This evening, Crystal Palace supporters are learning the hard way that, in the overall scheme of things, the media doesn’t really give a damn about them. On Radio 5, the sports reports covered them for approximately five seconds before moving on to the infinitely more important subject of Rio “Now Over Thirty Years Old” Ferdinand’s return to the Premier League and his subsequent misconduct charge, while The Guardian evidently consider the rumoured transfer of Eidur Gudjohnsen to West Ham United as more important than the hopeless insolvency of a side in The Football League Championship and The Sun, a newspaper whose ability to avoid the interesting and relevant in favour of the SHOUTY and DRAMATIC should never be underestimated, choose some fluff about Nicolas Anelka, Robinho’s frankly unsurprising return to Brazil, some self-serving, hyperbolic bullshit from Jose Mourinho and a little bit of PR from Alex Ferguson about how well behaved his team is.
Crystal Palace are the first Football League club to enter into administration this season, and the only aspects of this that are surprising about this are that it was them rather than any of the other members of football’s current rogues gallery and that it took so long this season for it to happen to anyone. On the surface, it seems like little more than a setback that costs them any realistic chance of promotion this season. Their ten point deduction leaves them hovering just above the relegation places, but they should theoretically have enough about them to stabilse back into a mid-table position in the league. The ten point deduction, however, has a tendency to be seen as the be all and end all of problems, but there are more serious issues at play that threaten the future of the club.
Firstly, the current squad is likely to be broken up. Palace had been enjoying a reasonable season on the pitch, but with administrators now in charge of the club a fire sale is quite possible. The adminstrators, it should be remembered, have no responsibility to the supporters or to the good of the club’s league position. Their job is to keep the club as a going concern and if this means selling their best player off, then so be it. This probably couldn’t be happening at a worse time for them. The transfer market has been flat for over twelve months now, and the knowledge that the administrators will be looking to realise funds and that alone is hardly likely to inflate the value of the players in the current Crystal Palace squad. None of this, however, is inevitable. The administrators don’t have to (and with only four days of the transfer window left may be unable to) sell.
The timing of the decision was predictable. Palace are just one of number of clubs living on their means and effectively using the non-payment of tax as some sort of unofficial bank overdraft that they can dip in and out of. Need to piss fifty thousand pounds away on a new central defender but haven’t got the money coming into the club to be able to support it? Never mind! Just stop paying your tax bills for a few months. They’ll never even notice! It can only be presumed that Simon Jordan (with whom, obviously, the buck stops) had been trying as hard as he could to get someone to throw money onto the Crystal Palace bonfire in order to head off the winding up order and has failed. As such, administration was probably a last ditch push to earn – to such an extent that one could “earn” such a thing – protection from further insolvency action from being taken against them. A considerably worse action for Palace supporters would have been for this action and the club to have been wound up at the High Court.
The administrators, it has be said, sound confident. They are talking of a quick sale of Crystal Palace Football Club. How good this turns out to be depends obviously and entirely on who any new owners prove to be. We can be almost certain, however, that the club will no longer be under the ownership of Simon Jordan, who has been spending more than Palace could realistically afford for a couple of years now and is paying the price for his profligacy. Meanwhile, former owner (and one-time racist) Ron Noades has been spreading his wisdom about what administration could mean for Crystal Palace Football Club.
For Palace’s future it is probably the best thing that could have happened to them. It gives them a chance for a new start without the liability of having debts having over the club’s head. It was most difficult for somebody to go in there and buy Palace, settle the debts and still have money to invest in the club The next problem is that whoever goes in there would have to secure the freehold to the stadium before they can buy the club.
It’s an easy mistake, of course, mistaking the word “somebody” for the name “Ron Noades”. It would be surprising if Noades wasn’t one of the consortia that stepped in to “save the day” by putting in a cut price bid to buy the club out. Indeed, Noades hasn’t stopped far short of being the Superman of South East London this week, albeit with a degree less success than his Gotham City counterpart. Rather than stepping in himself, he stated that he had suggested to David Sullivan and David Gold that they should buy Crystal Palace. This was reported yesterday, but this wasn’t his only involvement with Crystal Palace recently. Today, he confirmed to the same local newspaper – the South London Press – that he had made an offer to buy Selhurst Park, apparently within seconds of the club being put into administration.
In the meantime, Crystal Palace supporters can only wait and hope. Their club – although coverage in much of the national press may try to prove you otherwise – remains marketable and capable if making it back into the Premier League, even if their chances of doing so this season are somewhat less likely than they were earlier on today. What their supporters will come to realise over the next few days, however, is that a ten point deduction is likely to be the least of their problems. Much will now come down to the willingness of the likes of Ron Noades to dig them out of their current hole. Meltdown seems unlikely, but there may be tough times ahead for Crystal Palace Football Club.