BST column: Why should Blackpool fans join a supporters’ trust?

Damian Collins was going to be on the panel discussing English football regulation
Damian Collins was going to be on the panel discussing English football regulation

It’s that Party Conference time of year and, last week, four members of the BST committee made the trip to Birmingham to take part in a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference to discuss football governance.

The topic was: ‘Who’s in charge? Regulating English football for the good of the game.’

It had been organised by an independent public policy think tank in partnership with Supporters’ Direct and the Trust thought it worth sending delegates because the panel – in Question Time mode – was going to include Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS select committee; Jaimie Fuller, CEO of Skins and campaigner for ethical values in sport; the chair of Supporters Direct; and representatives from the FA and the Football League.

In the end, the EFL decided not to participate.

It was a high-profile opportunity to remind people of the dire state of affairs at Blackpool FC and to reiterate the call for statutory change in how the game is governed.

A full report of the meeting is available to read on the BST website:

BST has been involved in football governance issues for almost as long as we have been in existence.

Occasionally, some fans have levied the accusation that involvement in the politics of the game is a distraction.

The Trust would counter that, as the supporters of a club which has been subjected to arguably the worst owners in football, it would not make sense for us to campaign for their removal only to ignore the bigger picture – the lack of robust and effective governance which has allowed rogue owners to wreak havoc if more effective controls are not implemented soon.

Football is awash with vast sums of money, so it is quite astonishing that the game is largely unregulated.

Can you imagine any other industry worth billions of pounds being left to regulate itself?

The irony here is that most of those vast sums of money come from us, the football fans, whether it be through ticket revenues, merchandising or TV subscriptions.

How unjust therefore that the fans have absolutely no say in how the game is run.

The long and difficult campaign by Blackpool fans to bring regime change at our club has seen many twists and turns and incredibly, we are still waiting for resolution.

There is a saying ‘Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we are waiting’ and BST is utilising this waiting time to lobby for reform of a situation which is quite unacceptable.

Football fans need to feel confident that, whoever owns our football clubs, they will be run in accordance with best practice and for the benefit of the club and the community, not simply for the benefit of the owners.

Work on manifestoes and proposals for a regulatory system is ongoing and we hope that not only football fans will be involved in this but also the many good owners of league clubs who are already setting ethical standards of ownership as a benchmark to follow.

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust was one of a dozen Trusts represented at the fringe meeting last week.

It seems that BST has become the ‘go to’ Trust for the national supporter organisations whenever action or support for these sorts of initiatives is required.

Indeed, it is our activism and work alongside Supporters Direct, the FSF and individual campaigners like Jaimie Fuller that is starting to gain momentum.

We ask every Blackpool fan to seriously consider the merits of belonging to a supporters’ trust and to take the time to join us.

The cost of membership is £5 per year, a token amount required under the regulations of Supporters Direct.

Being part of this democratic group gives every fan a say in the direction of the Trust and the more members we have, the more representative of the fan base we become.

Football fans have the opportunity to change the way football is run nationally, to challenge the money-driven culture which appears to be sidelining those who should be central to the sport, the ordinary supporters.

It is sheer defeatism to think that the status quo cannot be changed.

That lack of objection or opposition is what the football authorities rely on. It lets them get away with too much.

As fans united we have the power to say ‘enough is enough; we want our game back’.