It must be an awful time to be a Blackpool fan. Not only is their team in disarray, but off the field matters suggest they’re going to go from bad to worse.
Its a far cry from the positivity they brought to the Premier League and it is hard not to sympathise with their fans who, after success rather sprinted up to them without expectation, have seen any lasting benefit of that top flight legacy evaporate without trace after only a few short years.
As somebody who lost neither time nor money in the protest that saw their last game against Huddersfield abandoned, I perhaps don’t represent the voice of the most aggrieved.
I cannot presume to speak on any of their behalf, then.
However, the treatment of the game, quite aside from the supporters of both sides and what their future holds, has been fairly interesting.
The Football League almost immediately declared the match would not need to be replayed as it was, effectively, meaningless. Town were already safe, and Blackpool relegated. It wasn’t the first meaningless game Town have played in recent seasons.
However, just a week before, Rotherham had three points deducted for an incident in a game some three weeks previously. It is not out of the question in future, therefore, for a points deduction to occur so late into the season that it renders a game that may have appeared meaningless into import. That worries me going forward.
Equally, I am somewhat troubled by the idea that any game is deemed meaningless to the point that completing it is judged to be not worth the trouble. Why bother playing any of those fixtures on the last day (or as and when they are meaningless) then?
Furthermore, this sets a precedent. What if a group of Huddersfield fans had conducted themselves similarly to confirm such an irrelevance as finishing above Leeds?
Plenty had money on it, and the Football League have already judged that games that don’t matter finish as they stand. So say Town had scored after 25 minutes, then a group of over exuberant away fans saw their chance to seal the finish above Leeds. They now have reason to think they can.
Football should be decided on the pitch, and Football League points the same. They should, equally importantly, be decided by players and not supporters.
Today’s decision from the Football League, effectively avoiding the issue, allows fans to have a direct impact on their teams’ results. That is wrong, however you look at it.
Huddersfield Town are probably doing the right thing not appealing the decision. The time it would take for an outcome that at best would secure an extra two points and a place is probably not worth the long term PR own goal it would likely end up being.
However, they should put themselves forward as a prime example of how these issues need to be dealt with in future, because too much has been left open and vulnerable as a result of this ruling.
There are many other issues that this decision raises, too; notably that if, as it seems, it was made in adherence to a strict Football League belief, it shouldn’t have taken two weeks to resolve.
It also rather neatly sidesteps passing any judgement in the reason Blackpool’s fans were protesting. Stating regulation 31, which allows the caveat of reasons beyond a club’s control allows Blackpool FC and their fans to be viewed as completely separate entities, independent from one another.