Democracy at the Seaside? by BasilRobbieReborn
Thursday, 21st May 2015 19:16 by BasilRobbieReborn
Easily the most intriguing development of the summer so far has been the announcement by the club that it is to form a Fan’s Parliament. It certainly has a nice ring to it, will be welcomed by some as an ostensibly positive move, but the devil will inevitably in the detail. You pay your money, and you take your choice.
I don’t think that many people would argue that, in principle, the notion of a Fan’s Parliament is a good one. The principle of supporter involvement in the running of clubs is well established in countries like Germany, and anything that makes English football clubs more accountable to and transparent in their dealings with their own supporters should be welcomed as a long overdue step in the right direction. Following any football club in England these days is an expensive business, and certainly at the top end of the game where the prices are highest, the feeling of remoteness and alienation from the clubs we support has never been greater.
Unfortunately, those feelings of alienation aren’t confined to the elite, and we at Blackpool know more about it than most. You could say that an initiative like this has developed with clubs like ours in mind ; but even if you like the principle, is it the right thing for Blackpool, right at this moment?
It’s difficult to say with any confidence what the right answer to the question is. Much, of course, depends upon the motives of the club in putting the idea forward. Many will see this as a further attempt to divide (and rule) the fan base. Others will see it as a fairly cynical form of appeasement offered up at season ticket selling time. And it does beg the question how an FP would fit in a landscape where the Supporter’s Trust has emerged as the main representative of the club’s support, and the main voice of the disaffected.
On the other hand, one could argue that this is the first positive signal we have seen emerging from the club that suggests that it understands that the current situation is unsustainable. Equally, one could argue that it is the first sign that the club recognises that the support as a whole has to be embraced and brought closer to the heart of the club where decisions are made.
So, there are quite a lot of unknowns. This initiative does suggest to me that the club misses the dialogue it used to have with BSA, and is looking to replace it with something else that doesn’t have all the inherent political difficulties that reaching out to BST would.
I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago suggesting that we as supporters could not indefinitely cold-shoulder the club’s management and players whist the Oystons are in situ, and that if we continued to do so, ultimately we would harm ourselves more than anyone else. I suggested that maybe it was time for the club’s support to seize what moral ground there was to be had, and demonstrate to everyone that the fight for control of the club’s future could be won in more ways than simply manning the barricades.
This therefore, feels like an opportunity to me. If it is to work though, we have to respond by putting ourselves forwards in enough numbers to give the club a good choice of people to work with. We have to demonstrate good faith in the way we approach the initiative, even if we are not confident that it will be reciprocated. If it isn’t, and this is all merely a device to buy time, we will soon know, and we will have lost very little.
By the same token, the club has to show that it is genuine in this initiative, and is willing to do symbolic things that will show good faith. It would be a good start if they were to offer BST and the Tangerine Knights the chance to put forward a slate of members who could reflect the views of their members directly into the club. Of course BST and the TKs may not wish to formally endorse the initiative. But they should be given the chance.
This will not work if the club chooses a dozen people who are known to them already, and who they instinctively feel comfortable with. Enhancing internal democracy should NEVER be a comfortable experience for any organisation , if it is doing it properly.
It has been some time now since we could all be confident that the club was planning for the long term, and that it had a strong idea of the direction in which it wanted to go. That may be for want of ideas – and I’m confident that the club’s supporters have plenty, and are articulate enough to put them forward. We may have an opportunity to do so here – I hope we give it a go.
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