Pool fans facing trial over directors’ box protest

Blackpool fans stage a protest and pitch invasion against the running of the club by owner Owen Oyston

Blackpool fans stage a protest and pitch invasion against the running of the club by owner Owen Oyston

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Five men have made their first appearance in court charged with trying to get into the directors’ box at Blackpool Football Club during a match which was later abandoned.

During the hearing the defence lawyer demanded to see statements made by members of the Oyston family to Lancashire Police which have so far been with-held by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Blackpool Football Club was fined £50,000 after their last match of last season against Huddersfield Town on May 2 was cut short in the 48th minute after Seasiders’ fans staged a pitch invasion.

The five who appeared before District Judge Jeff Brailsford at Blackpool Magistrates Court are all charged with using threatening behaviour with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence.

Three statements made to the police following the incident are from club owner Owen Oyston, his son club chairman Karl Oyston and Karl’s son Sam, who runs the club hotel.

Defence lawyer Dylan Bradshaw told the judge: “These are high profile people and I do not want this to become a political circus. However it may be that these people need to be called to show if they were put in fear.

“I have not seen their statements yet but I have seen one from a police officer who was at the scene who is very critical of the behaviour of one of these main people.”

Mr Bradshaw said his clients would indicate not guilty pleas.

The trial will last two days and evidence will be given by 15 witnesses. The main prosecution witness will be Karl Oyston’s wife, Victoria Oyston.

Prosecutor Phillip Hall said “Whether anyone in the directors’ box was caused fear is not strictly relevant.

“What the intent of the defendants is.”

Before the court were Grant Eccles, 46, of Clifton Drive South, St Annes, Christian Rivas-Shorrock, 31, of Ascot Road, Blackpool, Mark Rushton, 24, of Riversway, Blackpool, Jay Forey, 34, of Westmorland Avenue, Blackpool and Neil Holden, 40, of Marton Drive, Marton.

They were all bailed.

Adjourning the case in front of a public gallery packed with Blackpool fans the judge said: “I am not going to allow this case to trespass into extraneous matters.”