Blackpool FC has claimed it removed a statue of club legend Stan Mortensen “for safety reasons”.
In an email sent to Blackpool parliamentary candidate Gordon Marsden, the club says the statue has only been removed “temporarily” and will be put back in place on Tuesday.
That is three days after Saturday’s final match of the season, at home to Huddersfield, when supporters taking part in a protest against the Oyston family had planned to use the statue as a focal point for demonstrations.
Fans had been encouraged to lay memorabilia and messages at the statue on what is the 62nd anniversary of Blackpool’s 1953 FA Cup triumph over Bolton, when Mortensen scored a hat-trick.
Its removal has caused outrage among Seasiders supporters, many of who helped pay for the statue by contributing money prior to its unveiling in 2005.
Mr Marsden, a Labour candidate for Blackpool South, emailed club chairman Karl Oyston about the issue “after concerns raised by my constituents”.
He wrote: “I would be very grateful if you could clarify whether or not the club has removed the statue and, if so, for what purpose?”
Mr Marsden told The Gazette: “I can confirm we pressed Blackpool FC about the removal of the statue.
“The response we were given is that the decision to remove it temporarily was around safety issues, but that the Mortensen statue will be put back on Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, shadow sports minister Clive Efford has written to Mr Marsden – and to Sam Rushworth, Labour candidate for Blackpool North and Cleveleys – about the situation at Blackpool FC.
Labour has, if elected, pledged to give fans a say in what happens at boardroom level and Mr Efford said: “Football clubs are more than just businesses and the fans are not merely customers. This is a sad situation, particularly for a club like Blackpool with a tremendous heritage.”
Peter Anthony, Conservative candidate for Blackpool South, said: “I feel sorry for Blackpool fans. I know how much it means to them.
“However, I don’t see how any political party can impose something on a private business.”
Andy Higgins, standing as an independent candidate in Blackpool South, said: “Club owners can do what they want, can behave in a financially irresponsible way, and no-one can do anything about it – which is outrageous.”
Other candidates standing in Blackpool South are Lawrence Chard (Ind), Bill Greene (Lib Dem), Duncan Royle (Green) and Peter Wood (UKIP).