Trio withdraw from BFC fans’ parliament process

Jimmy Armfield and Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden
Jimmy Armfield and Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden
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Blackpool’s selection process for their much maligned fans’ parliament lies in tatters after three of the four announced judging panel ended their involvement.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has today withdrawn from the process, insisting the club were premature to announce his involvement, as has club great Jimmy Armfield, who also contacted The Gazette

It follows former winger Trevor Sinclair last week taking to Twitter to announce his involvement with the process was ‘complete’.

The Fans Parliament is an attempt by the club to re-engage with fans after the longstanding official supporters’ club, BSA, broke off discussions with the owners last season.

After launching the idea online earlier this month, fans were quick to criticise the club’s motives and fan group Blackpool Supporters Trust described it as undemocratic and an attempt to stifle free speech. While Blackpool Supporters Association insisted they would not be getting involved.

Following public reaction to the idea, Armfield, Sinclair and Marsden have all now withdrawn from the process with just Rev Michael Ward left on the judging panel at present.

In a statement to the Gazette, MP Marsden explained: “I was emailed by the club journalist at Blackpool FC who asked if I might consider taking part in the selection panel for the so called Fans Parliament initiative which the club s owners wished to take forward.

“As the initial indication of how this process would operate was quite scanty, and no further information came forward, I then replied asking for further information and details.

“At no point did I give any commitment to taking part in the selection process. I started from the principle that any such initiative must clearly contribute materially to bridging the gap that has grown up over the past 12 months between the club s owners and

so many of their supporters, and be seen to do so.

“So among the questions I raised was whether the selection process would consider pre 2015-16 season ticket holders as well as current ones, what approaches had been made to the Blackpool Supporters Trust or the Supporters Association to get their views on the proposals and involve them in it , and whether any representatives elected by the ‘parliament’ who then went to Blackpool FC board would have the same access to documents including financial and management as other members of the Board.

“I said that I raised these points in the spirit of the initiative which my colleague the Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford put forward earlier this year to involve supporters on Club boards, after an extensive year long consultation with supporters Trusts and groups countrywide.

“sadly to date I have had no detailed response or assurances on the points I raised, only a brief note from Blackpool FC saying that the process was now well underway.

“Under such circumstances I cannot and will not be taking any part in the process outlined.

“I hope the apparent failure to adopt an inclusive approach to bridge divides will not be a missed opportunity by the owners at a time when they sorely need one.”

It’s understood more than 20 supporters have applied for the controversial panel, although as yet their identities are unknown.