Carlisle United have described their decision to welcome controversial ex-owner Michael Knighton into the directors' box as "a simple act of human kindness".

The former Blues supremo's appearance among members of the current United hierarchy last weekend caused debate among fans.

Some supporters heavily criticised United for allowing Knighton into the boardroom and directors' box, in light of how the club plunged into crisis during the second half of his 10-year tenure from 1992-2002.

The News & Star asked the club to comment on the situation, but Blues bosses have now issued an explanation via the Carlisle United Supporters' Groups forum.

Carlisle denied that they invited 70-year-old Knighton to attend the game - but said they chose to make him welcome when he appeared at Brunton Park with the intention of sitting among fans to watch the Tranmere Rovers game.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens said that, when informed that Knighton was at the ground, he asked him if he wanted a place in the directors' box, and the former owner agreed.

It came the day after Knighton had made his first public appearance in the city for 19 years in an event at the Old Fire Station.

"At around 12.30pm [Knighton] arrived at the ground and saw club secretary Sarah McKnight," the CUSG minutes say.

"She informed Nigel Clibbens that Michael Knighton was coming to the game in the stand with the fans.

"Nigel considered things and decided to ask [Knighton] if he wanted to sit in the directors' box. He said yes.

"Nigel described this as a simple act of human kindness."

The club denied reports that Knighton's appearance had been "pre-planned".

They also said that to have ignored Knighton would also have invited criticism.

Clibbens "stressed it was 20 years since [Knighton] was last at the club, and the chief executive "recognises there is no forgiving or forgetting even after a very very long time like this and events of the past always feature at the forefront even now.

"If club had ignored [Knighton] they would have been criticised too by some. Whatever the decision someone would be upset."

Clibbens said he "understood" why some supporters would be upset by the sight of Knighton in the directors' box, but said the decision was not made to "disrespect" anyone.

He added that Knighton is "part of the club’s history" and "left a legacy of the East Stand and some memorable times on the pitch along the way."

Knighton took over the club in 1992 and led the Blues two two promotions and two Wembley appearances before the team and club suffered a prolonged and controversial decline.

Supporters and the media demonstrated against his ownership, which saw a string of controversial episodes before he sold to John Courtenay in 2002.

Knighton said on Twitter that he had "popped in to say hello" to McKnight, who worked at the club during his tenure, and at that point he was "invited to the game" by chairman Andrew Jenkins and fellow directors.

He said he received a "magnificent, lovely welcome" both from fans and in the boardroom.

Supporters' turst CUOSC, who initially formed to attempt to oust Knighton 20 years ago, earlier this week said they were "very surprised" at the decision to seat him in the directors' box.

Exclusive interview with Michael Knighton: click here

In an update issued before the CUSG meeting by Clibbens, meanwhile, the chief executive said there had been "no change or progress on change of ownership or control" and "no new meetings held" regarding succession at the top of the club.

That followed chairman Jenkins saying last week that United were holding "regular" talks with an "interested individual".

Clibbens also said the Blues would use proceeds from past player sales to deal with the financial cost of Chris Beech's departure as head coach and the appointment of a successor.

He said this was part of United continuing to be a "self-sustaining" club.