Look At It This Way - April 24, 2015

Frank Knight has been forced to pay Blackpool FC �20,000 following a legal dispute over alleged defamatory comments posted online.

Frank Knight has been forced to pay Blackpool FC �20,000 following a legal dispute over alleged defamatory comments posted online.

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There’s £25 with my name below it on the Frank Knight Campaign crowd-fund website.

I’ve never met Mr Knight and frankly I don’t need to.

He’s a pensioner – all of eight years older than I am – which may elicit sympathy but also means he’s old enough to know better.

He didn’t ask for any money to be raised for him but I suspect we would both struggle to pay £20,000 if an unwary comment led to legal action.

For the record, this is not an unwary comment.

Mr Knight has learned the hard way that so-called freedom of speech does not extend to getting away with libel.

It can carry a hefty penalty – in this case £20k – even after an apology.

It’s easy for the red mist to descend when your team’s regularly being tangoed by the opposition – and relegation is a reality.

But the line between fair 
comment and trampling someone’s reputation underfoot is pretty clear to see. Mr Knight overstepped that line – and was red flagged.

Like it or not, the Oystons picked Blackpool FC up by its bootstraps back in 1988 and made it a force with which to be reckoned.

It’s since become a farce. From the heady heights of promotion to the Premier League to relegation from the Championship to League One next season, I get the bends just looking at the nose dive.

And that for a team which became the first club in English football to win promotion from every division of the Football League via play-offs. If there’s a hard way to do it Blackpool will almost certainly find it.

Some say Blackpool FC is now the laughing stock of the league. It’s not.

Real fans don’t laugh at other clubs’ misfortunes – not even Man Utd’s.

Real fans don’t walk through the storm alone. Real fans rally and pick themselves and their players back up.

Real fans know that what happens off the pitch, in the boardroom or backroom, should never spill into the changing rooms, training ground, or the psyche of the players.

Yet what happens on the pitch for Blackpool home and away has become almost incidental to the pitched battles elsewhere. And when a club starts winning more headlines on the front page than goals for the back page it’s time to worry. Blackpool Football Club will have been in existence for 128 years this summer.

For 27 of those years – come May – it has been owned by the Oystons. Belokon is a bit player in this uneasy coalition.

I’ve lived in this town for more than 50 years and followed Blackpool’s fortunes for longer. I remember my dad coming here to watch my home city Liverpool play Blackpool. Over the years I’ve interviewed some top players and managers.

So why did I support an appeal on behalf of a man I’ve never met – set up by another man I’ve never met … who’s never met the man he’s trying to help?

Because it’s the closest we’re likely to come to the spirit of Spartacus, if not Sparta FC, when it comes to the kinship that fans of any club, every club, feel when fair play seems at stake.

And because £20k is hell of a lot of money for a 67-year-old retired pensioner to find.

Put in perspective, the Football Association only fined a star player £5k more for an allegedly sexist tweet. It’s also £5k less than Mourinho was fined for comments made 
after the Chelsea-Southampton match.

When it comes to figures, Frank Knight’s fine is just out of the ball park – for my money.

Pestered by plague of politicians

There’s nothing ‘semi’ about my retirement.

I seem to spend my one day off a week in the purgatory of the car park outside the podiatry clinic – watching for my mum’s renewed spring to her step – or lurking in wait at home to warn the window cleaner that collared doves are nesting on the phone line.

Then there’s explaining to an irate catalogue salesman that sticking an unsolicited catalogue through the door means it will be recycled – not retained and handed back.

Now there’s a plague of politicians upon the doorstep 
ignoring the ‘no cold callers or Nicola Sturgeon’ sign.

While I enjoy a good 
debate (just ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses) I’d rather watch Question Time than present my own.

If we don’t know who we’re voting for by now we never will. That said I almost changed my mind after expressing a preference for Andy Burnham as Labour leader instead of ‘Ed’.

“Oh, I know the ladies think he’s eye candy,” came the 
response.

“I was thinking of his 
policies,” I muttered.

Not that I can name any…