Blackpool fans’ homecoming has been feted quite widely and seems to have resonated both with football fans around the country and with people who just have a soft spot for the resort, generating a lot of much-needed positive press for our club and our town.
It has obviously been an emotional experience for those of us who enjoyed our first game for years at Bloomfield Road last month.
Of course we’re still waiting to celebrate a home win after three fairly dramatic draws but it will come. Our continued passionate support will help to ensure that. It has been well documented that the club needs all the revenue it can get right now – a case of ‘every penny more’ in marked contrast to the years of boycott.
So, for the remaining home games this season, you’re encouraged to bring as many family, friends and acquaintances as you can to re-forge allegiances and to spend money at the ground and club shop.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust holds the view that the club’s heritage and football ethos is central to that bright future. We need to re-establish the spirit of the happy community club playing attractive, attacking football.
That is our DNA. It’s been the foundation of every success Blackpool FC has enjoyed.
It is why the club has won so many passionate followers in its proud history and why it became the second-favourite team with fans of other clubs, the place they all looked forward to coming to.
It is also why Blackpool FC is capable of continuing to work its magic on current and future generations of Seasiders, providing that heritage and ethos are honoured in the right way.
After wide-ranging discussions with a variety of other clubs, supporters’ trusts and football institutions, BST has identified five key principles which we believe require to be followed in order to reinforce that club DNA and move Blackpool FC forward into a new era as a well-supported, financially sustainable and successful community club.
n Sound club management and decision-making
n Responsible financial management
n Positive supporter engagement in structured dialogue
n Community interest and interaction
n Safeguarding of critical assets
They may all seem obvious and worthy principles but we hope the interim board and, in due course, the new owners can subscribe to them.
BST hopes prospective buyers not only recognise the club’s potential but also see how closely the chance of achieving that potential is linked to honouring its tradition and ethos.
No-one knows how long it will be before new owners are in place. The receiver’s initial estimate of three to four months might still be achievable, in which case they could be in situ before next season.
The process could prove more complex and protracted – as Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic fans have found – in which case the interim board might still be running the club into next season.
It is probably wishful thinking to imagine that, as supporters, we would have any involvement in performing due diligence on prospective buyers of our football club, even though it is possibly the most important decision of the last 30 years. We have a huge emotional stake in the club, and we have contributed millions of pounds to its running costs and will almost certainly continue to do so. The offer is there.
We feel Blackpool FC has suffered enough from rogue owners, and having witnessed the problems that have nearly wrecked Bolton Wanderers and Coventry City, we have set out below the sorts of questions we would hope are being asked and answered on our behalf in the best interests of transparency and the long-term wellbeing of the club, its supporters and the town of Blackpool:
Who are the individuals behind any corporate vehicle being used to bid for the club?
What is their background and track record in both football and business?
What is their connection to the town? Do they have any prior affiliation to Blackpool FC?
What are their motivations in investing in/purchasing our football club? What is their source of funds?
How much corporate and personal debt is being used to finance their investment?How might the club’s assets or shares in the football club be used to provide security against borrowings?
Is the financing available unconditionally on day one or staged over time? If the latter, what is the timeframe and is future funding unconditional? If not, what are the conditions? If future funding is to come from third parties not included in the buy-out, how will that be arranged?
Are these potential owners acting as individuals or as part of a consortium? Would they be hands-on in managing the club or would they appoint experienced management?
Who will be on the board and executive management team? What is their experience in football? Do any investors have preferred terms such as exit rights, debt to equity conversion rights, control rights, priority charges over cash flows, enhanced voting rights, rights to fire the board?
How is the business and any turnaround plan to be financed? How will club assets be used to provide security over future financing?
Given the club has been losing £2m per season while the boycott was in place, how long will the turnaround to break-even take and how much funding is needed to achieve this?
Will this funding be from equity or debt? What degree of asset sales are envisaged in doing this and what assets are at risk? Have any business plans assessed what level of employee restructuring will be required? How much will need to be paid to players, management and backroom staff as severance compensation? How will the new board deal with any contractual obligations to agents?
All of that is before questions about community involvement and supporter engagement –to be continued next week.