English football was born out of the coming together of dockers, factory workers, church groups and even ex-public school boys who shared a passion for the game that became Association Football.
In those early days no one would form a club or become involved in football for profit– rather, it would be for the love of the game or from a philanthropic desire to provide entertainment for the working man.
When businessmen did get involved in their local club it would most likely be because they saw it as a form of civic duty – rather like standing as a local councillor, a magistrate or the trustee of a charity.
Some, no doubt, could also spot the commercial benefits that the high profile of a directorship in the local football team might bring. A successful team could also be good for business. Famously, output in the Wearside factories fluctuated noticeably with the performance of their footballing heroes – a home win saw productivity soar!
Back then, no one became involved in football to make money. Indeed as recently as 1983 there were rules in place that expressly forbade owners of Football League clubs from taking a profit from their shareholding.
As we all know, the footballing world has changed markedly in the thirty years since those rules were rescinded.
The advent of Sky and the multi-million pounds that cascade through the Premiership clubs has created a new landscape – one where the boardrooms of our major clubs are controlled by Americans, Arabs, Asians, Russians and Italians whose approach to football finance can vary dramatically.
In the case of Blackpool FC it has created an environment whereby its current custodians feel it quite acceptable to hijack the unprecedented success generated on the field of play and declare extraordinary profits rather than provide adequate and sustainable support for the team.
Blackpool suffered the ignominy last season of being the first team in England to be relegated, whilst at the same time the parent company Segesta declared the largest profit of any SME in Lancashire.
This “profit first” rather than “football first” approach has never been better illustrated than by the decision to host the Neil Diamond concert a little over two weeks before the start of the current season, with little or no regard being shown for the impact on the already much-maligned Bloomfield Road playing surface, a sizeable part of which had to be rapidly re-turfed afterwards.
Blackpool fans rightly want to feel they are part of the club they support but they also want to see that the owners are committed to making the team as successful as it can be.
So it is little wonder the natives have been growing increasingly restless – because what they have seen in recent seasons is their football team play second fiddle to aged pop stars and the Oystons’ desire to augment their already sizeable profits.
Those who have voiced concerns are either ignored or treated with barely concealed contempt through the official Blackpool FC offerings on social media that betray the bunker mentality that seems to permeate the club’s decision-making.
It is said ‘”you reap what you sow”. In the case of Blackpool FC, the true folly of the Oystons’ policies can be gauged from the dwindling attendances, the fact that the team is down in the relegation places of the third tier of the league and from the thousands of long-term fans who are showing their disdain for the “profit first” approach by boycotting home games and official merchandise and seeking ethical alternatives to Oyston-owned and associated businesses.
The winds of change are gathering strength. It is time for the mantra of “football first” that emblazons the BST-endorsed alternative shirt to become the true agenda of the football club. Blackpool, as a premier seaside resort, deserves a successful and sustainable football team. Right now, we don’t have one.
Everybody knows in their hearts that if there is ever to be sustained upward progress again at Bloomfield Road, there needs to be a change in the boardroom.
We call upon the owners to respect the roots of the game, the proud history of Blackpool FC and the continuing importance of the football club to the fans and the town.
Do the honourable thing and embrace the need for change.