Blackpool Supporters' Trust Column: Football's an election issue

As the General Election looms large on the horizon, it is testament to the work done by fans up and down the country that football is playing a part in the electioneering of most political parties.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Football governance is a topic under discussion ahead of next week's General Election

As the General Election looms large on the horizon, it is testament to the work done by fans up and down the country that football is playing a part in the electioneering of most political parties.

The Football Supporters’ Association ( FSA) recently issued a Fans’ Manifesto, which highlights the issues which are important to football fans and suggests what needs to be done to address those issues.

All the main political parties have been targeted by the FSA and have accepted some, if not all of the suggestions.

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At last, our politicians are realising that football fans are constituents too!

On the Fylde coast, four independent candidates have all adopted the FSA manifesto as part of their campaigns. Football is finally being recognised by the wider world as an important part of communities.

The last few years have been a turbulent time for Blackpool, but also for other clubs who have faced their own issues.

The campaign led by Blackpool fans and shared by supporters across the country has really brought the issues of football governance to the foreBST have reported many times on the meetings, communications and activities which have been ongoing for the last few years.

We relaunched the North West group of the FSA (which is the newly formed national fans’ council, an amalgamation of Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation), bombarded the sports media and took our campaign to MPs and local councillors, as well as holding the football authorities’ feet to the fire at every possible occasion.

After years of discussion and difficulty, the FSA have produced a manifesto which reflects the concerns and problems faced by many clubs and supporters.

Here we can share the main points or you can find the details on the FSA website.

Grassroots – Share the wealth

At a time when there is more money in and around football than ever we should be enjoying a golden age of grassroots football.

No local club or school team should have to endure crumbling infrastructure or lack of funds to encourage participation and develop tomorrow’s star players.

The FSA wants to see more of the wealth of football – and of agents and betting companies who live off it – used to support the base of the game.

Standing – Stand up for choice

The existing legislation which aims to stop supporters standing at the game is deeply unpopular and should be scrapped. We believe there are different mixes of stewarding approaches and standing technologies which clubs can use to manage fans standing at football.

It should be up to each club, in conjunction with its supporters and the local Safety Advisory Group, to develop appropriate stadium plans based on sound and rigorous risk assessment.

The FSA believes clubs and fans should be empowered to work together to decide what mix of standing and seated areas is right for them.

Transport – Flexible football rail tickets

Supporters travel the length and breadth of the country following their club, often at great expense, while working around last-minute changes to games due to TV demands or schedule clashes.

The introduction of an affordable and flexible rail ticket, which is tied to a game rather than a date, could reduce costs for fans and generate new revenue for train operators at times which are often off-peak. The Premier League and EFL support this concept: the FSA calls on government to make it happen.

Governance and regulation – Protect our pyramid and heritage

Football is our biggest cultural expression of community identity and no other country exhibits such depth of support for clubs from the top to the bottom of the pyramid.

Yet this heritage can be at the mercy of unscrupulous and incompetent owners. The football authorities must be required to establish an independent process of regulation for professional clubs, with a tougher Owners and Directors Test, increased financial transparency and a requirement of owners to exercise proper stewardship over clubs, all in close co-operation with supporters’ organisations.

Equality – No to discrimination

A commitment to diversity and inclusion underpins all of the FSA’s activity and we oppose all forms of discrimination or violence in relation to football. To this end, we call for a real engagement and investment in promoting inclusion and combating discrimination in football.

The Football (Offences) Act should be extended so that it is not limited to ‘racialist or indecent chanting’ but includes all protected characteristics from the Equality Act.

Tomorrow Blackpool FC Community Trust marks the opening of their new education and community centre. Simon Sadler will be present to cut the ribbon for the grand opening at 1pm.

They will also be holding a collection for the Blackpool food bank, along with BST, who are encouraging donations of toys and Christmas gifts for children through the Home Start charity.

We will jointly man the drop-off point at the new BFCCT facility and hope to see many of you there.