Sunday, 23 March 2014

Riga - Meeting Minutes

Earlier this week we reported that we had we visited club President Valeri Belokon. 

The minutes of the meeting are below.

Venue: Baltic International Bank, Riga

Date: 18th March 2014

Attendees: Valeri Belokon (President BFC), Kaspars Varpins (Director BFC), Tim Fielding (Chair SISA), Stephen Smith (Vice-Chair SISA) 

The meeting opens with TF explaining to VB the circumstances that led to the formation of SISA namely the fans concerns over the number of the issues facing the Club at the beginning of 2013 (no manager, poor form, perceived lack of investment). 

SS elaborated and explained how the role of SISA was to independently represent and campaign on behalf of Blackpool FC supporters on issues decided by its members. It was set up as a pro-Blackpool FC organisation intending to secure improved communication between the fans and the club. SISA saw its role to encourage the Club to be more open, responsive and accountable to its supporters and felt this could best be achieved by increasing the level of influence the supporters have at BFC. 

TF explained that SISA wish to work constructively with the Club, and aim to ensure that supporters’ comments and opinions are shared with and listened to by the Club and any other relevant groups or agencies.

SS confirmed that they we currently had between 1100-1200 members. 

TF then took VB and KV through the initiatives SISA had worked on to date (recognition by Supporters Direct, Safe Standing Roadshow, ACV, £90m note, future protests and forthcoming games) and the plans going forward with the Supporters Trust and what this means in practical terms.

VB queried the position re BSA and TF confirmed they were the official supporters association whilst SISA was independent.

SS then dealt with the problems SISA had encountered in establishing ourselves in that the Oyston family and BSA both currently refused to recognise or have any formal dialogue with us.

TF and SS spoke about the steps that had been taken to develop media relations with Radio Lancs, local TV and the Gazette.

TF then detailed the concerns the membership felt as BFC fans about the lack of direction at the Club over the last two years whilst at the same time large sums had been removed from the Club through Segesta, Zabaxe and other Oyston-owned entities.

Both TF and SS highlighted numerous examples of BFC fan concerns  - player recruitment policies, over-reliance on loanees, lack of progress re the training ground, poor maintenance of the stadium infrastructure (VB shown the photos of the cladding as an example ). It was SISA's view that these concerns would have led to a significant drop in attendances last year but for the extraordinary season ticket initiative. This type of initiative was unlikely in SISA's view to work to the same degree again.

TF also observed it was SISA's view that the policies being followed at the moment couldn't continue beyond next season as they heavily relied upon receipt of the parachute payments - the last of which was payable in the summer.

TF concluded by expressing SISA's  concerns that BFC was very quickly returning to the position it had been in before VB's investment with no legacy from the Premiership monies and that absent a sea change in approach season ticket sales were likely to be markedly reduced for the 2014/5 season which ultimately would be likely to escalate the downward spiral.

VB then took the opportunity to explain his position namely that he had found his investment in BFC stimulating. He was committed to supporting BFC and didn't see himself investing in any other football club. As a businessman he wanted to make a return on his investment however equally he realised the importance in investing in the team and recognised that in commercial terms football clubs were somewhat unique because of their social importance which he felt imposed upon the owners a responsibility to engage with and take account of the views of all Club stakeholders including the fans.

VB confirmed he'd enjoyed playing an active role in strategic decisions at BFC. He gave examples of his positive contributions - the development of the South Stand, direct discussions with Ian Holloway re player recruitment and the formulation of a strategy with OO and IH that underlined the investment he had made in BFC.

VB was disappointed about the troubled performance of the Club this season and discussed with SISA the possibilities of how we might improve decision- making at the Club so as to improve the team's performance next season. 

KV confirmed that in general terms the figures that appeared in Chris Walker's analysis of VB's investment were correct. VB’s total investmentto date stood at over £9m of which £182k had been repaid. 

Moving forward VB was willing to work with SISA and confirmed he was also willing to do the same with the Supporters Trust once formed. As he saw it feedback as to the fans views should be of significant importance to any owners decision-making process.

VB was also in principle willing to work with the Trust on community / charity projects and consider funding for a number of pre-agreed initiatives. He would also be willing to hold further meetings with SISA/Trust representatives in the future. In the interim TF/SS would keep both VB and KV appraised as to significant developments regarding the Trust by telephone/email.

At the end of the meeting VB confirmed his continuous commitment towards development of BFC and was pleased to see that SISA fans have taken an active role in it. VB and KV were honoured to host TF and SS  in Riga and look forward to fruitful cooperation with fans in the future. They wished good luck to all Blackpool fans.

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