Blackpool FC fans who say they were turfed out of Neil Diamond’s Bloomfield Road concert today asked: “What did we do wrong?”
Season ticket-holder Dave Hall said he believes he was thrown out 45 minutes into Thursday night’s gig because of his involvement in protests against the football club’s owners.
He told The Gazette it was a life-long dream to see his “idol” in concert and as far as he was concerned that evening had “nothing to do with football”.
He said when he got up to use the toilet part-way through the performance he was approached by stewards, once he was in the concourse, who asked him to leave.
Another fan, Darren Hatton, who was barred from the ground by the club at the start of last season, said he had a similar experience claiming he was forced to leave his 75-year-old mother inside while he was escorted out.
The Gazette understands security staff identified a number of people who were in breach of orders banning them from the ground and asked them to leave, which some did peacefully.
Mr Hall was also once banned from the ground following a rant back in 2009, for which he later apologised, but has been a regular at matches in recent years. The 64-year-old, who runs a kitchen and bathroom showroom, said: “It is absolutely wrong. That ticket cost me nearly £100 – I have wanted to see Neil Diamond all my life.
“There I was, listening to my idol, tears running down my face.
“Then I went to the toilet and the stewards stopped me and said ‘we want you to leave’.
“I said ‘what for?’ and that’s when they grabbed me. Of course I am going to resist and then I got thrown against a wall.”
Once outside the ground, he claims he was told by one of the security guards he was barred from the ground for life.
Mr Hall, who bought a two-year season ticket last summer, said: “It’s unbelievable – this is not even football-related.
“I could have gone there as a trouble-maker but I didn’t. I just sat there and watched my idol.”
Mr Hall resigned from his position as discipline officer of Blackpool Sunday Alliance, a local football league, following the incident in 2009.
Despite getting no official explanation or letter to confirm the ban, he said he believes it is linked to his participation in recent ‘ramble’ protests outside the rural Lancashire home of Pool chairman Karl Oyston.
Mr Hatton, 50, said he was thrown out before the concert had even started.
Despite being banned from the ground last year, he said he believed it would not be a problem going to the concert as it was not football-related. The Gazette understands the bans include non-football events.
He added: “The stewards came over and said ‘can we have a word please Darren?’
“They were all nice and as soon as we got out of sight of the pitch, all the stewards jumped in and got my arm up by back – it was really heavy-handed.”
He said it was the club’s own security that asked him to leave and G4S, who were hired by the organisers and were leading the security operation, had not been involved in the decision to kick him out.
He believes he was recognised by staff at the club who were monitoring security cameras inside the ground.
The life-long fan, who had an Oyston Out scarf with him but claims it was hidden from view, added: “To be treated like that just for protesting is ridiculous really.
“I had a scarf but I didn’t show it because I wanted to hold it up when he sang ‘Money Talks’. They didn’t know I had it when they kicked me out.”
A video taken on his mobile phone, and seen by The Gazette, shows at least four security staff escorting him from the ground as he protests loudly at his treatment.
One of the stewards can be heard saying: “See you later, Darren.”
An eye-witness, who was outside the ground, said he saw two other men ejected from Bloomfield Road.
The man, who asked not to be named, said he saw a fifth man turfed out for holding up an Oyston Out scarf inside the ground.
Reports on social media afterwards suggested there had been several incidents where stewards waited until people were heading to the toilets before asking them to leave.
Blackpool FC did not respond to requests for a comment.
The Gazette understands no request for a refund for tickets by those in question has been made to organisers Cuffe and Taylor.