Blackpool Football Club chairman Karl Oyston today admitted: ‘We shouldn’t have sued Jeremy Smith.’
The Pool owner and his father Owen sensationally dropped the case against Mr Smith at court in Liverpool on Thursday.
The civil case was brought against Mr Smith after he was pictured holding up a doctored Gazette front page featuring Owen Oyston, with part of the headline scribbled out.
Today – as Karl Oyston insisted a bid to increase damages from £25,000 to £250,000 just days before the hearing was “usual” in aggravated cases, and was ultimately “irrelevant” – he acknowledged the action shouldn’t have been brought in the first place.
He told The Gazette: “With hindsight we wouldn’t have initiated proceedings in this matter as Jeremy and his parents have been long-standing, committed fans known to both of my parents over the last 25 years.
“The stakes in this case potentially became wholly disproportionate to the issues which while deeply distressing, particularly to my father, weren’t worth the potential consequences to the defendant.”
The Gazette understands costs to both sides could have reached in excess of £250,000 depending on the outcome of the hearing, if it had gone ahead.
The Oystons will be liable for the court costs incurred so far, believed to be close to six figures.
Jeremy Smith, who was joined by jubilant Pool fans and even Liverpool and Everton fans outside the city’s Family and Civil Court, was pictured at the home game against Cardiff on October 3 2014 holding up The Gazette front page with part of the headline redacted.
The original story had focused on Owen Oyston’s statements in the face of long-standing questions over the use of money the club made on the back of Blackpool’s promotion to the Premier League.
Today, Mr Smith said: “I think in most cases the Oyston family have handled themselves very badly.
“They need to ask themselves do they really want to be there?
“Is it not time for them to move on?
“They have ruined something, a pastime, that fans and the public of Blackpool have done for generations through their actions and decision making.”
The Oystons have successfully sued fans over comments they have made in public about their running of the club.
David Ragozzino was ordered in November last year to pay Karl and Owen Oyston £20,000 each after making defamatory remarks which had “gone well beyond vigorous criticism” online.
In May this year, Karl Oyston won £30,000 in libel damages after fan Stephen Reed – known by many as ‘Afroman’ – claimed the Pool chief threatened him with a shotgun on fans’ website, Back Henry Street.
Legal action continues against a number of fans after the pitch invasion which led to Pool’s home game against Huddersfield in May 2015 being abandoned.