GOLDIE, our man in the eerie above Selhurst Park, looks behind the gushing headlines about Palace’s proposed move, and assesses the possibilities of the £90m new nest
Crystal Palace never do things the easy way. Only we could just manage stay up on the final day of last season, come out of administration, appoint a club legend as manager, and then pull together a PowerPoint presentation detailing a £90 million new stadium with a swimming pool complex and an athletics track adjacent, all within 12 months.
It would also be far too simple for the fate of Palace’s proposed new home to be in our own hands. Despite the best laid plans of co-chairman Steve Parish et al, the realisation of a blueprint unveiled to the media at the TAG HQ yesterday rests in the hands of all except the club’s long-suffering yet resilient fans.
In order for the brainchild of CPFC2010 to become bricks and mortar, a complex web of residents’ protests, sporting governing bodies and architectural leverage must be untangled over the next four years, even involving apparently distant claims from north and east London by West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Given that the club has been on financial life support twice in a decade, we deserve a bit of a pipedream, don’t we?
If there’s one thing administration leaves in its wake, it is togetherness, team spirit and a never say die attitude. The symbolic representation of this lies in dilapidated yet defiant Selhurst.
As the talks behind the scenes rumble on, Palace fans can do little but speculate what may happen. There are those who are determined to stay and patch up Selhurst.
“I’d hate us to get a soulless indentikit ground, the Ricoh, Madejski and all of them have no character or identity. They are just reincarnations of themselves with a different logo on the side and a different flag flying from the rooftop. I’d take Glanford Park over the Keepmoat any day. Selhurst is our home.”
It is interesting that those who have a longer association with Selhurst are the ones who seem keener on the move. While we are based at Selhurst, it is easy to comment at the sterile feel to modern stadiums. But in my experience there can be no denying some of the more convenience-based positives that come from having a ground like The Walkers Stadium.
Leg room, pint pouring machines, splinterless seating and no pillars or leaking gutters would certainly improve the matchday experience for many fans. And there’s an enlightened, business-like feel to the proposals, too, with the idea of staging concerts and hosting an elite sports academy, as well as sharing the new stadium with a rugby club (with “London” Wasps in Wycombe, “London” Irish in Reading and Saracens in Watford, only Harlequins actually play in London).
“You say it lacks character, I say it serves a purpose, I go to watch Palace. If a bowl stadium means I can do it comfortably, get a beer before the second half kicks off and never deal with a pillar in my face, then good luck. I envy those fans. Everything that we consider ‘character’ is what most other fans call old, broken and embarrassing.”
Selhurst Park is embedded in the club’s history, and some would like it to be a part of our future. In a way, it is.
Parish has made no secret of the fact that the scheme depends entirely on the sale of Selhurst Park to some developer or other, to raise a large chunk of the £50 million required at least for the first phase, the 25,000-seater option of the stadium. The rest – the pools, the track, the extra 15,000 seats – can come later and with a price tag of a cool £50 million, presumably more likely to be raised by the club (using what the club calls “perhaps small borrowing”) once the foundations of the stadium have been laid.
And herein lies one of the first big snags. No one needs reminding of the current economic situation: even in over-crowded south London, developers are finding it difficult to find the finance for major schemes and then buyers for their flats and swish “apartments”. London SE24 ain’t going to be a No1 Hyde Park.
Whatever scheme Selhurst Park’s buyers come up with, they will need to get planning permission. Croydon has its own share of “Nimbys”, just as neightbouring Bromley does, where two recent schemes for the redevelopment of Crystal Palace Park have foundered on local residents’ objections.
One area where CPFC2010 will not hear objections for its plans, unusually, is UK Athletics, the track and field governing body who maintain ambitions for a national athletics stadium in Stratford’s Olympic Park after 2012.
However many mega-millions Spurs offer to rejuvenate Crystal Palace as the national athletics stadium, in return for their having sole football use of the Olympic site, it will never be enough for UKA.
So they will support CPFC2010’s plans for Crystal Palace, especially since UKA’s chairman, Ed Warner, is a Crystal Palace season ticket-holder. Funny how there was no declaration of that interest yesterday when Warner was publicly endorsing the CPFC2010 scheme.