BST column: Blackpool’s players have stepped up - and so must all of us

These stands will not be filled again until there is a change of ownership at the club, says BST
These stands will not be filled again until there is a change of ownership at the club, says BST
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If there is a theme this week, it is about stepping up to the challenge.

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Well done to Gary Bowyer and the squad for their improved run of league form, including useful away wins at Wigan and Pompey, and huge congratulations to the youth team on reaching the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.

It is important, amid all the uncertainty off the field, to remember that football is what it’s all about and a love of Blackpool FC is what holds us all together, though Owen Oyston and his new chairwoman should be under no illusions – the majority of fans will not return to Bloomfield Road while the Oyston family is in charge of the club.

Because of the Oystons’ antics over the last five years, Blackpool FC has become a by-word in the football community for mismanagement and crisis. The EFL has shown little visible sign that it understands what its leadership role in this area should be, and as it appears somewhat reluctant to step up to the challenge Blackpool Supporters’ Trust suggests the Government must intervene to encourage the fundamental reform that is so clearly needed.

There can be no going back after what has happened at Blackpool, and it is important that everyone who loves the club and the game should do something to make sure such cynical mismanagement cannot happen again. Football clubs are too precious and too much a part of the fabric of our national life to be left to the mercy of unregulated and often unscrupulous ownership.

They need the protection of a robust regulatory framework that offers a range of sanctions against wrongdoers and provides mechanisms for problems to be confronted before becoming deep-rooted.

They also absolutely require a governing body that has the desire to use its authority to enforce good practice. To that end, BST has created a petition calling on the Government to step in, take ownership of this issue away from the EFL and begin a complete overhaul:

‘We urge the Government to introduce an independent regulator for English football, charged with ensuring the highest possible standards of governance for all clubs.’

This BST petition went live on the parliamentary website last week and will run for six months to August 22. It gained 5,000 signatures in the first week but requires 100,000 to trigger parliamentary action.

What is it that most annoys football supporters? It’ is under-performance, when players don’t give their all to try to turn a situation around. By extension, as fans we all have it in our power to try to make a positive difference in the way our game is run.

We can all step up to the challenge. It takes just a few minutes to overcome the apathy, log on to the website and support a petition that could start to turn our situation around. The petition can be found at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/213108 Please support it today and encourage everyone you know to.

In addition to our formal communications with the League, the Trust is also supporting the public campaign to put pressure of the EFL to act in regard to fans’ concerns.

The EFL has indicated it is willing to hold a meeting with Blackpool fans’ groups, Blackpool MPs and The Gazette this month. The EFL says ‘attendees will be given the opportunity to raise their concerns and EFL officials will endeavour to provide answers wherever possible and explain its position on a number of matters that have previously been raised in the public domain.’

Today’s planned demonstration outside EFL headquarters in Preston is intended to reinforce for the EFL the principle that fans are vital stakeholders in the game and to show the strength of our dissatisfaction with their response to date when it comes to dealing with rogue owners.

BST encourages all who can to join this protest against the way football is currently governed. It is important that the protest is peaceful and law-abiding, that it should make its legitimate point without intimidating either members of the public or EFL employees.

The plan is to meet at Preston Station for 2.30pm and march to the Fans United protest outside EFL House. BST has agreed to be a point of contact/liaison for Lancashire Police, who are happy with the arrangements.

BBC TV’s Question Time was broadcast from Blackpool last night. BST members were in the audience hoping to pose a question about the state of affairs at Blackpool FC and its impact on the town, to get the thoughts of the panel and to give the issue of rogue ownership national exposure. By the time you read this we will know if they were successful.

Congratulations to BST committee member Tony Wilkinson, who was elected to the board of the Supporters’ Direct England and Wales Football Council for three years. Tony will do a wonderful job representing football fans everywhere and being a great ambassador for BST.