Protests will have impact, say Blackpool fans’ group

Blackpool fans protest at Blackburn
Blackpool fans protest at Blackburn
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Organisers of the high-profile joint protest between Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers fans claim the peaceful demonstration overshadowed Saturday’s FA Cup tie between the two clubs.

Blackpool supporters stood shoulder to shoulder in the rain with fans from their Lancashire rivals in a joint protest about the running of their clubs both before and during the fourth round tie. It ended 2-0 to Blackburn, who will host Manchester United in the last 16 .

Supporters from Pool and Rovers held up flags and banners, and made their dissatisfaction plain to see in front of the directors’ entrance.

Calls for “Oyston out” and “Venky’s out” rang out around the stadium as both groups voiced their anger at the way their respective clubs are being run.

The match itself was also momentarily halted when dozens of tennis balls were launched on to the field of play from outside the stadium.

The protest was covered by a large number of national – and even international – media outlets, with the game itself appearing to be a sideshow.

Steve Rowland, chairman of joint organisers the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, said the protest will have a wide-reaching impact.

He said: “Blackpool Supporters’ Trust wishes to thank everyone who turned out in the rain to take part in Saturday’s joint demonstration with Rovers’ fans outside Ewood Park.

“The protest was more noteworthy than the game itself – as was widely acknowledged by TV and radio pundits and national newspapers – and will be more significant in the long term as a step on the road to bring about changes in football governance.

“It was a successful demonstration in that it brought the dissatisfaction of fans with the poor custodianship of both clubs to a wider audience.

“Lancashire Police commended the protesting fans for their organisation and good behaviour as the event passed off entirely peacefully and without any intimidation of fellow supporters.”

It is less than six years since the clubs faced each other at Ewood Park as Premier League and the match was watched by a crowd of 27,000.

On Saturday, with thousands of fans from both sides boycotting the game, the official crowd was announced as 9,327 with 1,605 coming from Blackpool – although these figures have been widely disputed.

Mr Rowland added: “‘More out than in’ can best be interpreted in light of the fact that the ‘official’ attendance of 9,327 at Ewood Park was one of the lowest of the fourth Round; lower than at Lincoln City for instance.

“The reality is that fans of both clubs boycotted the game in their thousands. Even photographic evidence suggests the actual number of Blackpool fans inside the stadium was probably well below the stated 1,605.

“Fans from rival clubs uniting to campaign for better representation for all football supporters is a positive trend that we will see much more of in the coming months.

“As for Karl Oyston’s disparaging and misleading comments to the media in the days leading up to the game, BST will be issuing a measured response in Friday’s weekly Gazette column.”