The latest Blackpool FC fan to be threatened with legal action by the club’s owners has today vowed to stand up and fight them court.
Businessman Jeremy Smith is being sued by Owen and Karl Oyston over his part in a fans’ protest at Bloomfield Road during Pool’s Championship match against Cardiff City last year.
I honestly didn’t think it would go this far but I say ‘bring it on’.Jeremy Smith
He was caught on camera holding up a doctored copy of a Gazette front page as supporters staged a walk-out in the 53rd minute.
Mr Smith, managing director at Karl Smith Car Sales, has now been served with papers sent by club solicitor Graham Woodward, claiming damages for libel.
Speaking to The Gazette, the 46-year-old said: “I have no intention of settling – I will have my day in court with them.
“There’s only one way for the Oystons now. They have got to go.”
The latest twist in the on-going saga at Bloomfield Road comes after a number of other fans reached an out of court settlement and apologised to the club and the Oystons over alleged defamatory comments made about them.
But Mr Smith said he will follow in the footsteps of fellow fan Dave Ragozzino, who went to court to challenge a similar claim made against him.
The legal papers served to Mr Smith, and dated June 22, highlight the media coverage after he was pictured at the home game against Cardiff, on October 3.
A television broadcaster showed footage, which was later printed in a national newspaper, of Mr Smith holding up a Gazette front page with part of the headline redacted.
The legal papers, which set out the details of the Oystons’ claim, state: “On October 3, 2014, during the course of a Blackpool Football Club FA League Championship football match at Bloomfield Road Stadium, the defendant held up to public view large printed words which said: ‘WE ARE THIEVES’.
“The said words were a deliberate alteration of the Blackpool Evening Gazette front page of October 3, 2014, which has originally said: ‘WE ARE NOT THIEVES’ and from which the word ‘NOT’ had been removed or obliterated.”
The papers claim Mr Smith’s actions “caused or were likely to cause serious harm to the personal and professional reputations” of both Owen and Karl Oyston.
The original Gazette story focused on Owen Oyston’s statements in the face of long-standing questions over the use of money the club made on the back of Pool’s promotion to the Premier League.
The Oystons have always denied some of the £90m windfall was “misappropriated” and maintain the cash was used properly to support the club and pay off its debts, pointing to the club’s healthy financial position.
Mr Smith said he was handed an altered copy of the front page at the ground and asked to hold it up in support of the protest organised by fans angry at the way the club was being run.
He said: “I was at the game with my wife and another couple.
“There was a demonstration and in the 53rd minute we left the ground.
“Someone gave me the paper and said ‘hold this up’.
“The cameras zoomed in on me but a few people had brought them – there were a few of us that had them.”
Mr Smith, a life-long fan who used to advertise with the club, said he was saddened by Pool’s current situation.
He added: “I will take this as far as it needs to go.
“It is just sad when the owners of the club should be concentrating on winning and getting players in for the next season.
“I honestly didn’t think it would go this far but I say ‘bring it on’.
“The owners have isolated the fans and brought shame on the club.”
Club chairman Karl Oyston declined to comment when approached by The Gazette.
It comes as Lancashire Police confirmed it is investigating an altercation between two men at Bloomfield Road yesterday, reportedly between Karl Oyston and a fan.
A force spokesman said: “We received a report of an altercation between two men outside Blackpool Football Club at shortly after 11.30am on Thursday 25 June and our enquiries to establish exactly what has happened are on-going.”