Oyston's move to drop legal action is 'too little too late'

Owen Oyston
Owen Oyston
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Blackpool fans have told club owner Owen Oyston his decision to drop legal action against some supporters is too little, too late.

He has committed to ending all litigation having met with the supporters affected on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Supporters’ group Justice4Fans, which confirmed the news yesterday, said it was a positive step towards bringing the ‘unprecedented’ and ‘highly destructive’ policy of pursuing fans through the courts to a conclusion.

The Gazette understands Oyston believes this, along with his recent sacking of his son Karl, will bring the fans back to Bloomfield Road.

There are also suggestions he is considering launching a free season ticket initiative for fans until the end of the season in another bid to see supporters come back.

But David Ragazzino, who was sued by Karl Oyston for posting a series of defamatory statements online, said: “It’s great news for those who were unsure about what was going on and for people like me who have had action taken against me. But as I said to Owen on Wednesday night, it’s too little, too late.

“It’s been tough for me because I lost my job at one point and it was very hard. I was getting married, my wife was pregnant and I had to go bankrupt.

“That’s why I’ll never go back until every Oyston has gone. You do end up in a depressed state. My total bill was £94,000 so things do end up getting on top of you.

“They’ve caused untold damage – too much has gone on.”

Last year, Pool fan Andy Grice said he was facing bankruptcy after Graham Woodward, a solicitor at Blackpool Football Club, was awarded £18,000 in damages over an online post that falsely described him as ‘struck off’. Several others were pursued over alleged defamatory comments.

A number of fans were also threatened with legal action over their part in a protest dubbed ‘Judgement Day’ which forced the abandonment of the fixture against Huddersfield Town in 2015.

Mr Grice, who said the legal action left him feeling suicidal, told The Gazette: “It’s been a massively difficult time for me. They’ve tried to bully the fans but we’ve not gone away.

“I hope they now think long and hard about refunding people who have had to pay out because what they had to do was wrong.”

He said he thought Oyston’s actions were a ‘charm offensive’ and said he didn’t see fans returning while the long-standing director remained in charge.

Christine Seddon, chairman of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, said if it was an attempt to win fans back, it was ‘too little, too late’.

“We’re delighted this has finally happened because it should never have happened in the first place,” she added.

“It’s just very sad that it’s taken this long for Owen to drop it.

“Owen has got rid of Karl and now this seems to be a last roll of the dice to try and convince people to return. But it won’t work.”

The statement, published by the Justice4Fans group, thanked Owen Oyston for ‘recognising the importance of bringing these outstanding claims to a conclusion’.

It added: “During the course of this week a series of one-to-one meetings have taken place between Owen Oyston and individual Blackpool fans who are still subject to litigation, have outstanding monies still due under settlements negotiated to conclude earlier litigation or were still under threat of being sued for their participation in the pitch protest at the Huddersfield match in 2015.

“Owen has agreed that all ongoing litigation will be discontinued, that judgments obtained will either not be enforced or set aside and also that no further action will be taken against those in receipt of letters of claim.”

It added that although ‘no restitution has yet been offered’ to fans who have paid up under threat of legal action, the move ‘a positive step towards bringing the unprecedented and highly destructive policy of pursuing fans through the courts to a conclusion’.