New owner Simon Sadler met around 80 Blackpool supporters at a Fans' Forum held in Rowley's this evening.
Joined by Executive Chairman Michael Bolingbroke, Managing Director Ben Hatton and Director and fellow Blackpool fan Brett Gerrity, he answered numerous questions about his plans for the club moving forward.
Non-Executive Director Ian Currie and Advisor to the Board, Tim Fielding, were also in attendance.
Executive Chairman Michael Bolingbroke welcomes the supporters in attendance and mentions the previous forum held in March, when the interim board discussed what an ideal owner for the club would look like. He stresses that the hunt was on for a unicorn that would be a fan, invest in the stadium, training ground, academy and have a long-term vision for the club. That unicorn has now been found in Simon Sadler.
Simon follows Michael's introduction by talking a little about his back story. He tells the supporters that he has been overwhelmed by becoming the owner and that he has a responsibility to look after the club for everybody. He thanks all those in attendance and insists that he's happy to field questions.
Before those questions begin, new Director Brett Gerrity also mentions his background as a supporter and tells the room that there is an exciting journey ahead and that Simon is the dream owner.
Simon is asked about his five-year vision for the club and he answers with his hopes of being a solid Championship club with new training facilities and an academy with players coming through.
Ideally, Simon would like to be in The Championship in two years and would be gutted if that didn't happen in three. He also stresses the need for an element of patience in the longer-term projects.
Millions of pounds required to spend on stadium and training ground.
Simon reveals that his main priority is the development of a new training facility. That is the big one from a capital expenditure point of view. The club can't be at Squires Gate long-term and ideally he'd like the new training ground to be central with access for the community. He adds that he is due to speak to Blackpool Council this week. The current relationship with the Council is boosted by the recent sponsorship deal. Important that the club gets back links at all levels.
A new sponsorship deal is also due to be announced for the Family Stand.
The Current Squad:
After being asked about recruitment of players and how short the squad currently is, Simon reveals that an announcement is due in the coming days about a new winger that has signed for the club and that there is a feeling that three or four more quality players are required.
He also adds that the club is hopeful of appointing an assistant manager this week.
Michael Bolingbroke says that the club should own its own facilities and house all teams together. The Youth Academy is based at Myerscough, for instance. A link is also needed between first-team and youth team level for players to develop, as well as return from injury.
Simon's vision is also for the club to be modern and progressive. A Director of Football will be brought in to help drive the club and academy.
Having been asked about Valeri Belokon, Simon says he has had no contact with Valeri but that he was an important part in the history of BFC and that the club may not have reached the Premier League if it wasn't for him. At the same time, he mentions that chapter now being a part of the club's history. Simon wants to build for the future as the sole owner.
Simon congratulates the receiver on doing such a fantastic job in appointing Michael and Ben on the current board, especially given their wealth of experience at the very top of football.
Michael reveals that Ben and himself have currently agreed to stay on until the end of September/early October and then Simon will make a decision on things moving forward. Both Michael and Ben love being part of the club.
Simon reveals that more than 100 hours were spent in the data room, plus hundreds of hours more in due diligence. A large amount of investment is required at the club and he's happy to step up and do it.
The power of the club really hit home when he saw clips and photos from the homecoming game against Southend United and after having dinner with friends in Hong Kong, he decided to explore the opportunity of owning Blackpool. He's now honoured to have the opportunity of doing so.
Michael Bolingbroke says that the club must reintroduce people to coming to the football again and re-establish watching the team. Club would like crowds of at least 10,000 on a Saturday and 7-8,000 on a midweek night match.
Simon adds that the club is about fans and that the club must put together an experience and product that gets people in.
When asked about the East Stand, he says that the club must fill the rest of the ground before that is looked at long-term. But it would be nice to do.
Simon insists that he will explore safe standing in more detail and that he knows it is something that fans are passionate about.
This is also worth exploring.
Other Stadium Events:
Michael Bolingbroke reveals that there is only a short window for any other stadium events to take place if the pitch is to be in top condition. Simon adds that it would be great to see a mini-festival and that he is open to options that increase revenue for the club.
Simon acknowledges that work must be done at Bloomfield Road. A survey he had done highlighted that millions of pounds of work was required. There will be a schedule of improvement.
Simon admits that he will still be based in Hong Kong, however he has pencilled in 25 matches to attend this season, including the first match of the campaign. Making money in Hong Kong will allow him to make the necessary investment required at the club.
He also adds that Blackpool is reasonably well-known in Hong Kong, especially from Cheung Chi-Doy's time with the club in the 1960s.
Facilities for Disabled Supporters:
When asked about this, Ben Hatton reveals that Level Playing Field has recently done an audit and made some suggestions. The club welcomes the feedback and will be looking to implement some of those things.
Steve Rowland, who is the new club SLO, will help facilitate better dialogue between supporters, supporter groups and the club. Brett Gerrity will also look to be involved in helping this.