Blackpool FC supporters today vowed they would “not stop” in their battle to demand radical change from the club’s chairman Karl Oyston.
Hundreds of frustrated fans – angry over the running of the club – joined a mass demonstration outside Bloomfield Road prior to and during Blackpool’svictory over Brighton on Saturday.
Police claimed the protest, which started peacefully at 2.30pm, involved around 300 protesters – although the real figure was nearer 1,000..
As the crowds grew, a smoke flare was let off and a number of people tried to gain entry to the main reception area.
The protest came after many fans saw a new number plate on Karl Oyston’s car parked outside the stadium which read, OY51 OUT, which supporters claimed was used to antagonise them further.
Blackpool FC today claimed the protest had become “quite violent” and said club stewards were assaulted during the drama.
However, Lancashire Police said no arrests had been made but officers would be reviewing CCTV footage.
The protest , initially suggested by Blackpool fan Lee Johnson, was backed by Blackpool Supporters Trust and supporters group The Tangerine Knights.
Steve Rowland, chairman of the Blackpool Supporters Trust which has 1,300 members, said: “It was the biggest protest held for a while.
“There were around 1,000 people, it shows the strength of feeling about the issues.
“Everybody is concerned there is a total lack of investment and ambition.
“All the promises Karl Oyston has made about investing in the pitch, the team, the training ground – none of it has happened.
“It has become very toxic, there is a lot of animosity.”
Blackpool Supporters Trust held a meeting prior to the match where a unanimous vote of no confidence in the competency of Karl Oyston was made.
Mr Rowland added: “This isn’t going to stop.
“The pressure will continue until we get some resolution on this. This club belongs to the community and we are trying to reverse its decline.
“We have goals to make a radical change in the way Blackpool FC is run.
“We will try to persuade the Oystons to run the club in the way it should be or we would ask them to step aside and let someone else take over and run it properly, instead of as a business to milk.”
He said the trust had been in touch with Blackpool’s MPs Gordon Marsden and Paul Maynard to gain cross-party support and it was planning to put a candidate forward to represent Blackpool South in the next election.
He added: “We want to give what is happening the maximum publicity. The way the club is being run is not just bad for Blackpool FC, it is bad for the whole of Blackpool. One is a barometer for the other.”
The protest follows previous calls for Karl Oyston to stand down as chairman of Blackpool FC following a text row with a fan, in which he called him a “retard”.
And last week it emerged a Blackpool FC supporter had been given four weeks to pay £5,000 to the club’s Community Trust after legal action was taken against him over alleged defamatory comments about the Oystons on fans’ forum.
Stephen Smith, spokesman for supporters group The Tangerine Knights, said: “Initially there was a tense atmosphere, a feeling of discontent among the fans. It switched to anger, there was a lot of chanting and a minority surged forward.
“The car registration plate antagonised fans.
“The relationship between the Oystons and the fans has been strained beyond repair.
“Karl Oyston’s position has become untenable.”
Lee Johnson, 35, who grew up in Blackpool but now lives in Manchester, suggested the idea for the protest.
He said: “We were there to voice our concerns about how the club is being run.
“It’s about the community. Blackpool FC doesn’t just serve the fans, it serves the whole of Blackpool.”
A spokesman for Blackpool FC said: “The club is currently working with the police to identify a number of individuals who turned a peaceful, pre-planned protest into quite a violent one outside the main doors of Bloomfield Road.
“Club stewards were assaulted as some individuals tried to storm the doors and get inside. CCTV footage is now being reviewed to identify the offenders, including ones who let off smoke bombs and a flare.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “No arrests have been made, we will be reviewing CCTV footage in the next couple of days.”