Blackpool libel case: Fans raise £20,000 to pay damages bill

image copyrightFrank Knight Campaign
image captionMr Knight said he was overcome at the support he received

Football fans from around the UK have raised the £20,000 needed by a Blackpool supporter who was sued by the club's owners for libel.

Frank Knight, 67, also published an apology to Owen Oyston and his son Karl after posting allegations concerning them and the club on his Facebook page.

Fans have responded by raising £20,915 on a crowd-funding website to help him.

The Frank Knight campaign is keeping the fund open to help other fans sued by the Oystons and Blackpool FC.

Supporters of clubs including Liverpool and Middlesbrough, as well as non-league teams such as FC United and Stockport County, have contributed to the fund.

The appeal was also backed by tweets from Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and comedian Russell Brand.

'Obscene amount'

Fan Joe Atherton, who set up the page, said: "He's 67 years old, he's retired, a pensioner and doesn't have any source of income.

"Even for somebody who was working, £20,000 is a hell of a lot of money, so it will make a huge amount of difference to him."

He added: "I'm not condoning what Frank has said or done. If people put allegations on social media that are found to be factually incorrect, there has to be repercussions.

"But I think that the punishment just didn't fit the crime whatsoever, I thought £20,000 was an absolutely obscene amount of money."

Mr Knight said on his Facebook page: "I cannot comment upon the legal complaint for legal reasons, however I would just like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Joe Atherton and to everyone for their messages of support and donations. I am truly humbled."

image copyrightAP/PA
image captionRussell Brand and Rachel Riley tweeted support for the campaign

The relegated Championship club said in a statement on Tuesday that they had "reluctantly" taken legal action and revealed there are several cases still pending.

It read: "Reluctantly, the company has been compelled to take action against a number of individuals and organisations following online postings or articles that contained vile lies and abuse about the club, its directors and players. To date, three settlements have been agreed with several further cases pending against other individuals and a national newspaper.

"Any payments from court or agreed settlements will be anonymously distributed to Fylde and North West based charities. The rationale of this policy is to avoid the adverse reaction towards such charities that accept the donations, as was the case when the club donated the first settlement to a leading, vibrant and forward thinking charity in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.

"The latest settlement of £20,000 will be paid over four years in equal instalments, with the charities set to benefit as and when the money is received by the club.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the club, directors, management staff and players would far prefer not to take any defamation action against any individual or organisation, but must continue to take action where necessary to combat the false, misleading stories and lies that are being perpetuated."

Club chairman Karl Oyston is being investigated by the Football Association over abusive texts sent to a Blackpool supporter.

Blackpool supporters have been involved in demonstrations, match boycotts and social media campaigns over the way the club has been run.

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