Blackpool’s fight is football’s fight; let’s stand together

Date published: Thursday 10th January 2019 8:19

Four: the number of goals scored by Blackpool when winning the Matthews FA Cup final of 1953.

Four: The number of years in which Blackpool fans have been boycotting their own club to rid it of the Oyston family.

Numbers matter in Blackpool. There were 100,000 at Wembley when wing-wizard Stanley Matthews lit up north London and brought back the cup and 25,000 on average at Bloomfield Road in 1953 when the Tangerines illuminated the seaside town brighter than the twinkling lights down the promenade.

Now, average home league gates at the north-west club hover under 4,500. And that includes the visit of rampantly supported Sunderland, who brought nearly 8,000 and bumped up the figures.

Those official attendance stats are constantly contested by some Blackpool fans, who point to the vast number of empty seats when Saturdays come around and wind rattles around the desolate ground like it does the seafront, just part of a remote interaction in English football’s most dysfunctional club.

Imagine the pain caused by being forced to stay away from your football club for four years? That’s what the Blackpool fans do each week as part of the Not A Penny More blockade. Every home game at 2pm the dignified Blackpool Supporters Trust turn up to the front of Bloomfield Road, make their point, and at 3pm – with the referee’s whistle – pack up and go home again. Every home match since 2015. Some fans were boycotting a year earlier and some can’t even bare to go to away games because the team, and what it represents, is now so alien.

All the while, the stay-away Blackpool fans deny themselves and are denied the simple joys that football fans take for granted. A pre-match pint in the stadium, a weekly meet-up with friends, a chance to roar away life’s frustrations on the terraces. All gone because they want a better football club to support. Not even that, a well-run football club which treats supporters with intelligence and respect.

There is a human cost, inevitably. Christine Seddon, Chair of Blackpool Supporters Trust lost her dear mum Joan, a Tangerine since seven, at 91 in October. Joan went to the ‘53 FA Cup final on the back of her brother’s motorbike but chose like many others to boycott her lifelong beloved club in 2015. The act of not renewing her season ticket was made all the more poignant as she suffered from dementia. Going to Bloomfield Road should have been a familiar comfort rather than a sadness in her golden years.

There have been well meaning messages of support from the wider football family for Blackpool’s plight – well-wishing tweets from respected journalists soon forgotten when the next round of top-tier games come around. ‘Judgement Day’ 1,2 and 3, where protesting Blackpool fans called for an end to this disgusting chapter in English football history, came and went. The last big event saw fans from all over the country descend on Blackpool, effigies of Karl and Owen Oyston smouldered and activists tried to force the main entrance. The place looked like a war zone. Yet, the safely bunkered English Football League and Football Association sat on their hands and waited for it to pass.

When will enough be enough?. How long can football as a collective or even an industry stand by and let this happen? What if we all did 5% more and united to ensure the end game to the Blackpool saga and this monumental piss-take of us all by enforcing some basic tenets.

1. The Oyston family must leave Blackpool Football Club and fans have a significant say in its operation.

2. Football needs a proper fit and persons test for club ownership that is also possible to be enforced retrospectively.

3. Clubs, fans and stadia need protection as community assets via any mean necessary.

That’s it, just three small facets of a sick English game that can be pinpointed and achieved. If every journalist with a heart, supporter with a soul and sponsor with a conscience stood together and got this job done the game would be safeguarded on a basic level needed for human dignity. What’s needed is a simple coalition of supporters, fans’ organisations, the media, community groups, NGOs, politicians, players, football professionals and volunteers. A butterfly effect that will blow the fedora off Owen Oyston’s head and him safely into retirement. We’ve done a lot of things wrong but we can make this right.

Already, Blackpool Supporters’ Trust are turning their attention to the sponsors of the EFL and Football Association and their role in funding football’s inactive organising bodies. The same bodies who have provided no solution to this harmful scenario which has damaged the community in Blackpool and other communities at crisis clubs across the country. Bolton look the latest one in trouble. If there is another Judgement Day it will be at the doors of Nike, Buildbase, EE, Ginsters, Mitre, Screwfix, EA Sports and their ilk.

Non-answers and buck passing are no longer acceptable from the EFL and FA.

Blackpool’s fight is football’s fight. We need action not words now. One final push. This article is a direct public challenge.

It’s time for an end game. End of.

Tom Reed

 


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