Blackpool Football Club are near the bottom of the third division and failing fast.
They are not just failing on the pitch and falling down the league, they are failing their fans, the town and the wider footballing community. The behaviour of the club’s owners, the Oyston family, is gobsmacking.
Karl Oyston, the chairman of Blackpool FC, posing by a poster protesting against the way that the Oyston family run the club.
Football is meant to be something to enjoy, that encourages more people to take up sport and that brings communities together. It’s meant to be fun.
Instead Blackpool fans are boycotting the club and wondering who will be next to face legal action.
You can help save Blackpool FC. In the process you can help make English football a better sport. A sport that puts football, fans and communities first
The behaviour of the Oyston family
I have to be careful with what I write about the Oyston family. They take legal action against fans and media.
Channel 4 News from July 2014: “What is happening with Blackpool FC’s finances?”
As well as legal actions they have taunted fans demonstrating against the club; loaned millions from the club to other Oyston-owned companies despite the team’s dreadful performances on the pitch; and texted abuse to a fan. A quick search will show you many more stories from across the world.
The owner’s latest trick is to attempt to undermine the democratically run Blackpool Supporter’s Trust by setting up their own group. The Fan’s Progress Group have failed to hold a single public meeting, meet with the club behind closed doors, and has just six members. In 2010 over thirty thousand Blackpool fans went to Wembley.
A picture of the club shop. Thousands of Blackpool fans no longer shop there or go in the ground. They will not spend a penny more at the club.
If Blackpool football club is to be saved then this behaviour has to stop. The club and the fans need to be able to trust each other.
The owners need to stop taking legal action against fans and the club, like other parts of football, must provide greater transparency. But given the depth of feeling caused by the Oyston family’s actions against fans there is one vital first step.
There needs to be a change of ownership. The Oyston family need to go.
Protests and boycotts
Blackpool fans march along a wet and windy seafront in November 2015 in a protest organised by the Tangerine Knights.
A dwindling number of Blackpool fans still go to games.
Some of those fans will have good reasons, perhaps it is a rare opportunity to spend time with very old or very young relatives. Others simply don’t realise what the owners have been doing.
But the majority of Blackpool fans protest. They don’t accept the ownership by the Oyston family. They get to work to change it.
At every match fans stand outside the stadium and hand out leaflets.
Many more fans protest by staying away entirely. It hurts too much and there are more fun things to do on a Saturday. Boycotting is a valid form of protest. By withdrawing support and not spending money fans are making a choice and wielding their economic power. Boycotts and protests help make change happen.
Other fans in the football community have supported the protests and boycott.
Some of the local MPs, Gordon Marsden, Mark Menzies and Paul Maynard are trying to get the issue debated in Parliament. Gordon is supporting legislation bought forward by Clive Efford that will puts fan representatives on the boards of football clubs and give fans the right to buy shares under certain conditions.
But the politicians on Blackpool town council and the football authorities are noticable by their absence on the protests and relative silence on the issues. They are letting the community down. We need pressure on the Oyston family to make them sell the club.
It is the fans who are making change happen. They know that it will not be easy but they will never give up.
Supporter owned clubs
The Blackpool Supporter’s Trust is run democratically. 979 people voted in their recent elections. They are staffed by volunteers and have put in an incredible amount of effort over the last few years. Recently they bid to buy the club.
The logos of some of the UK’s supporter owned clubs, courtesy of Supporters Direct.
The bid would turn Blackpool into a supporter owned club.
Supporter ownership leads to clubs where decisions aren’t made by individual owners but are instead made democratically and inclusively with the community. Clubs that are run by fans for fans. Clubs that put football first.
Supporters Direct helps fans set up trusts to gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs. The movement is supported by politicians from all parties.
Turning Blackpool into a supporter owned club will not be easy or quick. It could take years. It might be a different bid to buy the club that is successful, but it needs to be a bid that includes the fans. It might even need the fans to start a new club as Wimbledon fans did after their club was moved 56 miles away.
The Oyston family have refused to negotiate the initial bid.
The trust and the fans need your support to help make change happen. Protests, boycotts and spreading the message are a way to help.
In times of crisis and need, regardless of who we support, fans need to stand together. The more successful the supporter owned movement becomes the better it will be for all sports fans.
You can help save Blackpool FC and, by bringing another example of supporter ownership into English football, you can help make football a better sport. One that’s fun. One that’s run by fans for fans.
Ways to help
- Share the message of the Blackpool Supporters Trust across social media with the tags #footballfirst, #oystonout or #SaveBlackpoolFC
- If you are a fan then join the Blackpool Supporter’s Trust. If you want to buy memorabilia then buy from fans.
3. Join the boycott of Blackpool football club. If you are a fan of a club playing at Blackpool then enjoy a trip to the seaside, but don’t buy a ticket. Join the Blackpool fans protesting outside.
4. If you live in Blackpool write a polite email to the local councillors asking them to help save Blackpool FC.
5. If you don’t live in Blackpool then write to your MP asking them to help supporter ownership and to help save Blackpool FC.
Make a New Year resolution: Help save Blackpool FC
2015 was another turbulent year for Blackpool FC. This year make a resolution to boycott it.
You will help sports fans, help the Blackpool Supporters Trust and help save Blackpool FC.
[This post was updated on 2 January to add information about the local MPs work and Clive Efford’s bill]
[This post was updated on 4 January to clarify a point about the Fan’s Progress Group]