Gordon sent open letter to the Football Supporters Federation and Blackpool Supporters Trust ahead of the Judgement Day 3 march prior to yesterday's game between Blackpool and Leyton Orient. You can read the letter in full below.
To the supporters of Blackpool Football Club and Leyton Orient Football Club,
I am sorry I can’t be with you in person today but I applaud supporters from both clubs and others uniting here in Blackpool to tell the FA and club owners that fans must have a more meaningful say in the running of their clubs.
In Parliament over the past two years as Blackpool South’s MP and also here in Blackpool directly I have been making that point directly that fans should be represented on football club boards and their supporter groups should be represented on the FA.
I was glad to sign the recent motion that was tabled in Parliament which highlighted the situation at Leyton Orient. It touched on the bigger issues that have played out here in Blackpool and at Bloomfield Road with the conflict between the fans and the owners.
Both Leyton and Blackpool fans are right to feel let down and frustrated. At last year’s protest here I said “now was the time for supporters to be given a proper and more meaningful say in the running of their local clubs”. It’s why I supported my colleague Labour MP Clive Efford and his proposals in Parliament to bring in legislation that would give groups like the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the Football Supporters Federation greater powers and influence on how their clubs is run.
It’s very disappointing that Ministers in Theresa May’s Government have failed to take up these proposals. But there was nothing to stop Blackpool’s owners taking up those proposals. They haven’t done so. Instead of recognising the Blackpool Supporters Trust at the table, they’ve self-selected fans reps – which is why both I and Jimmy Armfield, a football legend and civic hero in this town, refused to be associated with that move.
Both Blackpool and Leyton Orient supporters it seems to me have been let down by the Football Association as well. In February this year I highlighted our problems here at Bloomfield Road in a debate organised by Parliament criticising the FA. I told the debate covering football matters and the Minister that defamation and libel cases pursued against Blackpool’s supporters by the club’s owners had made the situation more difficult. But also to make the point again for supporters to be given greater powers and influence in the running of their local club. I said that football clubs are more than simply private assets – something which dozens of Blackpool fans who have written to me have underlined.
Blackpool FC’s proud history – from Stanley Matthews and the Coronation Year Cup Final running through to our Cinderella story through to Premiership status in 2010 – where along with thousands on the Prom, I cheered the winning team on its return home – shows our club and others deserves better.
I’ve also been a member of Parliament’s Supporters Group and followed up that debate with challenging the FA’s representatives on their failure to act. I repeated the need for them to take a lead and press clubs to get their supporter groups on board literally. I’ll continue to do so and support the legitimate demands of fans.
Good luck today in your dignified protest.
Gordon Marsden now Labour Party candidate for Blackpool South