In-depth report of fans' forum with Blackpool FC's new board
Ticket prices, stadium configuration, the potential 12-point deduction and the number of interested buyers were among the topics discussed at the fans’ forum with Blackpool FC’s new board last night.
Board members Ben Hatton, Michael Bolingbroke, Ian Currie and Tim Fielding all attended the meeting at Rowley’s restaurant inside Bloomfield Road.
Around 50 supporters were in attendance, with all fan groups represented.
The board stressed the need for the club to attract gates upwards of 10,000 for the last four home games of the season.
But the headline news related to the potential 12-point deduction hanging over the club, with the board hoping to hear a decision from the EFL within the next 48 hours.
The club has now provided the EFL with all of the information it needs and remains hopeful they will be able to avoid the sanction.
Any decision made after today means the points deduction will apply for next season rather than this campaign.
As it stands, the Seasiders being docked 12 points would leave them just two points above the relegation zone.
It was also revealed that more than 50 potential buyers have expressed an interest in purchasing the football club.
“We have a list of over 50 names,” consultant to the board Bolingbroke said.
“But that’s 50 people saying they want to potentially bid for the club, but none of them have seen the financial position.
“We hope that information goes out on Monday. Out of those 50 you’d probably see it whittled down to 20 or so.”
A fan in the audience raised the position of Valeri Belokon, whose lawyers indicated in the last court hearing that he would be willing to foot the bill of any shortfall in cash between now and the time new owners are in place.
“The receiver is in touch with Mr Belokon pretty regularly. We believe the club is self-sufficient without any added investment,” Bolingbroke added.
“He will be watching this process but his communication will be with the receiver Paul Cooper, not the board.
“Our job is to make sure that help isn’t necessary. If we get the attendances we feel we can get for the next four home games, it shouldn’t be a problem.
“We are convinced we can get through (the summer). But the receiver works quickly and his orders are from the court, so his job is to sell the club as quickly as possible.
“Paul Cooper does not need to involve us in the process but I’d imagine he will.”
Bolingbroke said it was his aim to attract crowds of 10,000 for the club’s last four home games of the season, but said 8,000 would be “good”.
He revealed 6,000 tickets have currently been sold for Saturday’s fixture against Plymouth Argyle.
It was also confirmed that the Bloomfield Road pitch will be dug up and re-laid following the rugby league’s Summer Bash fixtures on May 19.
Small bits of work will take place at the Squires Gate training ground, but a decision over further investment would be left to the new owners.
Those fans in attendance were then asked to express their views on how the stadium should be configured going forward.
The main consensus was that the three main stands should return to home supporters, with away fans being housed in the south end of the East Stand.
A singing section was suggested for the North Stand, while a family stand could be introduced in the West Stand.
Former Blackpool player Eamonn O’Keefe said it would be a “massive advantage” to have fans housed behind both goals.
A number of ideas were put forward regarding ticket prices. It was pointed out that, as it stands, the club’s season tickets are priced well below the League One average so an increase was likely.
The price of a regular adult season ticket being set at £299 appeared to go down well, with the option of purchasing one at an early bird discount of £250 or £275.
The option to pay in staggered installments rather than in one lump sum was also suggested.
It was recommended the senior concession band should be increased from age 60 to 65, while it was proposed a concession for those aged between 18 and 21 or 18 and 23 could also be introduced.
Other ideas put to the board were tickets for under fives being free, £5 for those aged between five and 11 and £10 for those aged between 11 and 16.
It was also suggested the central blocks in the West Stand could be charged at higher prices as “premium seats” with better views.
The issue of whether fans who already have season tickets should be able to keep their seats for next season was also raised, but the main message was one of unity for the fanbase going forward.
A fanzone promoting local breweries and suppliers and a designated smoking area were other ideas brought up by those in attendance, while new bottle bars with contactless card machines will be in use for the first time this Saturday.
The club’s current Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) is Sarah Nibloe, but is only in the position on an interim basis.
It was suggested that, going forward into next season, there could be one SLO per stand, in what would be a voluntary role.
“There were lots of different opinions,” Bolingbroke said, concluding the meeting.
“Hopefully we can please some people. We can’t please everybody but I guarantee we have got the club’s interests at heart.
“We needed this input to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.
“It’s not the size of the football club that makes it great, what makes it great is the fans, a club that represents its heritage and its people.
“The ownership of a club is not something you find in a legal document, you find it in the fanbase.
“The owners of a club should be custodians and I’ll never forget that during my time here.
“When I look at the club from the time I’ve been here, what I’ve learned is that there’s a great deal of work to do. That’s our job.
“There are decisions we need to make over the next three or four months for the long-term benefit of the club.”