Blackpool fans’ group wary of Oyston ‘olive branch’

Blackpool Supporters' Trust at the Town Hall
Blackpool Supporters' Trust at the Town Hall

Blackpool Supporters’ Trust will hold a vote to decide whether to accept Karl Oyston’s invitation to meet.

Pool’s chairman appears to have held out an olive branch to the club’s disgruntled fans’ groups by inviting them to a meeting on March 10.

It follows calls in The Gazette by councillors for a truce to be struck for the good of the club and the town’s economy.

Oyston released a statement on Saturday inviting members of five fans’ groups to the meeting at Bloomfield Road in the hope of “improving relations between the club and its supporters”.

It states that the invitation extends to the Fans’ Progress Group (FPG) and a representative from BSA, BST, Yorkshire Seasiders and Basil.

“All those attending will be able to place items on the agenda for the meeting, which will be chaired by Rev. Michael Ward (of Blackpool FC Community Trust) and attended by senior Blackpool Football Club staff, including chairman Karl Oyston.

“Regular discussions held between chairman Karl Oyston and Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn, and a subsequent letter received from Coun. Williams, will be included on the agenda. It is clear that the council leader, as well as individual councillors, wish to support an improvement in relations between the club and its supporters for the benefit of the club and the town’s economy.”

The announcement has received a lukewarm response from the club’s largest fan group, BST, who will be seeking assurances before asking members to vote on the invitation.

BST chairman Steve Rowland said: “As yet we have received no official approach from anyone regarding this meeting.

“Before we even confer with our members on this matter, we need to understand why the initiative is being undertaken at this time (given that Coun. Tony Williams already has one mediation proposal on the table), who will be attending from the club and what the precise objectives of the proposed meeting are. The first step, therefore, is clarification.

“Once we’ve undertaken appropriate enquiries, we will consult the membership of BST before responding to any invitation.”

In The Gazette of January 28, Coun. Williams called for an end to the dispute between the club and its supporters, which has seen a some fans hit with legal action by the club.

Saturday’s statement hinted that the Oystons may be willing to ease their legal stance.

It reads: “A report on legal actions, both civil and CPS/Police initiated, will also be on the agenda (for the proposed March 10 meeting).

“The club will confirm its intention not to commence any further legal action, other than that relating to the pitch invasions, where a limited number of individuals have been contacted and further small number of individuals are currently being identified with the assistance of Lancashire Police.

“The club has offered an amnesty, via the FPG, to the vast majority of those individuals involved in the pitch protests on May 2 2015 and July 11.

The proposal for the meeting followed discussions between Oyston and the Fans Progress Group, a body formed by the club last year.

The FPG was pleased to hear that Oyston had followed through his promise to attempt to build bridges.

Its statement reads: “We welcome the club’s announcement that invitations have been extended to the main supporter groups to attend a meeting with Blackpool FC, which will attended by Karl Oyston.”

“This will provide supporter groups, and particularly those that have been seeking a meeting with the club, the opportunity to have direct dialogue with Karl and allows everyone attending to submit their own topics for the agenda”.