The Blackpool FC board held positive and constructive discussions with supporters and supporter groups at a fans' forum last night.
More than 50 supporters attended the invitation only event at the club, which provided the board with an opportunity to further engage and gain a greater understanding of supporter requirements moving forward.
In attendance from the board: Ben Hatton (Executive & Managing Director), Michael Bolingbroke (Consultant to the Board), Tim Fielding and Ian Currie (both Non-Executive Directors).
Non-Executive Director Tim Fielding welcomes the supporters in attendance at the Fans’ Forum and introduces those on the board.
Michael Bolingbroke opens up by stating that a great club represents its fans and its heritage, adding that a club doesn’t operate without its fanbase. He emphasises that the current board are custodians that will help in the transitional phase because there is a lot to be done and put in order for a future buyer of the club.
Michael Bolingbroke confirms that the club has now given The EFL the necessary information requested to help make a decision and avoid a points deduction. He remains hopeful of a positive outcome and clarifies that any potential points deduction would come in to effect next season if an EFL decision was not reached this week.
Michael also adds that there is a reliance on supporters to come to games in their numbers, which would ultimately help in The EFL’s decision and attract new owners. At this point, more than 50 interested parties have expressed interest with receiver Paul Cooper about buying the club.
Ben Hatton adds that projections have been submitted to The EFL and that he is confident that the club is self-sufficient.
Items not on the agenda:
Michael Bolingbroke takes a moment to discuss a few items not on the agenda. He confirms that work on the Bloomfield Road pitch is due to start after the Summer Bash in May, while work will also take place at Squires Gate.
It is stressed that the long-term position of the academy and the East Stand are for the new owner of the club.
Decisions about players are to be made, in conjunction with the manager and club secretary.
At the moment, there is an immediate club and police preference for away supporters to be located in the south side of the East Stand, allowing for better access, facilities and refreshments.
Plenty of debate on this subject, with The Muckers preferring away supporters to be located in the north side of the East Stand long-term, which would also allow the good-natured rivalry between both sets of fans to continue, especially with the home fans in the North Stand generating plenty of atmosphere.
Overall, the general consensus in the room is that the North, West and South Stands should be for home supporters only. A designated Family Stand area is also discussed, with access permitted to adults and seniors with under-16s.
Michael Bolingbroke confirms that a season ticket will be for 23 league matches and won’t include cup games.
The general feeling in the room is that a price increase is to be accepted, though the price of a season ticket should stay below £300. Maybe a potential early bird price of £275.
A payment plan option is also requested, as is a category for those aged 18-21.
Block M considered a premium block for hospitality and potential sponsors, with blocks L and N also on the agenda given their close proximity to the half-way line.
One supporter suggests an open day for fans to enter the ground and try out potential season ticket seats.
Season ticket seats:
Plenty of debate on this subject and an acknowledgement that you are not going to please everyone. Some supporters suggest starting from scratch or reverting back to a period pre-boycott.
Room asked if there would be any objections to season ticket holders, as of now, being given opportunity to renew their seat.
Supporter mentions the nationwide Twenty’s Plenty campaign regarding £20 admission fee for adults.
Board also confirms that print at home ticket option is being looked at again.
Suggestions from fans that the current senior age category (60+) rises to 65+ given that people are still working. That could effectively fund a reduction in price for an 18-21 season ticket category.
Further discussion over the age range for free junior tickets being lowered from an under-11 to maybe under-5s. Those in the 5-11 category would be charged a minimal price.
Ben Hatton confirms that the Young Seasiders’ membership scheme is currently being reviewed.
Reduced ticket price for unemployed is also brought up. Ash Hackett of the Community Trust mentions potentially linking that in with a project that the Trust runs.
Supporter asks if banding status for all those who haven’t attended in recent years can be restored.
Another supporter asks about the possibility of introducing a points system for away fixtures.
Bottle bars are now in place on the concourse, located in the areas that used to be betting kiosks. There bars will be in operation from the Plymouth game and payment will be contactless, not cash. This will help speed up service and reduce queuing times.
Potential smoking area is also raised by a supporter.
General feeling is that an SLO (Supporters’ Liaison Officer) should come from the fanbase, rather than be a club employee. This would be a voluntary role and could potentially extend to one SLO per stand.
Michael Bolingbroke thanks supporters for their input and reiterates that the board has the best interests of the club at heart.