Every month the Football Supporters’ Federation features an affiliate or associate member to highlight good work carried out by fans - if you'd like to appear email firstname.lastname@example.org. This month it's Blackpool Supporters' Trust who outline the club's problems...
Exactly one year ago, Karl Oyston, Chairman of Blackpool FC, said: "It's not been the easiest of summers. We've probably got in only half of the players we want to recruit. We are well behind in our preparations so it has probably hampered Paul Ince more than most other managers."
He promised that lessons would be learned and the club would do a better job next time around. So what changed? Either Oyston didn’t mean a word he said or the lessons have not been learned – because Blackpool are even further behind the pace right now than a year ago.
It has been another roller-coaster close season at Bloomfield Road and we, the fans, have just looked on in horror and disbelief. There has been a mass exodus of players, management team and back-room staff. The President and the Chairman are at loggerheads in the press. The new Manager, Jose Riga, has scrambled to get enough warm bodies to fill a team sheet and preparations for a gruelling Championship campaign have been woeful.
With only one pre-season game and 17 new players still finding their own feet, it has come as no surprise that Blackpool have slumped to five straight league defeats - our worst start in 116 years - and are rock bottom of the Championship with no points.
In response to the current malaise, Oyston has said, “Judge us at the end of the season”. Well, we did that last year and the verdict wasn’t a good one. We were extremely fortunate to survive and if we do so again - which looks highly unlikely right now - it will be more by luck than by judgement.
Why were Blackpool in such a dire position at the start of the campaign? And why were we not able to strengthen our squad before the transfer deadline closed?
Well, we have training facilities that have been described by recent managers as not fit for purpose; we insist on offering one-year contracts; we delay signings to squeeze the best value for money; we end up bringing in too many players who fail to show commitment or even fitness and we fail to retain our best and proven players.
Lacking a comprehensive squad, we play too many players out of position and we make up the shortfall through hiring loanees. Even when our youth system throws up players capable of making the grade, we fail to hang on to them.
Everyone (except the Chairman himself) is of the opinion that this is no way to run a football club. How could this be allowed to happen? The ultimate responsibility for our plight must rest with the Chairman, President and majority shareholders. It begs the question: what’s the plan?
There appears to be no long-term strategy at Blackpool for advancing the club. Managing the enterprise within the constraints of Financial Fair Play is laudable, but that should be a given and not an end in itself. Despite being a “cash rich” club, Blackpool are starting to acquire a reputation for being tacky and exploitative, milking our Premier League legacy.
It is being managed more like a League One outfit than a Championship side, let alone one looking to regain Premier League status. In marked contrast, Fleetwood Town just a few miles up the Lancashire coast is a model of a club aspiring to greater things.
We, as supporters, expect our club to play attractive and competitive football - and we’ve seen neither from Blackpool for too long now, so we’ve decided to act. Blackpool Supporters’ Trust didn’t exist this time last year. It was only formally constituted three months ago, held an inaugural public meeting in July and already had 825 paid-up members before a ball was kicked.
We are taking the first steps on a journey which will have a significant and positive impact on the way the club is run. Our ultimate goal is supporter ownership of the club, but our mission is to put football first in the interests of the supporters and the community - and we intend to hold the club’s owners to account, regardless of who they are.
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust has called on Blackpool FC - Chairman, President, Directors - to step up and do the job that was promised. What is required is commitment to developing a sensible long-term strategy to take the team forward. Progress is the club motto!
Realising that vision will require significant investment. If the current owners and majority shareholders are prepared to finance such a future, then let us hear their plan. If they are not willing - and that is their prerogative - then they should step aside and let someone else take on that commitment.
- Join Blackpool Supporters’ Trust at: www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.org
The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don't necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn't be attributed to the FSF.
Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.