Blackpool Supporters' Trust column: Reflecting on the season and looking to the future

The season has ended but Blackpool FC still needs its fans, say BST
The season has ended but Blackpool FC still needs its fans, say BST

How much do we love football? We have just witnessed two insanely brilliant nights of Champions League semi-finals, meaning an English team will be European champions on June 1, ending five years of Spanish dominance.

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Regardless of allegiances – and we are all first and foremost Blackpool supporters, right? – there was something compelling about the performances by Liverpool and Spurs; the tireless self-belief of the players, the passion of the fans, the sheer drama as both games unfolded, the outpouring of emotion at the end.

Do you remember when games involving Blackpool generated similar scenes of high drama and passion?

It’s less than a decade since the play-off semi-finals against Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City, our play-off final victory at Wembley and a league double over Liverpool.

That’s what we’ve been missing these last few seasons as we’ve boycotted to help hasten the departure of the Oystons. That’s what we want to experience at our club again.

This column, the last one of the season, typically reviews the footballing year just ended, but on this occasion will be looking primarily forward.

The 2018/19 season can be summed up like this: Gary Bowyer resigned after one game, his deputy Terry McPhillips stepped up and the squad did enough to ensure a mid-table finish.

On February 13, a Receiver was appointed by the High Court and the Oystons were duly dismissed from the board of Blackpool FC after thirty years.

Finally, on March 9, 16,000 fans packed into Bloomfield Road for an emotional homecoming Saturday, the day we got our club back.

The interim board negotiated the two months to the end of the season on a shoestring budget and the EFL sensibly decided not to impose a 12-point deduction.

Bolton Wanderers look to have been less lucky, relegated from the Championship, going into administration and facing a 12 point penalty at the start of next season if they even survive that far – for the threat of liquidation still hangs over their heads.

Spare a thought for their fans, and for those of Notts County, relegated after a tenure of 130 years.

Who knows, they could even be replaced by AFC Fylde if the Coasters win the National League play-off final.

It just reinforces that football clubs, cherished social enterprises and community organisations, are largely at the mercy of their owners and that competition organisers and regulators need to do a better job of making sure owners are fit for purpose.

The good news for Blackpool fans is that we are now virtually Oyston-free and can look forward to developments at Bloomfield Road with excitement and anticipation for the first time in years.

Make no mistake about the size of the task ahead. The interim board has ‘inherited’ a club that was to all intents broken. They are basically having to resurrect it from the ground upwards, to make it a reasonably attractive proposition for the Receiver to sell.

The close season, therefore, will start to see not so much a transition as a transformation at Blackpool FC.

Everything needs rebuilding, from the training ground and the pitch through the academy system, the managerial set-up and the squad.

It’s a new start that lies ahead – new owners, new infrastructure, new staff, new kit, new sponsors, new ambitions.

The only real constant, as at any great club, is the fanbase and we need to play our part now in helping to fund the transformation by purchasing our season tickets.

The deadline for bids for the club is next week, but there will follow a period of assessment and due diligence while the CAR and his team ensure they have the best solution possible, not only for Mr Belokon but for Blackpool FC.

It is not simply a case that the club will go to the highest bidder. That whole process could take another month or two and, in fairness to all involved, it has got to be done right. So the reality is that we might not have new owners in place before high summer.

In the meantime, the interim board needs to: invest in the pitch to make it a surface on which to play attractive, football; to make the East Stand fit to house away supporters from August onwards; on very basic improvements at the training ground.

They cannot wait for investment from new owners to embark on that work, they need upfront revenue from season ticket sales in May and June. The payment plan should be available soon.

Supporters groups met with the club recently and agreed to help promote a target of 10,000 season ticket sales over the summer.

The bottom line is your club needs you. We’ve got it back, now let’s help in its transformation so that we can look forward to next season with a greater sense of expectation than for many years.

Have a great summer – and that’s a wrap.