BST column: Blackpool’s win does not mask the club’s problems

Blackpool gained their first league win of the season on Tuesday evening
Blackpool gained their first league win of the season on Tuesday evening
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It was a relief that the Seasiders secured a first league win of the season against Coventry City on Tuesday but Blackpool supporters are increasingly concerned that events on and off the field are moving more slowly than they would like.

The team is now approaching a third week without a manager and the goalkeeper has said he feels the team is lacking a sense of direction in the wake of Gary Bowyer’s sudden departure.

Off the field, no announcement or follow up has been made to the club statement of August 10 whereby Owen Oyston offered to relinquish his shares in Blackpool FC to Valeri Belokon for £5m.

This week also marked deadline day for the BST-sponsored parliamentary petition calling for an independent regulator for English football.

Despite an encouraging start and passing the 10,000signature mark to prompt an official response from government, the endeavour sadly lost momentum – reaching just over 14,500 signatures and not the 100,000 required for a debate in Parliament.

A key motivator behind the petition was the fact that club owners in professional football can get away with showing so little accountability to the fans and communities of the clubs they own.

Imagine if the daily news segments which quote the sub-standard performances of companies such as Northern Rail and G4S were to be applied to football club.

Recent damning reports have adversely affected the owners and shareholders of both of those companies.

Indeed things have got so bad that the government has also seen fit to intervene ‘at no cost to the tax payer’ in sorting out the toxic situation at HMP Birmingham.

If only the government could see fit to intervene and set some proper governance guidelines to prevent rogue practices and rogue owners in the football industry!

Earlier this month the competition watchdog published figures revealing that fewer than half of RBS’ customers would recommend it to friends and family.

By analogy, how many Blackpool fans would recommend supporting the club under its current regime to even their worst enemies?

In the banking sector, all British banks have been ordered to publish a league table of customer ratings figures twice a year and to display them in their branches and on their websites.

This is so the general public can make a judgement as to whether to switch banks or not.

The economic leverage of ‘going elsewhere’ doesn’t apply in the same way to football given the emotional sense of loyalty fans have for a club – but imagine the board of our football club having to post notices in the club shop and on the club website proclaiming ‘the owners of Blackpool Football Club are not fit for purpose’ and ‘BFC has the most unpopular chairman in the Football League’.

Unfortunately, the EFL and the Premier League know that football fans generally do not switch their custom as readily as they would their banking provider, if at all.

The football authorities and club owners count on fans not switching teams, continuing to pay at the turnstiles and buying the merchandise no matter how badly clubs are run.

Football supporters are regarded as a captive audience and as such are taken for granted; hence there is so little serious engagement with supporters by the EFL and EPL.

However, these two organisations are both private companies and therefore should be held up to even more public scrutiny when they wantonly oversee the toxic shambles taking place at Blackpool FC.

The sustained ethical boycott by thousands of Blackpool fans is something new and unique in English football.

Prior to the Portsmouth game Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden contacted BST lamenting the club’s chaotic ownership and reassured the Trust that he is pressing the EFL to be far more proactive in resolving the deadlock which he describes as a huge black hole in both what the club could achieve and in our community.

Clubs like Blackpool epitomise the successes and pride achieved by being at being at the heart of their local communities, but this is all being put at risk by owners who are unfit for purpose.

BST hopes his claim that ‘the Government and football authorities need to recognise the need for a step change, not just for Blackpool supporters but for fans all across the country’ is heeded.