic relationship with the supporters. I sincerely hope the new owners repair this relationship and the club can take its place back at the heart of the town.”