Pool stop short of apologising for blunder

Pauline O'Rourke, wife of former Blackpool FC goalkeeper Billy O'Rourke, has been wrongly accused by Blackpool FC of invading the pitch during last year's protest.
Pauline O'Rourke, wife of former Blackpool FC goalkeeper Billy O'Rourke, has been wrongly accused by Blackpool FC of invading the pitch during last year's protest.
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Blackpool FC has admitted wrongly accusing a former club goalkeeper’s widow of invading the Bloomfield Road pitch last May – but stopped short of saying sorry.

Pauline O’Rourke, whose late husband Billy played 98 times for the club in the 80s, was threatened with legal action by the club over the notorious protest, which saw the match against Huddersfield being abandoned.

As revealed in The Gazette yesterday, the 65-year-old was a victim of mistaken identity, with the club volunteer of 20 years saying: “It’s disgraceful how they’re treating fans.”

A spokesman for the club said: “The club can confirm that Mrs O’Rourke was incorrectly identified as a pitch invader during the investigations that followed the criminal act of encroaching on a football pitch against Huddersfield Town on May 2.

“It is important to stress that the club was sanctioned by both the Football Association and the Football League for the illegal pitch invasion against Huddersfield Town, and the club is required to take whatever action necessary to prevent any repeat.

“The club is currently awaiting information that was agreed to be provided some months ago by Lancashire Police to conclude the investigation, and reluctantly take action where required against those already identified, and a small number of others, amounting to no more than 12 individuals.

“All at Blackpool Football Club would prefer the problems of the past to be speedily dealt with, to allow complete focus on resolving the issues within the club’s board and relationship with some of its supporters.”

Mrs O’Rourke, who was asked in a legal letter to agree to pay compensation and never to attend another game at Bloomfield Road, also claims to still be banned.

The club said: “Excluding individuals convicted of criminal offences or involved in ongoing legal action with the club, individuals identified as being involved, or present, at any of the illegal actions are not banned from entering the stadium, subject to an acceptable behaviour order being signed with the club’s ground safety officer.”

Billy, who died in 2002 following a brain haemorrhage at the age of just 41, played for Pool six times on loan, and 92 times between 1984 and ‘87.