In 2015 Blackpool FC were relegated from English football’s second division after a season of humiliation on the pitch and a series of disgraceful actions by the owners, the Oyston family. Newspapers across the world reported on the season and the Oyston family’s actions.
The last home game of the 2015 season was against Huddersfield Town. It was abandoned following a pitch invasion by 100–200 Blackpool fans.
As a result of the invasion Blackpool were fined £50,000 and warned by the Football Association (FA) and given a suspended three-point deduction by the Football League (FL). Blackpool were instructed to pay for the costs of the FA and FL’s investigations into how and why the pitch invasion took place and the match abandoned.
Huddersfield fans received no compensation.
It is clear from reading the various judgements and news articles that both Lancashire Police and Blackpool FC knew that a pitch invasion was planned and that they took insufficient action to prevent it happening.
There is no evidence of a warning being given to Huddersfield fans.
Blackpool FC, Lancashire Police and the footballing authorities have failed Hudderfield fans. Train travel, ticket and food will have cost each fan about £100. That’s a lot of money to see a full football match let alone half a game.
The football authorities should ensure that Huddersfield fans are compensated for their travel and their tickets.
The football authorities need to stand up for fans.
The plan for a pitch invasion was known in advance
Both the Club and the police were aware that there were plans by some Blackpool supporters to invade the pitch during the match, shortly after half time.
The FA’s report says:
in the letter dated 5 May 2015 to the FA Mr Pinder [the Ground Safety Officer of Blackpool FC] stated that all the intelligence indicated that disgruntled Blackpool fans would stage some form of protest before, during and after the match, which potentially could include pitch incursions as a way of protesting against the Chairman of the Club. The letter also confirmed that prior to kick-off the Referee was informed of the potential forms of protest
The same report goes on to say:
in an email from a Huddersfield fan, who attended the match with his young son, dated 5 May 2015 he set out the events leading up to and occurring during the pitch incursion. In particular he stated “We got talking to stewards who told us the pitch would be invaded on 48 mins etc etc which was the first we had heard of it.”
The report found:
there were serious inadequacies in the planning that led up to the match on 2 May 2015. There was strong intelligence available that there would be a pitch incursion and that it would be in the early part of the second half of the match. It was admitted by Mr Pinder that the threat of incursion was foreseeable from the Armfield Stand or the West Stand because that is where most of the Blackpool fans were. In those circumstances the pitch incursion was foreseen and the approximate location of the incursion was foreseeable
The FA’s report also makes it clear that the protest was directed at the Oystons:
The pitch incursion involved between 100 to 200 people taking part in a protest specifically directed at the Chairman of the Club, Karl Oyston.
Three Blackpool fans recently admitted threatening behaviour during the protests. A news article reporting their admission and punishment again made it clear that both Blackpool FC and the police knew that a pitch invasion was planned.
The game started peacefully but police intelligence had warned that smoke bombs would be used to set off fire alarms to signify a pitch invasion.
The referee Mick Russell was made aware of the threat and when the invasion happened, took off the players and later abandoned the match.
Despite knowing of the planned invasion neither the club nor the police issued warnings or took sufficient action to stop the pitch invasion.
It’s time for the footballing authorities to stand up for fans
The IFO recently ruled on their complaint and said:
the supporters had a sound case and the IFO is surprised that a compensation order was not made by the Commission
So am I.
Huddersfield fans are now considering whether to take Blackpool to the small claims court.
I hope they win.
I’m not sure whether it was possible for Blackpool FC to stop the pitch invasion. The relationship between the Oyston family and many Blackpool fans has degraded to the point where it’s irreperable. This was inevitable if you consider their legal actions against fans, the team’s performance on the pitch and the family’s many taunts and provocations. This does not excuse the pitch invasion or the threatening behaviour by some fans but it helps us understand it and predict that an invasion would occur. In fact the very next game suffered a pitch invasion too.
It is clear that Blackpool FC knew the pitch invasion against Huddersfield was going to happen. It is clear that they took insufficient action to stop it, failed to warn Huddersfield fans and are failing to compensate them now.
If the footballing authorities had been keeping an eye on the situation at Blackpool I suspect they would have known a pitch invasion was going to happen too.
In 2016 the footballing authorities need to start helping fans. They should make sure that Huddersfield fans receive compensation.
Of course they should also help Blackpool fans get rid of their owners. But that’s a different tale…..