State of Play: The Ground
May 2001 the world was tinged in a pleasant shade of tangerine after Steve McMahon had steered the Seasiders back up from the basement division to the league now known as League 1. The steelwork along the north and west of bloomers was going up and the mood of optimism around BFC was palpable. Long distant memories of the 40,000 all seater stadium with floating pitch and sliding roof at Whyndyke Farm and the twin stadia at Bloomfield Road were forgotten. Because the club was at long last moving forward, albeit with a much scaled down plan, the ground had a nice feel to it with the juxtaposition of old and new stands. Just a few short weeks before the steel started to rise from the newly flattened Spion Kop and the West Stand we didn't have huge hoardings with peoples faces painted on them like Arsenal did during redevelopment. We had tangerine flags along the touchline!
The plan for the 2 remaining stands was to be dependant on Championship status, pre-lets, or if we were selling the home end out every week then this would force the hand of the chairman to build a further stand. Well we are now a Championship team, but with a 4th division capacity. 20 teams in the Premiership have much greater capacity, fair enough with Simon and his team we are punching above our weight getting into the Championship far quicker than Messrs Belokon and Oyston imagined. The Championship has 21 teams with higher capacity than us, the next smallest ground, QPR, having nearly 10,000 more seats than Bloomfield Road. (See comment about punching above our weight). League 1 has 18 teams with higher capacity and League 2 has 14 teams with higher capacity. On this evidence it seems the chairman's prudence is farcical.
Six years on the 'new stands' are rusting. There are large areas of the Mortensen Kop boarded up. Poor old Morty's statue is going the same way as the south stand parking lot in that it is overgrown. We are at least unique in that we are the only team in the Football League that has only 2 stands if you discount the temporary Gene Kelly stand. What exactly does temporary mean? If I went to the dentist for a temporary filling I'd hope it wasn't in for 5 years! So now there is frustration in the rank of file of the Seasiders army. The promises to build the Jimmy Armfield Stand have come and gone. The excuses have been more and more elaborate. And comments from the chairman saying that he won't build the south stand to accommodate the 50-100 fans that can't get tickets is just adding fuel to the proverbial fire. Where does Karl Oyston get these figures? Does he think that people ring up to say they're not coming? People can see on the internet that the games are sold out. The casual supporter, the supporter that can't attend every game, the supporter that decides to turn up if the weather's nice are all unable to get a ticket nowadays.
This season has seen sell outs for the likes of Bristol City, Plymouth and Colchester. These are not exactly glamour matches (apologies to any Robins, Pilgrims or Us fans) just wait until we host 'them lot down the road', the Dingles or some of the big boys from West Bromwich, Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, or Leicester. We could be losing revenue from 2,000-3,000 home fans and a similar number of away fans. The wise businessman, affectionately know as Harry Potter, our chairman, has a great idea to increase funds: he sent out raffle tickets to all season ticket holders and Gold Bond members. I'm not sure how many were sent back, but I bet a fair few were!
Progress has always been slow, dare I say since the Oystons took over. The time has come to quit the excuses, quit delaying tactics, get some of the money you gained from promotion to the Championship, we all saw you rubbing your hands at Wembley. If you are a fan, prove it and spend some of your/our cash, honour gentleman Jim with a stand which he and all of us can be proud of; you can't take it with you!