CAS Trust welcomes Blackpool fans

It's a long way from Blackpool to London on a cold December day. It is the last Saturday before Christmas. Their team has lost six of their last nine league games and Boreham Wood put them out of the FA Cup. So we salute those Blackpool supporters who are making the journey to The Valley this weekend. However, we do so in the knowledge that there are many more who, in normal circumstances, would want to be in the Jimmy Seed stand supporting their team. But it is a long time since the words "normal circumstances" and Blackpool FC have been used in the same sentence.

The conflict between Blackpool's owners (The Oystons) and the club's supporters has been well documented. Twelve months ago we interviewed Andy Higgins of Blackpool Supporters Trust (BST) for Trust News 13.  He told us about money taken out of the club by the Oystons. He told us about the ethical boycott BST had organised to encourage people not to spend money in the club shop or any of the Oystons' businesses. Most of all he told us about the "sheer volume of litigation" that had been launched at fans who had criticised the owners and he stressed how financially and personally draining this had been for all concerned.  We are very aware of the amount of time and effort (not to mention blood sweat and tears) that our colleagues at BST have put in to their campaign over the last seven years. And it doesn't stop there. They have also been fully committed to campaigning on a broader front - as supporters of Leyton Orient and the Fans Not Numbers campaign will testify.

In the High Court in November Justice Marcus Smith ruled that the Oystons had "illegitimately stripped" Blackpool Football Club of assets after it was promoted to the Premier League in 2010. He found that the £26.77m they paid to companies they owned fundamentally breached their duties as directors and unfairly prejudiced minority shareholder - Latvian millionaire Valeri Belokon. They were ordered to pay Belokon £31.27m. The club was put up for sale a few days later.

This week Justice Smith set out a payment schedule requiring the outstanding money to be paid in three instalments by May 31st 2018. He commented that "It seems to me a stringent plan of payment is necessary in order to concentrate the mind"

So is the nightmare over for Blackpool supporters?  There are plenty of rumours already circulating about consortia or individuals who might be interested in buying the club and BST see it as a time of "unprecedented uncertainty" but also "great potential". They have stated that their "abiding wish is that the club should have owners who are passionate about the game of football, passionate about Blackpool as a place and passionate about our football club as a positive social force in the community."

They add: "properly democratic supporter representation in the running of the club has to be a key element in rebuilding a vibrant football club." They are working with Supporters Direct to explore whether a community share option might be viable so that "fans, through the Supporters Trust, could be shareholders as well as stakeholders"

So we salute all Blackpool fans, whether or not they will be at The Valley this Saturday. As the BST website proclaims: "We are at the start of a new and positive era for Blackpool FC and its supporters. Many doubted that it would ever happen, but it is coming. The future is bright, the future is tangerine!"

OK. That is enough comradeship. "Who are yer?"