GAZETTE OPINION: Oyston climbdown too little too late, damage is done

Blackpool fans protest against the club owners outside the ground ahead of kick-off on Sunday
Blackpool fans protest against the club owners outside the ground ahead of kick-off on Sunday

If Karl and Owen Oyston said they were spending £50m of their own money to pay for elderly care on the Fylde coast, build a refuge for abandoned puppies or give every Fylde family a free turkey for Christmas, they would be roundly hammered by many.

Even if they had found a cure for cancer, many would ask ‘What’s the catch?’

No matter what they do or say they will be public enemy number one on the Fylde coast, or certainly at least among Blackpool fans who have seen their Premier League legacy end up with trips to places like Hartlepool and Newport County rather than Old Trafford or the Etihad.

Too many avoidable and downright childish things have gone on over the last few years for many of the fans who have boycotted the club to consider returning.

Text messages cannot be unsent, pictures cannot go unposed and car registration plates of OY51 OUT will not be forgotten – all PR disasters that have plunged the Oystons into a toxic pit of hatred among angry fans.

So while Karl Oyston’s admission that the libel action against Pool fan Jeremy Smith for holding up a doctored Gazette front page was, in hindsight, an error, it will do little to appease the disgruntled.

While few right-thinking members of society will have much sympathy for some of the idiotic and vile comments directed at the Oystons by those naively citing ‘freedom of speech’, this was a legal action that was at best ill-advised.

A lifelong, articulate fan who joined in a protest, peaceful or not, by holding up a doctored headline accusing the Oystons of wrongdoing is not in the same league as others.

During a time of rare stability in the club’s recent shambolic history, this court case was an unwanted sideshow that has done little good for anyone, except the pay packets of lawyers perhaps.

The Oystons initially argued, in official court documents, that the defandant’s ‘aggravation’of the allegations could have damaged their integrity in the eyes of others.

True, it could. But their past indiscretions – already touched on in this column – weaken their arguments when they complain about the behaviour of those who are opposed to their stewardship.

Other legal action is still ongoing against pitch ‘invaders’ to satisfy demands of the football authorities, but it is true to say that will be the last of them. The appetite for conflict is waning. Yet the attutude for change is still as strong as ever among those who continue to stay away until the Oystons sell up and leave.

No climbdown, no matter how sincere or otherwise, will sway the minds of the resolute, which is the saddest legacy of all.

Andy Sykes

Andy Sykes