Q&A with Blackpool FC executive chairman Michael Bolingbroke
Blackpool FC's executive chairman Michael Bolingbroke discussed a wide range of issues when he sat down for a Q&A session with the media this afternoon.
The topics included his personal future, what plans are being put in place for next season, concerns over Owen Oyston's return and much, much more.
Here's what he had to say:
Where does the football club currently stand?
“I would say it’s an interesting situation.
"The role myself and Ben Hatton were asked to play was to act as a bridge between the previous ownership and the potential new owners. We’re acting on behalf of the receivers.
"One of the first things we wanted to do was ensure the club had the right result with the EFL with the points deduction. We worked very hard to give them what they needed and we were very pleased with the result there.
"Now we look forward and we look forward to next season. In the background there is a process ongoing which the receivers are running to find a new owner. But while that goes on in the background there is work that needs to be done at the club.
“I’m working with the manager to look at the squad and to look at players for next season. We’re looking at the infrastructure, the pitch at Bloomfield Road and the training ground at Squires Gate.
“Then there’s season tickets, sponsors and those commercial decisions that need to be made at this period of time in readiness for next season. There’s quite a lot ongoing and the results are all positive at the moment, but we’re working out way through it.
“For the team itself we have our final game coming up this weekend and I think we should all be pleased with the result. It’s been a fairly tumultuous year for the club and I think to consolidate our position is League One is good. But we look forward to next year and challenging for a place in the Championship.”
Have you enjoyed your time here so far?
“Very much so. I think this is a club with immense opportunity and I think the new owners coming in will realise that when they’re here.
"We’re in League One at the moment but Blackpool should definitely be in the Championship and I believe any new owner coming in will have that as a baseline aspiration.
"I think everything here is ready for that, from the playing side to the commercial side - that’s definitely where the club should aim to be.
"For me and for Ben this is a really interesting job for us and I hope we can deliver to the expectations of the fans.”
Have you taken this club to your heart? And would you like to stay on under new owners?
“Totally. If I’m not here in a managerial position next season I’ll be here as a fan. My son came here for the last game and insisted on wearing tangerine. It’s a great club with a great community around it with a great fanbase.
“Ben and I would not have been able to achieve what we’ve achieved if it wasn’t for the support we’ve had from an immense fanbase in Blackpool. It’s amazing.
"The situation we had with fans coming out in significant numbers to help clean the stadium and clean the seats, that was an extraordinary event. It speaks for the love people have for this club and the fans deserve for this club to do well, they truly do.
“At the moment I’m here on the staff and it’s a role I’m doing for the receivers.
"There are new owners that will come in and I imagine they will be in situ and up and running before next season - probably well before next season. But (whether I stay on) will be a decision for them.”
Does it make it difficult to plan when you’re waiting for the new owner to come in?
“I don’t think my personal position matters that much to the situation, but I do agree that decisions are being made by myself and Ben that it would be ideal if we knew who the new owner was. But we don’t know who they are and they are decisions that need to be made.
“Players are a good example of that. The manager needs to know what budget is available to him and in order to do that there needs to be discussions between myself and the manager to understand what his vision is for the squad for next season.
“He needs to be ready to go when the transfer window opens so yes those discussions have to happen.
“In an ideal world we’d know the vision of the new owner but it’s important the squad is strong at the beginning of next season - so I’m making those decisions as the current chairman.”
Is this an exciting times for the fans?
“Yes, because I think next season will be a great season for the club.
"The squad will be strengthened, they’ll be playing on a better pitch, they’ll have better surroundings for training and ultimately everybody wants the same thing - which is for the team to challenge for the Championship.
“To do that you need three things. You need a squad that is able to do that, you need a training ground which can train that squad then you need a pitch here at Bloomfield Road which favours the better team - which is what we aim to be.
“With those three things combined, I think we have a very exciting season lined up and we’re working on all those three things this summer.”
Is there a magic number in terms of attendances to balance the books?
"If I give you a number now you will remind me of that number later on! But I think it would be amazing if we had 10,000 people at every one of our Saturday games.
“I think it would be great if at least 6,000 or 7,000 of those were season ticket holders. I think that is achievable.
“We work in football so we work in dreams, don’t we? So we’ll stick with that 10,000 number and see if we can get that. That would a great, great result and would send out a great message to the league.
“I’ve been very happy with the attendances since we’ve come in. They’ve been great but it’s not just the attendances. The passion from the fans has been extraordinary and that’s not just my perspective on it, you talk to Terry and he will under-score that as well. It definitely boosts the team.
“It’s really been amazing, the passion, and it’s a pleasure. It’s wonderful to hear it.”
Are you happy with the season ticket sales so far?
“Yes, absolutely. But it’s very early days and we’ve only just put them on sale.
“We have an early-bird discount and obviously people will buy early to take advantage of that, which is great. But at this stage I’m happy, yes.”
Can you appease those fans who are waiting to hear news about Owen Oyston’s potential return before buying a season ticket?
“I think everyone has to make a decision about whether or not they want to buy a season ticket and the reasons around that.
“But what I would say is that bids for the club will be in by May 15 and a final decision will be made shortly after that.
“By the time the season starts, and by the time the season ticket holders will be sitting in their seats, everyone will know who the new owner is.”
It has been rumoured Owen Oyston left no money in the bank - can anything be done about that?
“I can’t speak for Ben but I didn’t have any expectations when I came in. We were presented with a situation and one of our first challenges was to ensure the club was solvent right the way through to the end of the season - which is what we’re doing.
“That and addressing the issue with the EFL and the points deduction were the two most pressing issues.
“I had no expectations around the situation when we came in, but what I can say is right now the club is solvent and we will get our way to the end of the season with no problem at all and we will be ready to go next season.
“We have a business plan for next season which is one of solvency, so gets us through next season as well very comfortably. The way I look at the club myself is this is a club that should be in the Championship and every decision we make is geared at that.”
What's your message to those fans who are undecided about buying a season ticket?
“I think this is a great opportunity. I think this club is at a very exciting point in its long and illustrious life-cycle and I think for a new owner there’s a huge opportunity here.
“If you’re a fan you want to be at the games and you want to see your team win. Ultimately it’s all about how we do on the pitch but we are going to give the manager the best possible start we can.
“We work within constraints and the club needs to be able to pay its way, but the manager fully understands that. We’re going to make changes to our squad we hope and I think next season will be an exciting season.
“There’s no doubt at all there is that 12th man and if the fans are here in good voice and big numbers that undoubtedly helps.”
What improvements are being made to the Bloomfield Road pitch and Squires Gate?
“We will do a full renovation of the pitch and we will start that after we have hosted the rugby games.
“Regarding Squires Gate, it’s interesting because we are doing what needs to be done with regards irrigation. We want to make the pitches as good and strong as we can for what is often a dry period in the summer.
“I think for a new owner coming in, where we put the training ground is one of the first questions they will want to address. There is work to be done there but there’s also a case around having a broader discussion about where a new training centre should be.
“That all links in with a broader discussion we’ll probably have around our academy and the first-team training centre and how it should be merged into one. Those are medium-term plans over the next three to five years but that would influence what we do at Squires Gate.
“We have mentioned to the council that we are interested in doing that and would recommend it to the new owner. They were very open to helping as much as they could with that which was hugely useful, but it’s not really for us to make that call.”
Has cash been set aside for the new facilities needed for away fans?
“Yes. In the summer we will look at a wider project looking at the East Stand and making it a more permanent base for the away fans. That will involve various back-of-house activities such as a bar etc.
“The East Stand is fine, we have certification that is given to it on a regular basis and it’s fine for now. For the next couple of games (Gillingham and rugby games) we will net over the first few rows of the stand and then there is an issue we will deal with after those games related to that but it’s not a serious issue.”
Will there be a radical overhaul of the squad or only small changes made?
“I think Terry is happy with much of the squad, but there are some changes he wants to make and some additions he wants to make. I think if I was to talk about that it would spoil his thunder and Terry was wondering why I was talking about that when it’s his job!
“But he and I have had many meetings about that and the resources are available for him for the extent it can be to create the squad he needs. He and I share the same ambition for the club that we want to be challenging for a spot in the Championship.”
Michael's comments on when he expects a new owner to be in place, the board's U-turn over children's season ticket prices and criticism of the board will feature in Friday's and Saturday Gazette...