Tony Pearson, the local councillor who was accused of being abusive and using heavy-handed tactics when working as a steward at a Crystal Palace home game before Christmas, has been let off with a reprimand and will be allowed “to resume his duties”, albeit away from the home season ticket-holders in the Holmesdale End “to avoid any other potential confrontation”, according to a statement issued by the club today.
And for all their joy at the 1-0 result in last night’s first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Cardiff, this decision is likely to cause anger among a section of loyal Palace fans, who have managed to fill 22 pages of the club’s official online message board with complaints and reports about the incident and Pearson’s questionable previous conduct as a steward.
What is most extraordinary is that the club does not appear to deny that the incident took place. Pearson, who has been a Conservative councillor for New Addington since 2010, “could have handled the situation better”, the club said in what many might view as a statement of breathtaking complacency.
The outcome of the in-house hearing, held on Monday, is now likely to interest to the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) and might even generate another complaint to the Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO).
Palace already has “form” with the IFO for its mishandling of two previous cases where football fans have complained at their treatment at the hands of over-zealous stewards at Selhurst Park and the club’s subsequent failure to apologise.
In issuing a report that was highly critical of the club over a match in 2010, the Ombudsman, Professor Derek Fraser, noted two weeks ago: “Crystal Palace is unique in the 10-year history of the IFO and its predecessor the IFC, in having two adverse adjudications on the same aspects of its practice.”
- Following Pearson’s let-off, the FSF is likely to want to know how “impartial” the disciplinary hearing into the events of December 19 really was. The hearing was held by Kevin Corner, the stadium manager, who is understood to have been a long-time acquaintance of Pearson.
- The FSF is also likely to want to know how many fans who were witnesses to the incident on December 19, towards the end of the league game against Birmingham, were invited to submit statements or to give their accounts of what happened.
- And also on the list of questions into how Palace has conducted itself will be whether any fans involved in the incident is likely to receive a formal apology from the club and compensation for damage to their clothes or possessions, such as mobile phones.
One fan who contacted Inside Croydon and said he was an eye witness to the events told us: “I was grabbed in a headlock by a massive steward and had several others rip my coat apart as they forced me over the barrier. I had done nothing wrong, but still I get treated like this for just being there.
“I confronted the main steward at the end and he just walked away like nothing had happened. It is outrageous to be treated like this.”
Today, Palace issued this statement, which we publish here in full:
“Following a meeting between Club steward, Mr Tony Pearson and the Safety/Stadium Manager, the club can confirm that the incident at the Birmingham game on December 19th 2011 has been investigated. Whilst it was agreed that Mr Pearson could have handled the situation better there was no grounds for Mr Pearson to lose his position with the Club.
“Mr Pearson will now resume his duties but in the best interest of all parties this will now be in a different part of the stadium to avoid any other potential confrontation.
“The Club prides itself on the quality of stewarding at Selhurst Park Stadium and can assure all fans that their safety is the number one priority when attending games .
“Complaints from supporters regarding all aspects of the match-day experience will continue to be taken seriously as the Club strives to improve all aspects of customer care and crowd management whilst providing a safe, friendly, family environment.”
For his part, Pearson has been keeping a low profile recently. He had been suspended by the club from stewarding duties for the last two home games. “No Pearson, no problems in Block B whatsoever,” one anonymous poster to the Palace bulletin board noted online. “The two things are obviously linked.”
Pearson’s Twitter account, @Tony_Pearson, which he had used with alacrity to abuse other Croydon residents and political figures, has been closed down, apparently because he felt he was becoming the focus for adverse comments from a section of fans. It will be fascinating to see if he follows through with his threat to the Croydon Sadvertiser to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.
Doesn’t seem like Pearson’s a fan of accountability. What was it Calvin Coolidge said about kitchens and heat? Get someone to look it up for you, Tone…
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Councillor Pearson could miss cup semi-final over steward row (insidecroydon.com)
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Cardiff: Gardner grabs advantage for Eagles (talksport.co.uk)