Blackpool SLO column: We can still show our support from outside

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This has certainly not been the start to the season that we hoped for, but it must be remembered that it’s a new and relatively young squad being coached by a manager learning fast in his first appointment.

It was also stated at the outset that the Blackpool project is a long-term one, taking time to come together.

As SLO it is not really my place to comment upon what happens on the pitch but let me just say that I believe the management team is well aware of the issues and areas to be worked on, and that those issues are being actively addressed.

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I have faith that it will come good and I would encourage everyone, in as far as it’s possible under the restrictions of Tier 3 lockdown, to do what fans are traditionally renowned for doing, and that is be supportive of the club.

Blackpool proved last month that a fixture could be successfully and safely staged with a limited, socially-distanced crowdBlackpool proved last month that a fixture could be successfully and safely staged with a limited, socially-distanced crowd
Blackpool proved last month that a fixture could be successfully and safely staged with a limited, socially-distanced crowd

It’s a moot point whether having fans inside the ground would help or hinder the situation the team finds itself in.

I’d like to think it would be positive for the players as well as for the supporters and we have the example of the Swindon game to support that view.

Our noise, our enthusiasm, our encouragement of the players had a clear and positive effect on their performance.

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At a time when the motivating force of the ‘12th man’ could be instrumental in lifting the players’ spirits, the stands will continue to be eerily silent.

Unfortunately, the signs are that fans won’t be returning to grounds this side of year-end and maybe for longer than that.

Football clubs have provided convincing proof that social distancing in outdoor stadia is workable and, I would argue, safer than indoor events like theatres and cinemas.

I suspect the sticking point is the fear of thousands of football fans travelling to and from games, mixing on public transport or at motorway service stations.

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Even as I write this, the German Bundesliga, which has pioneered the safe return of fans to games, has learned that all games will be played behind closed doors from November as Germany goes into another national lockdown.

There is no doubt that the financial impact on clubs of not having fans at games is huge.

There are clear warnings that some clubs will go to the wall. While Delia Smith promotes her “Can we have our football back?” campaign and the Football Supporters’ Association continues to lobby the authorities both for the safe return of fans and for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to initiate the promised review into how professional football can be made more sustainable, the government appears to have decided that the climate is not right for either of those things to happen.

More than that, they are not willing to provide a similar financial bail-out to the one they have just given to the arts, insisting there is enough money in the EPL and EFL for the sport to devise its own financial aid package for struggling clubs.

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Rick Parry, current chair of the EFL, now complains that is not the case but he didn’t cover himself with glory over his endorsement of ‘Project Big Picture’, the scheme whereby the elite few at the top of the football pyramid would gain even more control of the national game than the EPL has today, in return for a repayable short-term bail-out of the lower divisions.

Negotiations over a strategic way forward are ongoing but show little sign of progress.

It is probable that all of the issues aired in today’s column will be the subject of discussions with the club at the second Structured Dialogue meeting of the season between Blackpool FC board and fans’ representatives.

That event will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, November 17. Invitations have gone out to fans’ groups this week.

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If you are a member of a formally-constituted fans’ group and you have a question you’d like to put to the board, please make sure you advise your group’s representative by November 14.

If you are not a member of any fans’ group you may send your question to me by email at [email protected] by the same date. All Structured Dialogue meetings are minuted and the minutes are posted on the club’s website.

In the meantime, stay safe and if you wish or need to contact me for any reason, with concerns, queries or suggestions, feel free to do so. It’s what I’m here for.

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