Blackpool's woes help AFC Fylde's success
David Haythornthwaite grew up as a Blackpool fan. Having succeeded with his business Tangerine Holdings, which makes farming and veterinary products, he made unsuccessful attempts to buy the club from the Oystons in 1998 and 2005.
Thwarted in his efforts, he took over a former West Lancashire League park side, Kirkham & Wesham in 2008. To broaden their appeal, he renamed them AFC Fylde. They are now ten points clear at the top of the National League North and sure fire favourites for promotion to the National League next season. They would then be just one division below Blackpool.
This season they moved into their impressive Mill Field stadium complex. It has a Mediterranean restaurant, Milano's, a conference suite, sports bar and coffee shop. Corporate boxes cost £20,000 a season. Disgruntled Blackpool supporters have been attracted and average gates have gone up from 500 to more than 1,800. 4,000 turned up on Boxing Day to fill the stadium to two-thirds of capacity.
The story does recall that of Rushden & Diamonds who achieved League One status in a largely rural area with a new stadium, only to collapse when their benefactor's money ran out. However, AFC Fylde's owner is in a more stable line of business and the plans for achieving Football League status seem to be well thought through with a strong community programme, a women's team and a pitch for a local hockey club. My only doubt would be about the mascot: Syd the Seagull.