Club demands compensation over protests

Blackpool supporter Stephen Smith
Blackpool supporter Stephen Smith
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An angry Blackpool FC fan has today vowed to fight back after being threatened with legal action by the club.

Stephen Smith, a vocal critic of chairman Karl Oyston, has been served with a letter demanding compensation for loss of earnings after a fan protest led to the club’s final match of last season being abandoned.

He said he believes he is being targeted because of his role in getting the chairman banned from football-related activities over a text exchange in which Mr Oyston called him a “retard”.

The letter comes just days after details were made public of a meeting with fans when the chairman said he wanted to “conclude all legal action as speedily as possible”.

Mr Smith, a spokesman for protest group the Tangerine Knights, said: “(The club is) applying for three absolutely ridiculous injunctions on me.

“I think this is solely designed to shut me up because I have been a constant thorn in his side.

“I got him banned for six weeks and this is clearly retribution.

“This is not going to shut me up – as far as I’m concerned, I will carry on.”

As reported by The Gazette in June, Mr Oyston was banned from Bloomfield Road for six weeks and fined £40,000 for his conduct in the text exchange with Mr Smith.

In July, the club was fined £50,000 for failing to control spectators following the pitch invasion on the last day of the season that led to the match against Huddersfield being abandoned after 48 minutes.

In the letter, dated on Thursday and seen by The Gazette, the club alleges Mr Smith was “one of the ringleaders” involved in the pitch invasion on May 2 and also “wrongfully invaded” the pitch during Pool’s pre-season friendly at Lancaster.

The letter, signed by club solicitor Graham Woodward, adds: “The said actions were unlawful and you have evinced a clear intention to injure or harm Blackpool Football Club.

“Your actions have in fact occasioned loss or damage to the club.”

Mr Smith denies organising the pitch invasion, saying the Knights’ involvement was limited to arranging large-scale protests outside the stadium.

Although the letter does not specify how much it is seeking in damages from Mr Smith, it cites the £50,000 fine when referring to the club’s loss as a result of the match on May 2 being abandoned.

In it, Mr Woodward says the club is seeking:

n Damages for unlawful trespass;

n Damages for unlawful interference with the club’s economic interests;

n An injunction to prevent Mr Smith setting foot inside Bloomfield Road ever again;

n An injunction to prevent him setting foot on the pitch during any Blackpool match;

n An injunction to prevent him organising or encouraging a pitch invasion during a Blackpool match.

Neither the club nor Mr Oyston responded to The Gazette’s requests for a comment.