BST column: Progress group meeting doesn’t change stance

Fans during last weekend's game at Bloomfield Road
Fans during last weekend's game at Bloomfield Road
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On Tuesday September 22 the club published a set of minutes detailing a meeting between the Fans Progress Group (FPG) and the chairman.

The FPG is a group of 12 supporters selected by the club.

Their purpose, according to Karl Oyston, is to “get the views of the fanbase”.

The idea of consultation with fans or seeking the input of your customers would appear a positive one for any company. This is particularly true at Blackpool FC where the relationship between owners and customers is worse than at any other football club, and arguably any other business in the UK.

The Oystons have taken the stance that the football club is their business and they will do whatever they want with it.

The treatment of supporters has regularly been dismissive and contemptuous - fans are often told that our contribution is not necessary for the well-being of the club.

However, the reality of any professional football club is that it cannot exist without support from its community.

The biggest single income stream for any football club either directly or indirectly is from its fanbase.

The bigger the support, the more money from ticket receipts, the more attractive it is to potential sponsors and investors, the more likely it is to have on-field success, the greater its income of television monies (paid for by supporters Sky/BT subscriptions).

In fact almost every penny in the professional game either comes from, or exists because of, supporters.

It is the customers that make the business of football viable, not the owners.

There aren’t many business owners who will acknowledge that any success their companies achieve is not as a result of their own leadership and business acumen.

The Oystons, like many of their contemporaries, are hugely impressed by their own contribution to the club, so much so in fact, that they appear to forget just how much of a team effort the business of football is.

The minutes of the meeting with the FPG made particularly interesting reading in this context.

The chairman appeared not to ask a single question of those people he had gathered around him in order to get their views.

He shared no plan for the future, provided no solutions for the many problems that we face and failed to change his position in regard to any of the most urgent issues that have afflicted our club sincethe Oyston family began their tenure 16-years-ago.

There was no acknowledgement of those fans who have continued to give their support to the club in these most difficult of times, no olive branch to those who have been disaffected.

The chairman appears to believe he is right no matter how overwhelming the evidence might be that the opposite is true.

Whether he has become too emotionally attached to his ‘vision’ for the club that he is no longer able to acknowledge his own shortcomings or the failures inherent in his methodologies is a matter for speculation.

He appears no longer able to make the critical self-assessment that is necessary for each of us to learn from our experience.

From reading these minutes, it is hard to understand how such an intelligent man has so singularly failed to grasp the basics of the business or the reality of the situation that ‘his’ business is in.

This makes it ever more likely that the same mistakes will continue to be made and the downward spiral of the club will simply continue.

The minutes rather misleadingly state: “In any event BST have repeatedly indicated they do not wish to have dialogue with the club”.

Given that BST spent the whole of last season attempting to have just such a dialogue, we might be excused a raised eyebrow at this point in time.

What matters to BST is the future of the club and the community that supports it.

The Trust believes that only though allowing fans direct and real input into the decision-making process, as respected equals, can this club move forward from the horrendous position it has found itself in.

We are about facilitating a much required change and have repeatedly sought serious and constructive talks with the owners about the future.

Because the Oystons appeared unwilling either to talk or to change (and the set up of the FPG suggests they have neither the intention nor the ability to do things differently), the membership of BST has voted to continue to seek a change of ownership at the club.