Saturday, 21 October 2017


In this morally ambiguous 21st century world, awash with DIY-propaganda, false narratives and multiple versions of the truth, how is an ordinary Joe (or Josephine) expected to be able to ride the tide and sift the fake from the real? And if, in certain cases, that proves a nigh-on impossible task, how do we select our raft, the whatever-it-is  we cling to, so as not to get sucked into the depths? How do we decide who or what we can trust?

Earlier this week I watched Blade Runner (the Director's Cut) and Blade Runner 2049 on consecutive evenings and am re-reading the original Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Even in the mid-'60s when the book was written, Dick was greatly concerned with issues of authenticity  (what is real and what is fake) and conservation (being an early eco-endorser). He was looking ahead to a time - which may already be upon us - when three key factors combine to shape our lives: the ascendancy of technology, the pervasive power of media and man's propensity to exploit his environment to destruction, necessitating ersatz substitutions (including androids) for what is becoming extinct and eventually requiring us to abandon large areas of the planet. (When replicants had become sophisticated enough as to be almost indistinguishable from human beings, it was the blade runner's job to detect and destroy renegade androids who might threaten the status quo.)

The main reason for making mention of Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream...?  in this blog (apart from the obvious 'real versus fake' element) is that in it Dick developed a concept which he called "absence of appropriate affect". He was alluding to a deficiency in intellectual and emotional response to some of what life threw at his characters on account of something in their make-up or attitude to the world - and it's a spectrum that runs from bland amorality right through to serious psychopathology. You may wonder where this is leading and right now I'm not entirely sure myself, but let's press on.

Some of you know that I moved to Blackpool four years ago (on taking early retirement) so that I didn't have to make a 450-mile round trip every time I wanted to watch my beloved Seasiders playing at Bloomfield Road. That move coincided more-or-less with the formation of the Seasiders Independent Supporters Association, as fans of the club grew increasingly angry with the way the majority shareholder/owner and his son were diverting tens of million of pounds coming to Blackpool FC (as a result of our year in the Premier League) into non-football-related parts of their business empire.

SISA soon evolved into Blackpool Supporters' Trust - a legally-constituted Community Benefit Society, democratic, co-operative, transparent, built on the one-member one-vote principle with an elected board and Financial Conduct Authority accreditation. Supporters' Trusts, in case you didn't know, are the preferred model for fan representation. That was the whole purpose of the government setting up the umbrella Supporters Direct organisation over a decade ago. Supporters Direct has helped to fledge over 200 supporters' trusts in football and rugby clubs throughout the UK, looking to help supporters gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs. If you're interested to find out more, click on this link: About Supporters Direct

Putting serious plans to write a novel on hold, I became first press officer and then served two years as chairman of Blackpool Supporters' Trust. I am currently its secretary and am proud to be a member of an organisation that has these stated aims:
   - to represent the best interests of the supporters and the club
   - to hold the owners to account (regardless of who they might be)
   - to improve the quality of service for all supporters
   - to strengthen the bonds between club and community
   - to give supporters a democratic voice in the decision-making process at the club

Happier times - Wembley, 22nd May 2010 
The fact that Blackpool FC's chairman and its majority share-holder/owner have consistently refused to recognise BST has merely exacerbated a situation that has been deteriorating almost from the moment that promotion to the Premier League was achieved (see above). The fact that the Premier League and the English Football League have failed to intervene effectively in affairs at Blackpool FC leaves us feeling cynical about those who run our beautiful game, but determined to make our stand count.

I have written about the majority shareholder/owner before. I don't need to name him. He's a prominent and flamboyant figure in these parts. Some might call him a playboy of the north-western world. Others might label him an inveterate mythomaniac. He's been an actor, a media mogul and has made and lost and remade hundreds of millions of pounds in various business enterprises including estate agency, press and radio franchises. He may have helped bankroll the Labour Party, he may have had links with the glamour trade, he has certainly made high-profile enemies and he is a convicted rapist, though he continues to maintain that everything was consensual and that he was framed by said enemies. At worst he was guilty as charged, at best the jury convicted him on grounds of moral bias, for apparently having had a string of sexual relationships with girls who were young enough to be his grand-daughters and liked the fact he was wealthy.

I guess that's where "absence of appropriate affect" comes in. He had the absence of it and it allowed him to make that lifestyle choice. It's not a choice I would contemplate making even if I had the financial wherewithal.

That conviction (against which he appealed and lost both in the UK and in the European Court) rendered him not a fit and proper person to be chairman of the football club he had bought in 1988 and I know several principled Blackpool fans who've not stepped foot inside Bloomfield Road in twenty years because the ground is owned by a convicted rapist.

Unfortunately that unspent sentence hasn't stop him from owning our football club nor from taking gross advantage of that ownership.  As of now, the minority shareholder (an internationally-respected Latvian banker) has a High Court case in process against the majority shareholder/owner. Judgement is expected imminently. The Latvian banker attests that he (and by extension the football club) has suffered unfair prejudice in the way that the 'windfall' that came to the club in the wake of that Premier League season has been dispositioned. Thousands of us who are not happy with the recent custodianship of the club for that very same reason - as we watched it plummet from top flight to bottom division in six chaotic seasons - are hoping the court judgement will catalyse a change in ownership. We want our club back. We want to restore a sense of pride and integrity to Blackpool FC.

Maybe there will always be questions, rumours, misgivings about how very wealthy people have acquired their wealth. When they wish to buy a football club (which is essentially a social enterprise rooted in a community and unlike many other business), then the stakeholders in that club - by which I mean the ordinary fans and the community they represent - really ought to have more of a say in who can buy into the club and how investments and revenues are used. That's the import of the Trust part of Supporters' Trust as far as I'm concerned and the sooner there is better regulation of the sport and a more comprehensive and externally audited 'fit and proper' test, the better.

OK. Poetry time. This is new, it's on theme, it's heartfelt and I hope it will resonate with football fans and non-fans alike. In a week that has been dominated by the unfolding revelations about that odious media mogul Harvey Weinstein, today's poem could easily have been sub-titled 'BFC: Me Too'...

Playthings Of The Rich
Young girls, fast cars,
blow-jobs, night bars.
They were all noble men,
of course,
watching and scratching
each other's self-made backs,
hatching their schemes
and living the dream.
If you can't have fun
when you've made a ton of money
then what the fuck?
Hire a little honey,
buy a football club -
that's where our luck ran out.

So did his briefly,
for what followed
when a sugar-daddy proved to be
a bitter pill to swallow
was arrest and trial.

Are they always
just a little flawed,
the rich and powerful?
I sometimes wonder:
when the jailhouse door
closed on this champagne socialist
multi-millionaire entrepreneur,
Britain's wealthiest inmate
with time on his hands in stir,
did he ever stop to contemplate
how he might have misbehaved?

The jury convicted him of rape.
He claimed he was framed...
...certainly by the four-poster bed
in his stately home
as a lissom sixteen-year-old model
gave him head.

It didn't go down well
on the terraces,
absence of appropriate affect.

Had he really bought the right
to manipulate her as he wished,
not to take her seriously,
to promise much
but merely take advantage of?
Could he really be allowed
to treat her like this?
Not illegal apparently,
just unethical.

Life's a bitch
for playthings of the rich.

Thanks for reading. The colour of trust is tangerine,  Steve ;-)


Anonymous said...

Powerful words, pal. We all feel the pain - 30 years of it under the Os. Hope they'll be gone soon. Keep up the good work.

I sat through Blade Runner 2049. Found it a bit boring to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Steve, another fascinating blog. Even though I don't share your passion for Blackpool FC I felt indignant for you just reading this. Great poem, btw.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying old man Oyston raped our football club? :-0

Annie Walton said...

Strong powerful stuff Steve !

Feel I know more about " absence of appropriate affect ", football supporters,
Blade Runner ( ok well a tiny bit )

But as we briefed on last night ( lovely dinner /evening !) bearing in mind I am writing to a man imprisoned for a rape he did not commit, and your playboy of the north western world
"real versus fake " leaves more than a frown on my face.

However, I understand it all much better than feckin Fox Hunting for SPORT!!

Anonymous said...

You said it. We want to restore a sense of pride and integrity to Blackpool FC and the only way to do that is if the Oystons go. They've past there sell-by date. The fans won't come back until that happens - sooner rather than later I hope. OO!

Anonymous said...

Steve, the blog was interesting to read (as ever). I love the latest poem. It's shocking - and speaking as someone who doesn't know a lot about how football clubs are run, I'm amazed that the football associations don't have stricter rules about this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

The Oystons take everyone for a ride! Greatest trip? Greatest rip-off more like.

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoy your blogs. This was excellent. I really liked Blade Runner 2049 as well.

Steve Rowland said...

Annie - in the case I cited only two people really know what happened and one of them was lying about it. (Maybe they both were?)If you have irrefutable evidence that your friend was not guilty as charged you need to act on it.

Anon - I am merely suggesting that people of power and influence don't always act for the greater good :-)

Anonymous said...

I see high court judgement in the Belokon/Oyston case is set for next week. I hope the supporters and the football club get a positive outcome from all this.

Anonymous said...

A brilliant poem and a great result in the high court. We are buzzing!

Anonymous said...

I hear the Oystons have put the club up for sale. That sounds like a breakthrough.

Anonymous said...

Wow Steve. That blog doesn't pull any punches. What a powerful piece of writing. I truly hope you - passionate Blackpool fans - will get shot of these people now and can move on to enjoying your football team again.

TangoBob said...

That's one stunning poem. Do you perform it live?

Anonymous said...

A damming inditement of those in power. I hope happier days are around the corner for Blackpool fans.

Anonymous said...

Well said that man. A most interesting blog and a really terrific poem. Oyston Out!

Anonymous said...

Tremendous, Steve. All power to you and BST.

Anonymous said...

You greedy bastards, get out of our club!

Anonymous said...

BFC: Me too - love that!

Anonymous said...

Righteous! Oyston Out!

Anonymous said...

It's well documented this man failed the Fit & Proper person test for the Premier League in 2010 and they ordered him to sell his shareholding but he ducked the issue and got away with it. Inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Keep the spotlight on what's happened at BFC. NAPM. Oyston out!