BST Column: We are putting fans first

A banner against the Oystons at last weekend's game
A banner against the Oystons at last weekend's game
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Blackpool Supporters’ Trust first took shape as SISA (Seasiders Independent Supporters Association) in January 2013.

The aim was to set up an independent group of supporters who would attempt to represent Blackpool fans in a genuinely democratic way.

It was pro-Blackpool, promoting the sport, the team and the local area. Those who began SISA believed that the supporters, as its longest standing financial contributors and most loyal customers, deserved a greater say in how the club is run.

The relationship between the club and its ‘official’ supporters’ group had, over many years, become a hollow arrangement with the fans’ views being completely ignored except where they conveniently coincided with the owners’ plans. BST never was, nor will it ever be, an anti-Oyston organisation. The Trust will always examine most stringently the performance of anyone who chooses to run Blackpool FC.

We seek to hold whoever manages the club to account on the football and the business side. We expect managers and players to conduct themselves according to the best traditions of the club. We require the owners to treat the club and its supporters with respect, to do their best to improve the club in footballing and business terms and to put the club at the heart of the community. It is an enterprise that represents the town and with which people should be proud to be associated.

A great many supporters consider the owners have failed the club in both footballing and business terms. On this basis, the Trust opposes the methods of the Oystons and seriously questions their achievements and ambitions.

SISA and then Blackpool Supporters’ Trust have spent over two years writing respectfully and privately to the owners asking for dialogue, suggesting change and attempting to understand how we could help to improve the situation.

The Trust is founded on some very basic principles, namely increasing fan involvement in the decision- making process of the club (largely to be achieved by the acquiring of a shareholding), ensuring the club is responsive to the community to which it belongs and encouraging those in charge to work towards producing the best football and facilities that the club can reasonably afford.

Those are sound principles and aims, but the fact that the current owners have without substantive reason refused to ever speak to our organisation – either ignoring our approaches or treating them with a disdain bordering on arrogance – poses a question about the seriousness of their commitment to the well-being of the club.

Blackpool FC is secondary to their other business interests, as Karl and Owen Oyston have both made abundantly clear by their words and actions.

It is this behaviour and attitude that has driven the Trust, on behalf of our members, to seek alternative owners who are willing to honour real fan and community involvement.

This is not a route we would ever have preferred to follow, but the Oystons have left us with no option. .

We are a democratic organisation and our membership determines our agenda.We have a very broad spectrum of members and they alone, not a remote board, determine the Trust’s stance on all matters.

The future of the Trust and very possibly the future of the club will be determined by our members, the supporters. The more members we have, the stronger our voice, the better we can represent the football fans of Blackpool, without whom there truly would be no club. Various enormously wealthy people may say that they have acted to ‘save’ football clubs, but without the fans there would be no clubs to ‘save’.