Parents of disabled children today called on under-fire Pool chairman Karl Oyston to stand down following a text row in which he called a fan a “retard”.
Mr Oyston last night broke his silence on the subject and apologised “unreservedly” for any offence caused by remarks made during his exchange with supporter Steve Smith.
But his comments – which included telling the 31-year-old to “enjoy your special needs day out” – were widely condemned by fans, MPs and those who work with people suffering form a learning disability.
Mr Smith, from South Shore, said: “He is not fit to run a football club and he has lost sight of what it means.
“He should resign immediately.”
Blackpool fan Michelle-Louise Brown said: “The chairman of a football club used derogatory and downright offensive language towards a supporter of that club.
“I know of no other industry where such an action would be tolerated and I repeat my call for Karl Oyston to stand down with immediate effect as chairman of Blackpool FC.
“I honestly cannot see how he can carry on as chairman, especially as the FA, the Football League and the national media are all aware of his comments.
“I would therefore ask him to do the decent thing and go.
“I hope now that this is the end of his mismanagement of our beloved club and that we have someone who cares about the club and will do anything to ensure its success.”
Another fan, who The Gazette has agreed not to name, backed calls for Mr Oyston to step down.
He said: “I am the father of a 13-year-old son who is severely disabled and who would have been termed ‘retarded’ in less politically correct times.
“I’m not easily shocked but what Karl has said is completely unforgivable.
“If it was a footballer who did this they would be hauled over the coals for it.
“We can all apologise for things we have done – it’s about not doing them in the first place.
“The fact is, he is making the apology because he’s been caught out, not because he has done wrong.
“The words he used and the context he used them in are highly offensive and no apology is enough.”
Some fans also reacted angrily online to Mr Oyston’s apology, saying he had tried to shift the blame onto supporters.
Mr Oyston pledged to make a donation to the club’s Community Trust, which supports people with disabilities.
But supporters criticised the gesture saying he was giving money to his own charity and his apology did not go far enough.
SeasiderSteve wrote on Twitter: “He’s donating money to part of his own company! Apology not good enough at all. This is not over.”
His apology came just hours before yet more allegations of text conversations reportedly between Mr Oyston and other supporters were released on fan messageboards.
The unverified transcript, not seen by The Gazette, include a number of startling revelations, if true, of Mr Oyston’s views towards the tenure and practices of previous manager Jose Riga and his own future hopes for the football club - with life in the Football Conference allegedly mentioned.
Tim Fielding, chairman of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, said Mr Oyston’s position has become “untenable”.
Speaking before the latest text claims emerged, he said: “It is embarrassing for the football club and for the town - as a Blackpool fan it is embarrassing to be associated with these types of comment.
“When you read the texts again, it becomes more and more astonishing.
“In most walks of life - whether you are a CEO, a manager or on reception - if you communicated with anybody the way he has then you would lose your job
“The situation is fractious at best, toxic at worst.
“It is difficult to see where Karl goes from here.”
Ismail Kaji, who works for learning disability charity Mencap and previously said he had been “sickened” by Mr Oyston’s comments, welcomed the apology but said he hoped further action would be taken against the Pool chairman.
He added: “I am glad Karl Oyston has apologised but using the language that he used is never justified.
“I have a learning disability and am a big football fan but I would feel ashamed to support any football club that has a chairman who uses such unacceptable language to people with a disability.
“This language is just as bad as using racist or homophobic words and I hope the FA treats this as seriously.”
Steve Melrose, a Blackpool fan for over 35 years said he was “disgusted” by what Oyston is reported to have said.
Mr Melrose, who has a 10-year-old autistic son, said: “He is accusing fans of being retarded and having learning difficulties. I feel absolutely disgusted.
“I won’t be going anywhere near the football ground until he has left.”
Eddy Jackson, former headteacher of Highfurlong Special School, who was this year awarded an MBE for championing and supporting disability groups, said the comments were “unacceptable” and “offensive”.
He added: “It’s offensive and harmful and should not be tolerated.
“As a public figure you’ve got to be mindful and work to high standards and high expectations.
“I think people with disabilities would be very upset.
“Karl Oyston is under pressure as the chairman, but I think regardless of that you should never, ever use language like that.
Mr Oyston’s comments were also condemned by the resort’s two MP’s.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard, who has cerebral palsy, said: “I think it is quite inappropriate and regrettable and I hope he will reflect on whether what he has said was appropriate.”
Gordon Marsden, who represents Blackpool South, said: “‘However heated the argument the exchanges revealed in these texts, I believe it was completely unacceptable for Karl Oyston to have used words hurtful or offensive to people with disabilities.
“As Lord Ouseley who chairs the Kick It Out football organisation has said, the chairman sets the tone and standard of the organisation.”
As the row rumbled on last night, NHS chiefs – who have a base at Bloomfield Road – moved to distance themselves from the furore.
Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, which rents office space Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road stadium, declined to comment on the row, saying it was a “football issue”.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust also declined to comment on its links to the club, having bought the land for its new Harbour mental health facility, close to the M55, from a company part-owned by Mr Oyston.
Oyston: ‘I apologise for any offence or distress caused..’
Blackpool FC chairman Karl Oyston issued an apology yesterday afternoon in the wake of the text message furore. It read:
“I would like to unreservedly apologise for any offence or distress caused by my text responses reported in the media recently. I regret stooping to the level of those threatening and abusing my family.
“My mobile number was placed on a social media website recently and it led to a barrage of abuse about my mother, father, wife, children and myself. In hindsight the aim of this was clear, and I foolishly opted to challenge some of the abuse, harassment and threats.
“Given my position, I should have acted with more responsibility and reported the abusive text messages, phone calls and answer phone messages to the police, rather than get embroiled in such an exchange.
“At Blackpool FC we pride ourselves on our work in the community, and I wouldn’t want my unacceptable comments to detract from the fantastic work being done by our Community Trust.
“The Community Trust works with a number of organisations to support making as many opportunities for people with disabilities, including Warren Manor Day Care Centre, Age UK, the Wheelchair Football Association and Sport England, as well as special schools on the Fylde Coast.
“As such, I will be making a donation to the Community Trust to assist in the continued funding of these projects.”
What you have been saying online at blackpoolgazette.co.uk
We are all responsible for the things we say.....provocation is no excuse for the disgraceful and hurtful terms Karl Oyston has used.This surely has got to be dealt with and proper punishment handed out to him.
This shows he thinks he is untouchable. The football authorities must now come down very hard on him.
His position at BFC really is untenable, however it wouldn’t surprise me if he just thinks nothing of this and carries on in the same way.
I believe Karl Oyston was goaded a fair bit but the guy was nothing if not stupid to reply.
I’m a season ticket holder who is a full time carer for my disabled wife and the comments made by this sorry excuse for a human being, even allowing for the fact of the heated argument, should never have been said.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Oyston was goaded. 100%.
But, and this is a huge but, Oyston is the chairman of a supposedly family friendly football club, as such he represents all supporters and everything to do with the club.
The FA must charge him, and anyone with any decency would resign his post after such an outburst
With conversations that get heated or text exchanges that become abusive, intelligent people end the exchange
NEW HOLLAND 2
Having seen the transcript of much of the text exchanges, I would agree that there was some provocation but the level of abuse which KO responds with goes far beyond anything which comes his way.
I have been a supporter for almost 50 years and this is by far the worst thing that has happened to my club in all that time. I will no longer support the club until drastic action is taken .The Oystons should go now!
A man in his senior position, someone who has been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person by the FA should be above being ‘baited’ and ‘provoked’ into saying such disgusting things.
As a mother of a child with special needs I find that using those terms to berate someone is totally unacceptable
In the real world, people get held responsible for a single tweet. The FA will kick him out.
This is the lowest of the low. Ruined the club and brings the whole town into disrepute.JOHN ROBB
He’s donating money to part of his own company! Apology not good enough at all.
Only his resignation will suffice. I am ashamed to call myself a Blackpool supporter at this moment in time.
Why does he think by throwing money at it will make it ok?
His conduct is indefensible and he can never be forgiven. Resign Mr Oyston, there is no other option.
Sorry Karl, you can’t get out of this one with an apology and a donation