Can fans really have an effect on a football club's sponsors? Blackpool Supporters' Trust and Tangerine Knights prove that they can after meeting with Blackpool FC's new sponsors. Read their statement below...
It is widely known that Village Urban Resorts has entered into a contract with Blackpool Football Club to sponsor the team shirts this season. Village stated that they had the express intention of backing a medium sized, community based club, thus showing their support for the local community from which they draw both their staff and the majority of their customers.
Given the toxic environment that surrounds the football club, it was surprising to many why a national company with a strong local base would become involved as a primary sponsor at this time.
Tangerine Knights spokesperson, Stephen Smith and a representative from Blackpool Supporters’ Trust met with Gary Davis, the CEO of Village Urban Resorts to try and understand why his company chose to sponsor the club under the current circumstances.
A number of key issues were discussed at a meeting between the Village CEO, the Knights and the Trust, including the background and formation of both BST and TK, and more importantly, the pattern of recent events between the supporters of the club and the owners.
The Village were very concerned to learn how toxic the relationship is between the supporters and the owners.
At Village Hotels, we support local football teams, professional, amateur and kids. Blackpool was one of many teams we supported. And in hindsight maybe it is something we should have avoided. But the shirt deal is done and we cannot turn the clock back. However, we have no intention of any other interaction with the club. We are a local hotel and are happy to host supporters meetings and help fans in any way we can. We are happy to commit future sponsorship to a new ownership. - Gary Davis, Village CEO
Given that some fans who are members at the local Village hotel have already stopped using those facilities as a direct consequence of the sponsorship deal, both Blackpool Supporters’ Trust and the Tangerine Knights thought it important to clarify our positions on the ‘ethical boycott’ given this latest positive response from Village to our concerns. The Village had been withheld from being listed on the boycott list pending the resolution of discussions with the company. Both the Knights and the Trust now advise fans to continue to show support for Village Urban Resorts and the services they offer.
Village, on their part, have made a number of generous offers to both the Trust, the Knights and the fan base. They will look to provide facilities for supporters’ groups to hold meetings and fundraisers. Village are also looking to support both groups in a number of community based incentives for the benefit of fans and the local community.
They have also offered a long term sponsorship deal of the club, but only when it is under new ownership and in particular if supporters are involved. Under the current contract with the club, Village have to fulfil the sponsorship agreement and their name cannot therefore be removed from this seasons official shirts.
They have though reaffirmed that if the current owners remain at the club then they will not even consider renewing the current sponsorship deal and will walk away from BFC at the end of the 2015-16 season when this deal ends. Village realise that professional football clubs are an important part of the local community. They expect their business partners to have positive relationships with their customers, other businesses and the local community. Village are a company that embraces positivity and they were happy to find local fans groups have a positive attitude towards what the club could offer to the community in the right circumstances.
This is a unique course of action. The Village, Tangerine Knights and Blackpool Supporters’ Trust all hope that this will help to filter positivity back into Blackpool FC, and thereby, help return the club back to where it belongs, at the heart of the community.
TK and BST would like to thank Village for their openness and for demonstrating via these exchanges and actions how a company should communicate with its customers.
We all look forward to a future where Blackpool Football Club is under new ownership with a forward-thinking, community-focussed company as shirt sponsors.
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 Jon Candy for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC licence.