Supporters’ trust take fight against owners to the council
26 January ~ A stoppage-time equaliser away at League One promotion challengers Walsall ensured Blackpool go into tonight’s rearranged home game with Sheffield United outside of the relegation zone. The impressive draw came on the back of the 5-0 home thrashing of Scunthorpe the week before which will have given manager Neil McDonald hope that his young side are perhaps finally turning a corner.
McDonald inherited a slender squad after taking over following the club’s relegation from the Championship and in the main has had to recruit young and untested players on a budget that pales in comparison to the riches the Seasiders won with their quickly fading Premier League campaign in 2010-11. Despite a slow start to the season, Blackpool’s form has improved and the previously inevitable-seeming consecutive relegation is now a little less likely, if still a distinct possibility.
In the context of where Blackpool have come from however, it hardly seems like time to be breaking out the bunting. McDonald may be able to achieve the goal that has been asked of him in halting the club’s decline through the divisions, but as ambitions go it’s bottom of the barrel stuff. Indeed, for many Blackpool fans what is happening on the field continues to be largely irrelevant against the backdrop of the Oyston family’s ownership. Blackpool Supporters’ Trust’s offer to take control of the club in the summer was effectively dismissed out of hand by majority shareholder Owen Oyston and fans have decided to boycott in droves.
The trust’s latest move was to take their fight to Blackpool Council and last week they made a plea for intervention by asking the council to publicly declare support for a change of ownership, in addition to various other actions to promote fan engagement. Expecting the council to take sides however, even if extreme cases such as Blackpool possibly warrant such action, was always likely to be met with dismay and so it proved as Council Leader Simon Blackburn took a clear hands-off approach.
Blackburn’s unhelpful and incendiary comments that “football and politics shouldn’t mix” and that Blackpool fans “weren’t complaining when they were in the Premier League” only served to reinforce the isolation many of the club’s supporters feel. The FA, Football League and now even the local council all seem to be taking a backseat and allowing the ongoing problems to fester.
Yesterday, the off-the-field drama continued when a fan was jailed for 26 weeks for their involvement in the protests at the final game of last season which led to the abandonment of the game against Huddersfield just after half-time. The sentence passed down also included a football banning order of six years. Those Blackpool fans committed to boycotting Bloomfield Road until the Oyston family depart may be facing a self-imposed ban even longer than that before they can return to the club that was once theirs. Chris Walker