BST column: Close neighbours so far apart

Things were so different when the teams met back in 2012
Things were so different when the teams met back in 2012
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It was inevitable that tomorrow’s’s first league meeting between Blackpool and near neighbours Fleetwood Town would trigger comparisons in true ‘Tale of Two Cities’ style.

For cities, read clubs. Five years ago, the Seasiders were in the Premier League and Fleetwood Town were in the Football Conference.

The quipsters can almost be forgiven for asking “What the Dickens has happened to the Pool?”

For in truth, very few of the comparisons make comfortable reading for the home team.

One club has been steadily on the rise in recent seasons, one in rapid decline.

One owner plans to succeed, the other seemingly fails to plan.

One has built a new training ground, the other has merely talked about it (for over a decade). One stadium is buzzing at every home game, the other is two-thirds empty.

Extrapolate those trends and within a couple of years Fleetwood Town could be competing in the Championship, while Blackpool could slip ignominiously out of the Football League.

Non-league football at Bloomfield Road – who would have thought it possible? Don’t fall for Owen Oyston’s flannel when he says: “I really believe that we can get back to winning ways and return to the top flight. For my part, I am dedicating my life to achieving the success that we all want.”

It was Valeri Belokon’s investment that gave us a springboard for great things. The Oyston family have been unwilling to build on that opportunity and in the process have proved to be unworthy custodians of our club. Unless something significant changes, Blackpool’s continuing decline is an all-too-real possibility.

It is a fate that could be avoided with even a modicum of decent investment or sound executive management, but the owners appear more interested in improving their own financial situation at the expense of the club’s success and well-being.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust believes that the Oyston family must relinquish ownership of Blackpool FC for the long-term good of the club.

BST is not an anti-Oyston organisation. We would say the same about any owner who didn’t have the best interests of the club, the fans and the community at heart.

The Oystons, in spite of all their empty words about doing the right thing by the club, have consistently failed to put football first and invest for a sustainable future.

Their poor custodianship is the primary reason why the club is at the bottom of the division and in continuing freefall. It is time for a change in the boardroom.

We were planning a big community day of protest for Saturday, a “Reclaim Our Club” march through the town to the stadium to demonstrate that it is not just football fans but the whole community that suffers when the football club is in decline – the hoteliers, landladies, publicans, taxi-drivers, local businesses.

However, because of the closure of Seasiders Way while the Princess Street bridge is repaired, and the fact that Bloomfield Road is the official diversion and emergency vehicle route, the town council could not sanction our proposed route and the police had concerns about public safety.

BST would have been liable for any accidents or injuries on the day, so we had to take the tough decision to postpone that protest until the spring, after the roadworks are complete and associated restrictions have been lifted.

What we have organised instead for Saturday is a rally in the car park opposite Blackpool FC’s West Stand from 2.15pm.

Supporters are the heart and soul of the football club. Without us, there is no Blackpool FC worth speaking of.

So as supporters, if we are united in our actions and our call for change, our demands cannot be ignored. This is about proper supporter representation in the way our proud club is run.

Come and join us, whatever the weather. Doing nothing should not be an option.

A well-supported and vocal protest will continue to send a strong message to the public at large, the media and the club’s owners that this is no way to run a football club and that we find the Oystons’ failure to put football first completely unacceptable.

The unflattering comparisons with our near neighbours should not be lost on anyone.