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In a week where Theresa May called a snap poll to gauge the public's opinion of her, the poll at Bloomfield Road has been a much longer, drawn out affair. If leaders had approval ratings then Karl Oyston would be somewhere behind King Jong Un (although in fairness to Karl, he doesn't make anyone go to Blackpool and grin and dance inanely whilst surrounded by guards with loaded guns). The two leaders are quite similar in some ways though. All smiles on the outside and a figure of fun for many, but give them a prod and they can do irreparable damage (thankfully Karl isn't in charge of any nuclear weapons .. none that we know of). In fact the Oystons are currently about as popular as the Tories were in the 90's and so is Karl hoping that BFC will eventually return to popularity like the Conservatives have? So far it hasn't happened with fans still voting with their feet.
Karl has often maintained that football fans purely base their decisions to go to games based on how their side is doing. To a certain extent this is true. In 1983 when Blackpool were bouncing along the bottom of League Two, the average attendance that season was 3,002. This season it's 3,434 (although there's a bit of North Korean adding up here). In 1990/91 and then 91/92 when we were trying to get out of the old Division Four under Billy Ayre the average was just over 4,000 and under Steve McMahon it was 4,457. So whilst it's easy to point to the average of 15,775 in the Prem season and ask where have the 12,000 fans gone, it's also worth remembering that the appetite for lower league football on the Fylde has never been that great. If Blackpool had around 5,000 hardcore fans over the last couple of decades who'd turn up come Hell or High water then they have lost a good 75% of these. That's where the missing thousands are off the attendance and arguably those are the fans that Karl will really struggle to get back. Ask Andy Pilley at Fleetwood (where the average this season is just 3,205) and he'll tell you trying to get new blood in to a ground, even when you're in League One, is not an easy job. Just as it's taken a generation for the Tories to return to popularity, so the Oystons may need to wait many years to see healthy attendances at Bloomfield Road and by then it may be too late.
Other than handing in his notice as Chairman (and no need to serve a notice period Karl), making massive financial pledges or even structuring the club and having a plan, the only way the Oyston family may ever see some fans return is with success on the pitch. There is an acknowledgement at this level that Blackpool have invested, however they haven't seen the returns the likes of Doncaster have. Whether they invested in the wrong areas, had the wrong manager in place or the players fell short of the task can be discussed at another time, because for now there is still a chance that this side could win promotion. They pulled a victory out of the jaws of another disaster last week at Doncaster but those 3 points will only mean anything if they go on and beat Cheltenham on Saturday. Their final away game at Notts County isn't an easy one and anything could happen in their final home match against Leyton Orient. A win this weekend might finally give them some breathing space against a side who have struggled for much of this season and could still do with another win to guarantee their football league status.
As Mrs May could find, testing the public is a dangerous thing to do. The Oyston family must have felt once they got to the Premier League that they had fans in the palm of their hands. However, all it takes are a few bad decisions and things can turn very quickly. As much as the leaders like to think they hold all the aces, the real power lies with those who elect them. Whilst no one elected the Oyston family, they still get to vote on them on a weekly basis.
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