BST column: Does Pool’s ‘Parliament’ serve democracy?

Tough times for Blackpool's fans
Tough times for Blackpool's fans
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The decision by Blackpool FC to create a Fans’ Parliament has come in for widespread criticism.

A club which refuses to talk to the legally constituted and democratic Blackpool Supporters’ Trust (by far the largest fans’ group) and whose own official supporters association, BSA, cut all ties with it, should not really be surprised that many fans saw the ‘Parliament’ as a blatant attempt to appease the football authorities while trying to undermine democratic fans’ involvement in the way the club is run.

Fans’ Parliaments at other football clubs are set up by the supporters, so supporters were rightly wary of the club’s motives and proposals for setting up a Fans’ Parliament at Blackpool.

BST objected to the basis on which it was being set up and issued a six-point plan for a more democratic process, suggesting among other things that the Parliament, if there was to be one, ought by definition to be democratically elected by the entire fanbase rather than being selected. This plan was ignored and the club pressed ahead.

In doing so, it has already failed to live up to the promised “independent selection” process. Both Jimmy Armfield and Trevor Sinclair chose to step down from the selection panel after the first stage and local MP Gordon Marsden refused to be involved at all.

The final selections were therefore made by one independent individual and two employees of Blackpool Football Club. This appears not to be impartial and calls into question the ability of the club to set up an independent consultative body.

Almost the first thing the 12 selected individuals decided to do was to change their name from the Fans’ Parliament to the Fans’ Progress Group, presumably to try and side-step criticism of the fact that they were selected, not elected – just reinforcing the impression that they are making it up as they go along.

Everyone needs to realise that the Fans Progress Group is unaccountable, having no legitimacy other than that which the club chooses to confer on it. Some individuals within it believe they will have the ear of the chairman and will be able to change things for the better at Blackpool FC.

The 12 can only represent themselves as they have no mandate to act or speak on behalf of Blackpool fans. Supporters are deeply concerned that these people, however well-intentioned, have provided a shield for the owners to hide behind.

BST took a show-of-hands vote at a recent open meeting. The vote was just short of a two-thirds majority against having any dialogue with the club’s appointed Fans Group.

Because we are open and democratic, any show-of-hands vote that doesn’t secure a clear two-thirds majority is then put to the entire membership for a definitive ruling. We will be setting that vote up shortly now that our own committee elections are out of the way.

The members of the Trust are firmly against the notion that a fans’ group can be selected and not elected. The committee will ask our members to approve that the Trust doesn’t actively engage with the FPG in its current form as the concept is wholly undemocratic and divisive in nature.