BST asked for clarification about the meeting for supporters’ groups at Bloomfield Road on March 10.
We are now advised that “BFC Community Trust initiated the meeting following the request by the two party leaders of Blackpool Council for all parties to get together to discuss the issues involved.”
There appears to be a serious flaw in this rationale because the leader of the Tory group on the Council had already initiated a call for a meeting and had proposed the FA as an external mediator.
Why did the Community Trust think there was any requirement to set up a separate initiative?
BST much preferred the idea of an external mediator not linked to the football club.
We also proposed that each properly constituted fans’ group should have the same number of delegates as the club-manufactured Fans’ Progress Group and we further requested an independent minute-taker be appointed (suggesting The Gazette’s William Watt) in lieu of the club’s press officer.
All of these requests were reasonable and designed to ensure a more level playing field. We understand that other fans’ groups made similar suggestions. Every request has been rejected.
In addition, comments made by Karl Oyston in his radio interview suggest to us that although he talks of wanting to repair relationships – almost certainly the worst in professional football – he doesn’t really understand or accept the reasons why so many supporters are disaffected.
He suggests an improvement in results and the quality of football will bring fans flocking back. He seems oblivious to the more substantive issues that need to be addressed if the majority of supporters currently not attending games are to return.
Here are just two examples: litigation and the FPG.
The prosecution of fans through the civil courts has profoundly impacted the way supporters think about the club.
The Oystons have used their financial clout and the defamation laws to pursue fans who cannot afford to defend themselves.
The cost of fighting such cases is enormous, the psychological effect just as devastating as the financial blow.
What is on offer from the Oystons, though described as an “amnesty”, is in fact no such thing: admit culpability and receive an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Order’ or don’t admit anything and run the risk of prosecution.
Those whose behaviour exceeded going on to the pitch may still be required to pay monies to the Oystons.
If the chairman seriously wants improved relations, then a genuine amnesty might be offered to every fan involved in civil cases with the Oystons. By that we mean a complete pardon – no ‘acceptable behaviour orders’, no more prosecutions, huge fines or expensive court cases.
A simple declaration of intent by the owners to cease all current litigation and begin no fresh litigation, as an act of goodwill, is the very least that is required.
As to the FPG, this is currently an unconstitutional body of six individuals appointed by the club to ‘represent’ the fans, concocted by a process which Jimmy Armfield, Gordon Marsden and Trevor Sinclair all felt so uncomfortable about that they withdrew their involvement.
BST has always maintained that the ‘parliament’ should be elected, not selected.
It could be an opportunity for change in the relationship between supporters and the club but only if implemented in the right way following some sensible constitutional principles
- It should be open to any fan, not just season-ticket holders.
- All Blackpool supporters should be able to vote to choose the representatives.
- The parliament should hold regular public consultations with fans
- The parliament should meet regularly with the club.
- An elected representative should sit on the board with voting rights on behalf of the supporters.
Adherence to these principles is the only way in which such a group will ever have any credibility or opportunity to succeed.
Whether the proposed meeting on March 10 is an appropriate opportunity to make these points directly to Karl Oyston is still being debated.
BST will put the question to its members later today and the decision will be made by majority vote in true democratic fashion.