BST column: Blackpool fans can look forward to a historic AGM tomorrow

No longer is BST defined by protest but there remains much work to do for our community and our sport
No longer is BST defined by protest but there remains much work to do for our community and our sport
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The BST annual general meeting takes place tomorrow and will be a watershed moment for the Trust – and for Blackpool fans generally.

For the first time since BST was created, we go into our AGM free of the regime that blighted the club for so long, and our work on behalf of Blackpool fans as a whole is no longer defined merely by protest.

It is a sweet moment, one that many people have made sacrifices to secure, and tomorrow’s meeting will be a celebration of that, in part.

However, our Trust exists for a much wider set of purposes, which only now – after the demise of the Oyston family – are coming to the fore.

Our chair Christine Seddon this week took part in an event at the Tower Ballroom in connection with the “Blackpool – Pride of Place” initiative, which is designed to examine how the various agencies in the town and in government can work together to improve quality of life and life prospects for people who live and work in the area.

The town’s social problems have been well documented but a tremendous amount of thought and effort is going into addressing them.

Linton Brown, acting CEO at BFC and Ashley Hackett from the BFC Community Trust were also present, and it is gratifying that the importance of the football club to the town and its key role in the community have been acknowledged.

While working with partners locally remains a big part of our DNA, the national challenges that football faces have not gone away simply because we are free of the Oystons.

Our inability to break down a stubborn and well-organised Bolton side on Monday was frustrating on a number of levels.

Any pleasure that the genuine football fan could take from seeing a founder member of the League competing properly was tempered by the knowledge that at least a couple of our rivals at the top of League One benefited from playing them in August, before the takeover brought in new investment and new players.

Couple this with the EFL’s dithering over how to handle the accompanying crisis at Bury, and it is obvious that Shaun Harvey’s oft-repeated mantra about “preserving the integrity of the competition” is a hollow joke and one that will affect not only the 23 remaining League One clubs but every one in League Two as well.

It is clear that the EFL has been rattled by the criticism its handling of events has received. And while the EFL announcement that it would conduct a review of the finance and sustainability of clubs is welcome, it does look like a kneejerk response conceived in panic.

Not only that, it is another consultation largely aimed at the club owners, who are a major part of the problem, and is much too narrowly framed for our liking. We will support the EFL in conducting it but it looks an inadequate response to a very deep-seated problem.

Much more promising is the Government’s own review of football governance, which gets under way formally in a couple of weeks.

This has been prompted by events at Bolton and Bury, but the Government recognises they are merely the latest in a long line of club failures not properly addressed by anyone, least of all by the people who actually run the game.

This review is casting its net far wider to take in the experience of supporters at other clubs which have suffered the effects of poor ownership.

BST has, as you might expect, provided written evidence to this review and we are delighted that the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is keen to have us involved when the select committee takes oral witness statements later this month.

At the time of writing, we expect to be represented in that process, not only to talk about what has happened to our club but also to give our views on how the situation was handled and how the governing of the game needs to change.

Of course, words are merely that and any review needs to lead to something actually happening on the ground.

But having campaigned so long and hard for regulatory reform, it is hugely heartening for BST that people at very senior levels in Government are now taking notice of the issue and what WE have to say about it.

It is probably no coincidence that the Labour Party this week announced a whole raft of policy proposals designed to give Supporters’ Trusts a far more hands-on role in club management.

These ideas are interesting but perhaps need to focus more on regulatory issues We are very clear that without the campaigning effort of fans nationally, and in our case locally, this debate would not be taking place. There remains much to play for and for us to seek to influence.

We are meeting tomorrow to endorse our new BST committee and many of the issues touched upon above will be under discussion.

We are very pleased to welcome Linton Brown, the new chief commercial officer and acting CEO, as well as BFC director Brett Gerrity to our meeting.

Everyone is welcome to come along and join in the debate. And if you haven’t already joined us, the annual membership fee is £5.

We hope to see as many of you as possible at the meeting, which takes place at the Bloomfield Social Club, Bloomfield Road, from 1pm.