MP Gordon Marsden and Blackpool FC Community Trust host roundtable discussion on grassroots football
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden recently hosted a roundtable grassroots discussion in conjunction with Blackpool FC Community Trust at Bloomfield Road.
Funding and access, community engagement and support for mental health were all on the agenda for the event, which was chaired by the Community Trust's chief executive Ash Hackett.
Participants included Blackpool Supporters' Trust chair Christine Seddon, former Seasider Paul Stewart and the City of Chester MP Chris Matheson, who’s been campaigning for independent regulation in football.
Back in June, Mr Marsden sponsored Mr Matheson’s Bill calling for a new Independent Regulator in football.
The motivation for this stemmed from the Blackpool fans choosing to boycott Bloomfield Road for four years under the ownership of the Oystons.
The Bill would give a regulator powers to undertake an independent and forensic audits of clubs’ directors and financial activities when sufficient concerns have been expressed about a club misconduct in management.
“Under the new ownership, there is a renewed sense of optimism at Bloomfield Road," Mr Marsden said.
"As LS Lowry illustrated in his famous “Going to the Match” painting, football clubs are part of a town’s identity and central to the community.
"Football can be a positive hook for so many other things and I’ve seen that for myself with the work the community trust does. They continue to deliver a different array of programmes and all of which have a strong emphasis on education, health and inclusion."
The roundtable explored three different themes - funding and access to grassroots football, using football to bring the community together and the importance of football on mental health.
Hackett also explained the work the Community Trust were doing as part of the “Playing Pitches” strategy, which included finding new state of the art artificial pitches, but also working with Blackpool Council to improve the playing facilities at some of the town’s parks and smaller green spaces.
Mr Matheson said: “It was a really positive event – so many different groups brought together by Gordon to make up for lost time over the last four years.
"What was most striking was just how far the club, the Supporters' Trust, the Community Trust and others have come in such a short space of time in driving forward the joint agenda of the footballing community.
"I know all supporters across the country will be watching with interest and support as Blackpool forges ahead."
Paul Stewart added: “It was great to be invited and contribute to the roundtable at Blackpool FC Community Trust, and moreover hear what great work Blackpool FC are doing in the community to collaborate with many other organisations in all areas including mental health and wellbeing.
"It’s been a long wait to be able to contribute, especially with what’s happened at the club over the last 20 years or so.
"But it’s clear that they have expressed a real passion to bring the football club and the community back together which can only be a positive thing.”