Blackpool’s biggest supporters’ group has voted not to attend ‘peace talks’ with chairman Karl Oyston next month, describing the proposed meeting as “unacceptable”.
Blackpool Supporters Trust was among five fan groups offered the chance to hold talks with Oyston at a Bloomfield Road meeting on March 10 arranged by the club’s Community Trust.
After two years of escalating unrest between supporters and the club’s owners, many have called for the Oystons to meet with fans and Councillor Tony Williams suggested a truce in The Gazette last month.
Three weeks ago Blackpool FC proposed the March 10 summit to be co-hosted by the Fans Progress Group, a body whose members were selected by the club, and Reverend Michael Ward of the Community Trust.
BST, which has around 2,000 paid-up members, was initially open to the idea and wrote to Rev Ward with some queries and suggestions ahead of a meeting.
After these were rejected by the club, BST held a members’ vote yesterday to decide whether to send a delegate – it was invited to send only one – to the meeting.
Some 60 per cent voted against, though BST chairman Steve Rowland believes the result could been different had Karl Oyston accepted their terms.
Rowland told The Gazette: “The turnout was 60 per cent, which equates to more than 1,000 Blackpool fans, and 60 per cent of those said no to the meeting.
“When the meeting was first proposed, I suspected the vote could have gone the other way but our suggestions were point-blank refused.
“We asked for a level playing field, something which wasn’t too much to ask, and that was rejected out of hand. I believe it was that which made people’s minds up to vote no.”
Two other groups invited to send a representative to the meeting, Yorkshire Seasiders and London-based BASIL, said they would follow the lead of BST and so are now unlikely to attend.
Blackpool Supporters Association will make its decision, although it’s believed they could also now decline.
BST will instead press ahead with its original plan of inviting supporters to a meeting with Coun Williams. Karl Oyston will also be invited to attend.
Rowland explained: “We have spoken to Coun Williams and he plans to call a meeting with two reps from each fan group, along with the club and the Community Trust.
“This was always the plan, and we were confused and suspicious as to why the club attempted to cross over Mr Williams’ original plan.
“If they are serious about an ‘olive branch’, then this will be the perfect chance to prove it.”
Rowland says BST is now in talks with all the supporter groups in the hope none of them will attend the club’s meeting.
BST plans to convene a meeting for all fan groups, regardless of whether Oyston wishes to attend.
“It’s important now the club’s supports stand united,” said Rowland. “My personal thought is our members have made the right decision in the circumstances. The terms we were offered were unacceptable.
“We were suspicious to say the least, with a perfectly good proposal already on the table.
“I’d now call on all the other Blackpool fan groups to follow us and stick together. That’s what is needed.”