BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward has released the following statement:"Dear SABBATH fans and musicians, "I have read Geezer's [Butler, BLACK SABBATH bassist] statement of May 19, 2012 titled 'Heavy Heart.' Out of respect for the Birmingham gig, I wanted to wait 24 hours before releasing this statement. There are some points he brought up which I want to respond to. "1) I had indeed notified Ozzy [Osbourne, BLACK SABBATH singer], Tony [Iommi, BLACK SABBATH guitarist] and Geezer well before my first public statement that I was having contractual difficulties. "2) I came out into a public forum to be accountable to the fans primarily, and to say at a public level there's a problem. The band members stopped talking and corresponding with me some time ago, with the exception of a nice letter from Tony on my birthday. Prior to that, Geezer and I were corresponding, but that stopped abruptly in late February after I emailed a specific question to him. "3) In my statement of May 15, I clearly stated I would play Birmingham for free. That was not a problem — charity or otherwise. "4) My Download fee was not an extravagant amount. Originally, when Download was part of a full tour, I had asked for a decent fee. More recently, as we were negotiating just Download/Birmingham and Lollapalooza, I told my attorney that I would accept the proposed small Download fee, but there were other parts of the offer that were unsatisfactory. "I will continue to be honest and respectful towards the band and our fans. I will also confront any untruths about me, and any fault-finding missions aimed at me that come to my attention. "I hope the band and the fans had a good gig in Brum." "Stay safe/stay strong." BLACK SABBATH played a hometown concert last night (Saturday, May 19) at the intimate 3,800-capacity O2 Academy in Birmingham, England as a warm-up show for the band's appearance at the Download festival at Donington next month. The band's first performance in Birmingham in 13 years — and their first concert since 2005 — featured three-quarters of the legendary heavy metal act's original lineup — Iommi, Osbourne and Butler. Tommy Clufetos, a member of Ozzy's solo band, is filling in for Ward, who is sitting out the group's reunion shows due to a contractual dispute with his bandmates. BLACK SABBATH was supposed to tour the Europe and North America this year as part of a worldwide trek in support of a new album, but Iommi's cancer diagnosis put those plans on hold. Ozzy, Iommi and Butler recently spent time in London recording their first album together in 33 years, although without drummer Bill Ward it is not the original SABBATH reunion announced last November.