The wife of a football club chairman told a court how she and her family received death threats from fans.
Victoria Oyston – wife of Blackpool FC chairman Karl Oyston – was giving evidence in the trial of two men accused of making threats.
I felt intimidated, sick and worried for our guestsVictoria Oyston
The duo are alleged to be members of a group of men who are alleged to have stormed the directors’ box at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road ground after the match on May 2 last year was abandoned in the 49th minute following a pitch invasion by home fans angered by the way the club was being run.
The two men who deny the offence appeared before District Judge Jeff Brailsford, sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court.
They are Mark Rushton, 24, of Riversway, Blackpool and Neil Holden, 40, of Marton Drive, Blackpool.
Crown witness Mrs Oyston told the court she had also been acting chairman of the club for a short time.
She attended the match with her husband, family members and guests.
She told the hearing that the fans had regularly chanted anti-Oyston slogans for about 18 months.
She described the pitch invasion and said she had seen one before when police cleared the playing area quickly at Preston North End and the game resumed.
She told the court:”After the game was abandoned about 100 fans gathered in front of the directors’ box shouting ‘Oyston out’ and making horrible gestures.”
“We went inside the hospitality box. The concern was that nothing was being done.
“I had a friend with me and a missile narrowly missed her. I think it was a coin and it thwacked against the box’s glass window.”
“Some men arrived and one started to try and push open the door and get inside. Our security men pushed on the other side of the door to keep him out. Others were hammering on the glass.
“I felt intimidated, sick and worried for our guests.
“I was scared my mother-in-law was there and she is 80 and can’t move very quickly.”
Under cross examination by defence lawyer Peter Stringfellow Mrs Oyston said she had been married to her husband for five years.
She denied Mr Stringfellow’s suggestion to the court that her husband would antagonise fans and denied that he had beckoned fans into the box to fight.
She said: “During the last 18 months we have been advised by the police not to put ourselves under any undue risk.
“The fans have tried to intimidate me. They have come to our home three times and we have had anonymous phone calls and messages.
“There have been death threats to me at my home and at the club.
“This was not a peaceful protest.”
PC Ian Berry a specialist foot ball intelligence officer covering the Blackpool, Fleetwood and Morecambe clubs, said before kick off more than 1,000 fans had staged a largely-peaceful protest march to the club on what fans had dubbed ‘Judgement Day’.
He told the court that several smoke bombs were thrown and anti-Oyston slogans chanted.
He said police believed a fire alarm being set off below one of the stands prompted a pre-planned pitch invasion.
PC Berry told th court he realised something serious was happening when a group of fans scaled the wall surrounding the directors’ box.
The PC said he had identified one of the men on the box balcony as Holden and said that he believed the other was Rushton – even though the second man was wearing a mask during the incident.
He said clothes worn by Rushton prior to donning the mask and also pictured on his Facebook page led him to believe it was the accused man.
The two men deny the offence.