BST column: Football fans together are a powerful force

Fans on a protest march to EFL headquarters in Preston last weekend
Fans on a protest march to EFL headquarters in Preston last weekend

The story so far: Belokon buys a stake in Blackpool FC and invests serious money, which helps propel the club to the Premier League.

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The Oystons refuse to build on that opportunity and side-line Belokon. Blackpool FC tumbles down the divisions as the Oystons ‘illegally strip’ the club.

Fans protest and some are sued by the Oystons. The EFL does nothing. The ethical boycott/not-a-penny-more campaign is launched.

Belokon takes the Oystons to court and the Judge finds in his favour (£31.2m plus costs). Karl Oyston is finally sacked as chairman but Owen Oyston refuses to pay up. The EFL does nothing. The bailiffs move in. Owen vows to sue … to be continued, but not for much longer, we hope.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has been campaigning for regime change at Bloomfield Road for four years. We are sick of the fiasco of our club being treated as it has been, but we are mighty pleased that what the fans have been saying about the Oystons’ shoddy custodianship was vindicated by last November’s High Court ruling.

BST has taken some flak from a section of the fan-base for campaigning for regime change, receiving comments like: “You’re ruining our football club”; “What you’re doing is a total waste of time; “We get your point and it may well be valid but it won’t change a thing. The best thing is to move up the leagues again and enjoy the ride like last time”.

However, it has been a principled stand for a more sustainable future, and difficult though the last few years have been for Blackpool fans, with the prospect of regime change being so tantalisingly close, it is worth revisiting why being a member of this democratically-constituted fans’ organisation is so important.

What fans can achieve collectively should never be underestimated. While it was the private legal action brought by Valeri Belokon that has made such a huge impact on the Oyston finances and given us our best opportunity for the club to get new owners, the consistent and ever-growing supporter campaign against the Oystons has without doubt helped bring that day nearer.

There is much unrest in football as more and more fans wake up to the reality that the game is moving on and leaving us behind.

Fans are seen merely as numbers, needed to create atmosphere for an increasingly global product. We have few rights and virtually no influence – and yet without us there would be no product!

The situation at Blackpool FC has been the most shocking example of what can happen to a club and community when rogue owners are allowed to operate unchecked.

Thankfully, Blackpool fans decided the time had come to do something about this and refused to allow our club to be used in this way.

In spite of the many voices that claimed it was hopeless, that our actions would never make any difference, we persevered.

As a legally constituted and democratically elected organisation, BST has been able to co-ordinate fan action and take our fight to a higher level.

The fan movement is growing, and supporters across the country are beginning to realise that if we want to see a change in the way the game is governed, it is up to us to act.

The decision by the EFL to offer a meeting to Blackpool fans is a step forward. Whatever the outcome, they have now publicly acknowledged that there needs to be supporter engagement. The journey to change is a long one but this is a first step.

Having a credible and effective Trust operating on behalf of the supporters is absolutely essential, and Blackpool fans are leading the way in this respect.

We are at the threshold of a new era in football governance and it is more important than ever that we organise ourselves in such a way as to ensure that we are listened to and can help to shape the future of the game.

As things stand, Owen Oyston is clinging on to the club and seemingly refusing to face the reality of his increasingly desperate situation.

We believe that it is more important than ever that the fans of our wonderful club stand firm and send the strongest possible message to potential owners that we are waiting to return but will not do so while there are any Oystons still involved at the club.

We encourage all Blackpool fans to join the Trust. It is hard to see why anyone who wants the very best for Blackpool FC would not sign up to its Supporters’ Trust – the conscience of the club and the community.

Collectively we are hugely powerful and we have already made great strides in gaining recognition for what we are trying to achieve from the media, business owners and the football authorities.

There is a quiet revolution going on among football fans. It’s about to get a lot louder.