Fans' Release Statement
The statement below sent today to the Sports Editor of the Blackpool Gazette is that of the Fans’ Progress Group, who have requested that the football club places a copy of their statement on the official website, with the FPG’s own website not yet being launched.
Dear Andy Moore,
Having read Will Watt’s article on the FPG published Friday 9 October 2015, we are disappointed that he decided not to contact the FPG in order to obtain a more balanced and accurate view before publishing his article. Following confirmation from the club, we are also saddened that there was an inaccurate reference to contacting the club for comment, as they assure us that this was not the case, nor were we contacted for our viewpoint.
Whilst the article is correct in so much that four people have resigned from the FPG, the reasoning for the resignations haven’t been reported in a balanced way. For the record, one left due to personal commitments elsewhere and was unable to make the required time commitment to the group, whilst Vicky Sinclair left because of her connection with a fan who is the subject of legal action from the club, which she felt was a conflict of interests for her. Note this action was consistent with the information Karl Oyston had outlined to the FPG at our first club meeting in early September, as such was not a surprise.
We truly appreciate the contribution these people have made to the establishment of the FPG, and recognise that they, like us, are passionate supporters who have the best interests of the football club at heart. We respect the decisions and personal views of those who have left the FPG and wish them well in the future.
For the purpose of accurate reporting, the views expressed about the club from those Will obtained quotes from for his article are not necessarily consistent with the views of the remaining members of the FPG. While it may be too early to say whether Karl Oyston will listen and act upon the representations made by the FPG, we are at least raising the issues of concern to him and through open reporting allowing these issues to be discussed in the press. It was not correct to state that Karl Oyston didn’t listen to the FPG or change any of his views, in fact it was as a direct result of the FPG pressing Karl that he agreed to an amnesty on some of the legal actions dependent upon the seriousness of offence, and also asked the FPG to submit other proposals for consideration. As passionate supporters we also look to the Gazette for news about our football club, which is why one of our lines of questioning was to understand the club’s position relative to your newspaper. As you will be aware we contacted the Gazette with news of our name change and the minutes of our first meeting with the club out of respect for your newspaper.
The remaining members of the FPG understood from the outset that it would be unlikely that the club would make immediate changes, particularly at our first meeting with them. Our intent at the first meeting was to open up dialogue and take the opportunity to ask questions and obtain information that we could share with all supporters, rather than to expect the club to make lots of immediate changes. We recognise that in order for the club to listen to our views and make change where proposed in the future, we would need to development a working relationship with the club, whoever owns it.
It is the intention of the remaining members of the FPG to continue to work to facilitate improved relations and dialogue between club and supporters. To provide the club with a balanced supporter perspective and suggestions for improvement, and facilitate change where needed. We will continue to question the club as may be needed so that we may be able to obtain answers and accurate information to share with all supporters, thus cutting out rumour and inaccurate reporting.
We would also like to take this opportunity to confirm to you that whilst it is correct that the football club did launch the ‘Fans Parliament’ initiative, and that after an initial filtering process by a panel which included both Trevor Sinclair and Jimmy Armfield, the final 12 were selected by a club panel which did not include any member of the club’s board of directors or owners. A condition of accepting a place on the Parliament (now FPG) by every member, was that we would not be led nor have to conform to any club rules (as Will incorrectly reported on a previous occasion) and that we would be independent to the club. It is accurate to say that the club has not in any way tried to influence our comments or amend any of our statements, nor would we permit it, and that we are truly independent of the club. Will’s suggestion that the members of the FPG were ‘handpicked’ ignores both the selection process and the fact that the opportunity to join was open to any season ticket holder and did not exclude anyone who had a previous history of protest, or membership of supporter groups, in fact some of those selected are members of the BSA or BST.
We are currently in the process of writing an ethos and developing our own website, which we hope to be able to launch shortly. These are intended to provide supporters with an outline of the group’s beliefs and objectives, and a platform for providing accurate information. With regards to the query Will raised in his article about whether the FPG will recruit new members, we can advise we are currently happy to continue with eight members but will review this as we go forward. Should we determine that recruiting additional members is required, this recruitment and selection process will not be carried out by the club.
Whilst Will’s reports often appear to try to paint a picture that the FPG is loathed by all supporters, you should be advised that we have received lots of messages of support from moderate supporters who are not supportive of actions involving pitch invasions and intimidation of other supporters who do not involve themselves with protests etc. It was interesting to read in last Friday’s BST column in your paper that many supporters are suspicious of them, in particular their statement: “We believe that it is vital for all fans to respect each other’s opinions even if we as individuals don’t always agree” and that they believe their actions “reflect the opinions of the majority of Blackpool fans.” This to the FPG and those who have registered their support of us appears to contradict the BST’s actions to ask its members not to communicate with the FPG, and having initially failed to get the required majority to pass the vote they deferred the vote to an email ballot of all its members. Part of the FPG’s ethos is that we fully respect the views and opinions of ALL supporters and supporter groups, and will communicate and maintain dialogue with all supporters and supporter groups, we shall not discriminate against anyone.
Will’s article about the FPG incorrectly stated: “After refusing to talk to established fan groups Blackpool Supporters Association and Blackpool Supporters Trust, the newly formed FPG was heavily criticised by supporters.” On the contrary, as previously stated we have received messages of support and are open to dialogue with any individual supporter or supporter groups, and are as keen for the owners to speak to other groups as well as ourselves. It should be noted that both of the two main supporters’ organisations the BSA and BST were provided with copies of the minutes of our first meeting with the club without having to request them, and that we have put questions to Karl Oyston raised by members of these groups. We agree wholeheartedly with the view expressed in the BST’s recent column that: “It is vital for all fans to respect each other’s opinions even if we as individuals don’t always agree.”
Finally, for your information the FPG has regularly met privately away from the club for open discussions and to develop a set of objectives. Once we have completed the initial objectives we have set ourselves it is likely that we would like to extend an invitation to the Gazette to meet with us. Following recent resignations, Iain Tarpey has been elected as chairman and Terry Greenhow as vice chairman of the FPG.
Fans’ Progress Group
16 October 2015