I loved the faceless mask protest. Well, the idea of it anyway.
The whistles caught the eye of the media and the tennis balls brought us one of the greatest memes in Blues history. But a whole sea of faceless masks would have been an awesome visual and it’s a real shame that it didn’t quite work out.
That’s a running theme for a lot of the BSHLOUT protests. All brilliant on paper, most great in practice but ultimately things fizzled out – as has the apparent enthusiasm for disruptive action.
I get it.
Ian Dutton and his team have done a lot to appease fans and a general apathy seems to have swept across the fanbase once more. The sleeping giant was briefly awoken with vigour, outrage and a renewed Zulu warrior spirit but even the tallest giant can’t scale the Great Wall of Chinese silence.
We marched, we sang, we blew whistles. We volleyed tennis balls and for some mental reason one bloke threw a dildo onto the pitch. And the only acknowledgement we had from those pulling the strings was a vague letter from our faceless chairman promising more communication and a willingness to improve.
That was months ago and Wenqing Zhao has not been heard from since.
Now, I’m not criticising any of the protests here. Quite the contrary in fact. I, myself, advocated for action on podcasts, ranted on Sky Sports and sweated my balls off marching up that bloody hill!
It would also be wrong of me to say that NOTHING has changed at St Andrews since the fan base became more vocal. Little, quick wins have been put in place and I hear there’s more to come on the ‘matchday experience’ side of things but from a bigger picture point of view, our owners remain adamant that they’re here to stay.
So, where does that leave us?
Do we strike up the band once more and take to the streets in protest? Do we look around the house for other sex toys to throw on the pitch? Do we hope and pray that Dan Ivery uncovers something new for us to email the Hong Kong Stock Exchange about? Well, yes. I’m up for all of those things.
(Well, maybe not the throwing of sex toys. Have you seen how much a Thrustmaster Elite 3000 retails at these days?! No way am I throwing mine on the pitch!)
There is one other avenue we could travel down though…
If you’re on social media, then you’ll have undoubtedly heard mumbles about the government’s Fan Led Review proposition.
RIGHT, DON’T CLICK AWAY! I know politics are boring and there’s about 8000 videos of cats pulling faces and people falling over on TikTok that you could be watching right now but stick with me on this! Who knows, there may even be another sex toy joke further on.
In a nutshell, the FLR is a proposal by MP Tracey Crouch with the aim of holding football club owners more accountable to both fans and the government themselves.
The FLR covers a range of topics which can all be found with a quick Google search but here’s what stands out the most to me: 1: The implication of a new Fit and Proper test. 2: “The Golden Share”.
1) The fit and proper nonsense test that any toddler could pass just by lying through their back teeth will be replaced by a proper, official background check with help from the Home Office and the National Crime Agency.
Basically, you know how teachers/childminders/caretakers etc all must pass a DBS check before working in schools or around children? Same sort of thing but focusing more on business practices, moral fortitude and financial stability than internet search histories.
Owners can’t just lie their way through it. So instead of Blues telling the EFL that we are owned by Vong Pech and Paul Suen etc and the EFL saying “Yeah whatever, we don’t really care anyway”, the NCA would reply with, “Yeah whatever, we’ll investigate ourselves, thanks”
2) “The Golden Share”. Essentially, this is where the board would be forced to answer to fans. In fact, it’s more than just answering to us, they’d actually have to ask our permission to do things. Crucially, this Golden Share held by he fans cannot be overridden by an over zealous board.
This doesn’t include trivial, club level things such as asking which players Blues should sign or why we still insist on having Marc Roberts take long throw ins that only ever result in counter-attacks or Juke giving away a free kick.
But anything that could drastically change the course of a football club would have to be agreed by the fanbase first. Under the FLR rules, Vincent Tan could never have changed Cardiff’s home kit from blue to red and Assem Allam wouldn’t have even gotten close to changing Hull City FC to “Hull Tigers”.
Closer to home, this would also include the sale of the ground and in instances where this has already happened, the independent body tasked with enforcing the FLR regulations would be responsible for securing long-term leases.
In short, these regulations still permit owners to have financial freedom but only if it benefits both the club and it’s fanbase. However, they also handcuff the powers-that-be and place them under much tighter scrutiny.
So, “What does all this have to do with us?!” I hear you cry! (Assuming you’re not watching cat videos by now)
Well, myself and a few other Blues fans were invited to a zoom meeting with the Blues Trust to explain this whole FLR malarkey and the bad news is that nothing has been officially passed in law yet.
This proposal has a tonne of backing up and down the country, but we can shout as loudly as we like about it in pubs and on social media and we can rant and rave to our mates or march down to the House of Commons and launch big rubber dildos at BoJo and his band of merry morons, but it won’t make a scrap of difference unless our local MPs are on side.
We need our local MPs to back the FLR to its fullest extent. If our owners are too ignorant to listen to us, then maybe we can make them answer to the government instead! We need to bombard our MPs with emails in the same way that we bombarded the HKSE.
To make things easier, The Blues Trust have knocked up a template email and list of local MPs – which I will link to at the bottom of this article.
I know some have fallen out with the Trust over the years and their recent blog about the protests was somewhat misjudged, but I was energised by my recent chat with them. People have commented that they have been against the demonstrations and hold strong pro-BSHL views, but I don’t believe that to be the case at all.
Even the great Tommy Shelby put down the gun and picked up a pen once in a while…
When things get tough, some people take to the streets and others take up a pen. Up until now I have been part of the former whereas Blues Trust have taken care of the latter.
I sincerely hope the visual protests continue. We’ve stalled on the ideas front a bit but if anyone has any fresh ones then please do shout up! Dan Ivery and I are planning on recording another Q&A podcast soon and Dan’s currently writing up his Cambodia blogs which are well worth checking out.
This fight is not dead, it’s just temporarily dormant. In the meantime, it takes 5 minutes to send a pre-made email to your local MP so why not give it a go? Even the great Tommy Shelby put down the gun and picked up a pen once in a while…
Whether you prefer a more aggressive approach to protests or whether you just want more clarity on Birmingham City’s ownership hierarchy, the Fan Led Review in an option that’s well worth exploring. We’re all in this together and to quote a great man that we so sadly lost this week, “I don’t care what you are. You’re Birmingham City”
If you want to know more about the Fan Led Review then sign up to the Blues Trust here to be added to their email list.
By Mark Watson