‘It is time to go.’
That is the emphatic verdict of furious Blackpool FC fans to the Oyston family as the curtain fell on a season of shame at Bloomfield Road.
Mounting anger aimed at the club’s directors culminated in the final match of a dismal season being called off after hundreds of supporters swarmed on to the pitch and refused to leave.
And fans today said there was “civil war” at Bloomfield Road as calls for the Oystons to step down amid a season of catastrophic publicity reached fever pitch.
Despite the club issuing a statement saying it would be reviewing CCTV and taking action against those responsible for Saturday’s pitch invasion, police last night confirmed no arrests were made.
Lancashire Police said it was satisfied with the way the “peaceful” protest, which halted the club’s final league game against Huddersfield Town after 48 minutes, was carried out it is not currently investigating.
A statement from the Tangerine Knights, the fans’ group behind a pre-match protest outside the ground, said: “It is quite clear to the Tangerine Knights and all Blackpool fans that Karl Oyston has lost control of Blackpool FC – our football club.
“We now call on the football authorities to take action, not against those fans who, after a season of utter insanity and a chairman who openly laughs at his own fanbase, chose civil disobedience as one course of protest about the destruction of the club, but against the Oyston family.
“There is a civil war at Bloomfield Road and the only way for it to end is for the Oyston family to relinquish control of our club, and leave.”
Many supporters were also quick to praise the demonstrations – inside and outside the ground – saying chairman Karl Oyston cannot ignore the strength of feeling among them.
The club will work with the relevant authorities to take appropriate action against all those responsible for disorder offences inside the stadiumBlackpool FC
Christine Seddon, spokesman for the Blackpool Supporters Trust, said the march outside the ground, which the group helped organise, was “better than we hoped for”.
She added: “Although the pitch invasion wasn’t organised by us – it was individuals who decided to do it – I think we all feel that as fans we’ve become so incredibly frustrated that nobody is listening to us and eventually it comes to a point where enough is enough.
“I could not find a single person criticising the people on the pitch and I think that explains where we are as a group. The way the police handled it was just right.”
She said she hoped not only the club, but also the Football Association, would take notice of the strength of feeling among fans.
She added: “The FA need to take a long hard look at themselves and why this has come about. I feel they are culpable.
“But the club is the Oystons’ to sell and we can’t force that issue apart from not giving them more money.
“We have to cut off their oxygen – and that is revenue.”
Fan, Peter Gillatt, 53, added: “I think the protest groups have done a marvellous job organising this and the police have allowed people to go out and protest.
“It was brilliant – at the end of the season we’ve sent out the loudest message possible.
“We are not going to tolerate this any more.”
Supporters who have faithfully followed the Seasiders for more than 50 years found themselves looking forward to a protest more than the match.
Fans cheered when they heard the announcement their final game of the season had been abandoned after just 48 minutes because of the pitch invasion.
Around 300 people piled onto the pitch – including one man riding a mobility scooter – shortly after the start of the second half of Saturday’s home fixture against Huddersfield Town.
Chanting towards the directors’ box, holding banners and smoke bombs, fans occupied the centre circle as the teams were taken off.
With police allowing the supporters to protest peacefully, those in the stands faced a wait of almost an hour before the referee finally called off the game.
But after a shambolic season that ended with Pool rock bottom of the Championship, fans praised the protest as a victory.
Bill Markham, 57, of North Shore, said: “I have been coming for almost 60 years now – I came as a six-year-old boy.
“This year, I have just had enough. I go to away games but not to any home matches.
“I think the people of Blackpool have had enough. It shows in the turnout.
“If the Oyston family doesn’t want to support the club properly, I’m afraid it’s time to go.”
Mr Markham added the club’s sudden fall from grace after reaching the Premier League in 2010 made the current situation all the more frustrating.
“Four years ago you couldn’t get into a pub in Blackpool for all the supporters who couldn’t get into the ground,” he said.
“It just brought the community together.
“Now it is stagnating into a situation where we are the laughing stock of the Football League. For me, wanting Blackpool to lose, it’s ridiculous. I never thought I would find myself in this position.”
Despite several flares being lit inside the ground and a number a fans invading the seating area outside the directors’ box, police remained passive throughout Saturday’s demonstration.
A large number of officers were present and a police helicopter hovered above the stadium after supporters moved outside but no arrests were made.
Huddersfield Town chief executive Nigel Clibbens said: “After the protest, when the abandonment came we were ushered into the boardroom and locked in as a precaution as home supporters looked to storm towards the boardroom. This was disconcerting.”
Insp Kevin Otter, of Lancashire Police, said: “It was a peaceful protest on the pitch.
“There was low level policing and no arrests were made during or after the match. It was an outpouring of feeling by the fans and no complaints were made by the club.”
The demonstration inside the ground followed a march, organised by supporters’ group the Tangerine Knights, and a vocal protest outside the ground.
Around 2,000 took part, including a number of Huddersfield fans who wanted to support the cause.
One group dressed in blue and white could be heard starting a chant of “Oyston out” just minutes before the game kicked off.
Supporter Adam Valentine, 23, of Bispham, said: “Just by the sheer number of people, you can tell how the fans feel.
“The Oystons should sell up and leave.”
He said the family had burned all their bridges with fans and any hopes of repairing their fractured relationship were long gone.
“It’s gone far beyond that,” he added. “This is the final straw. Taking the statue down, on a day like this, it feels like they are taking the mickey out of the fans.”
The famous statue of Stan Mortensen, Pool’s hat-trick hero in the 1953 FA Cup final, was conspicuously absent on Saturday after being taken down by the club for “safety reasons”.
One fan placed a cardboard cut-out of the statue on the empty plinth before kick-off, while other fans left shirts and scarves.
Colin Smith, of South Shore, called for more protests until there is real change at the club.
He said: “The pressure has got to stay. We want the Oystons to go, today.”
Pete Stinger said the pitch invasion was about the fans making a statement but he is not convinced the Oystons will listen. He said: “I don’t think he (Karl Oyston) is going to go.
“He’s up there laughing. He’s not interested and it’s a shame. But we have come here and got a result.”
Asked what his message to the club’s directors would be, he said: “It’s time to go. It’s as easy as that.”
Emma Nelson, 39, said the current plight of the club was “heartbreaking”, adding: “I feel like crying.”
Gary Wills, 54, said: “It will not alter until we get rid of the Oystons.”
A statement from Blackpool FC, issued after match, said: “The club would like to confirm that all available CCTV footage is now being collated and studied by the relevant authorities to identify those who took part in the pitch invasion and other offences of disorder.
“The club will work with the relevant authorities to take appropriate action against all those responsible for disorder offences inside the stadium.
“The club will also co-operate fully with The Football Association and The Football League in light of any investigations that follow on from the match being abandoned.
“The club would like to place on record its gratitude to the ground safety officer, stewards and police for their efforts today, as the operation managed to successfully avoid any injuries to those in attendance at the stadium.
“The club would like to offer its sincere apologies to Huddersfield Town Football Club, its supporters, manager, players and directors, as well as the Blackpool supporters who remained in the stands.”
What fans are saying online...
Can you believe the club is going to pursue the demonstrators when they have viewed the CCTV? Did you not hear the supporters in the stands applauding them? The supporters applauding are not yobbish troublemakers they are decent people.
Whether you believe the demo was justified or not, the old saying “ you reap what you sow” is very appropriate under the circumstances.
Will it make a jot of difference or will it be a reason for the fans to suffer even more in the future? Credit to the Huddersfield fans for remaining generally calm and patient. I hope they can claim a refund for their match ticket as they were unwitting onlookers.