The reaction of fans today to the decision, first reported by Inside Croydon, has been one of universal condemnation of the result and sad, resigned disappointment with their club’s handling of the case.
Pearson, a Conservative party councillor for New Addington and some time member of the Territorial Army, was accused of using abusive language and rough treatment on fans when removing a banner displayed in a section of home season ticket-holders towards the end of the televised match against Birmingham City last month.
After an initial suspension from his duties as a steward, Pearson faced a disciplinary hearing on Monday with the Selhurst Park stadium manager, Kevin Corner. In a statement issued yesterday, Crystal Palace appeared to accept that the incident had happened, but opted to take no further action against Pearson apart from assigning him to duties away from the Holmesdale End.
Fans want to know why Pearson escaped any real sanction – including possibly losing his trusted position – after:
- the club chairman, Steve Parish, was misled to believe that the banner had contained a “death threat” against a Premier League official. Parish has stated publicly that he had been told that the banner indicated “a threat of violence towards an individual” and that “is completely unacceptable”. In fact, the banner contained no such “RIP” message, but merely repeated the chairman’s own stance on academies
- one Palace fan complained of being taken in a headlock, the accusation being that this was use of excessive force, and possibly common assault
- Pearson is further accused of snatching another’s fan’s mobile phone to prevent the incriminating incident being video’d.
It is not insignificant that the Birmingham match was “police-free”, saving Palace tens of thousands of pounds in charges, but also meaning that there were no police on hand to witness the conduct of one of the club’s senior stewards.
We re-publish here some of the Palace supporters’ comments. Click here to visit the comments page yourself. Obviously, they are mostly anonymous posts, but they give a feel for the level of outrage at the outcome.
“Doesn’t matter where he is in the ground, he will have influence in the general treatment of our fans and he will have an even bigger grudge and chip on his shoulder now,” one fan writes.
“Disgraceful decision,” says another. “I feel sorry for the fans who will have to put up with his poor stewarding now. It’s all well and good saying put him with the away fans, but we have already seen from the IFO reports that Palace have failed to deal with poor stewarding of away fans in the past, surely this could well make it worst? Are there any possible sanctions against the club if they keep mishandling complaints from fans?”
“I am completely gobsmacked by this decision,” one regular poster says. “It is laughable.”
One fan says that the decision “stinks of old pals’ act”.
Another questions the conduct of the process. “It’s a WHITEWASH!!!” they wrote, suggesting that this is not the first time that Pearson had been the subject of complaints from fans. “What did the investigation consist of? Were independent witnesses called? Sorry CPFC2010 as much as we love you, this STINKS.”
Elsewhere, someone has written: “Only at Palace would such behaviour be tolerated by employees.”
The same fan picked up on the conclusion of the club’s statement, where it said, “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.” The fan observed: “Yes, that’s why we have been bollocked by the IFO [Independent Football Ombudsman] twice for the same matter.”
The complaints and comments go on, for another four pages since Inside Croydon broke the news yesterday.
And one fan throws the matter back to the club’s owners, as well as making a very valid point about how some stewards seem to believe that their status gives them licence to behave like thugs:
“How can the fact he lied to his employers about a huge issue (the banner wording) leave him still in a job? Absolute disgraceful decision, regardless of the way he acted. He cannot be trusted and is a menace to our support.
“It saddens me that if a Palace fan had acted the way he did that night, they would’ve been banned from seeing Palace play for at least three years. However because he’s got a high viz jacket on, he can get away with it. Nobody seems to have a good word to say about him, except for Kevin Corner. This so badly needs reassessing. Would like to see what CPFC2010 think as well, after what they posted earlier in the thread.”
The retention of Pearson in any capacity at Selhurst Park could store up problems for the future, one fan warned: “Feel sorry for the fans he will be ‘looking after’ now. If he is seen anywhere near the Holmesdale im sure big disorder could occur. I for one would walk to the front to say a few words of advice.”
A regular poster sagely advises: “The people directly affected by this – those who were involved – should contact the IFO [click here for a link to their site] and identify the club’s failings here. A third investigation by this body will surely instigate change. Now is the time for people to stick their heads above the parapet if they have genuine grievances.”
Inside Croydon did call the Palace press office late yesterday afternoon, after receiving the statement, to put some of the more obvious, follow-up questions prompted by the conduct of the disciplinary process and its outcome. We still await the courtesy of a response.
But if Steve Parish wants to reach us, our email address (now fully functioning again after an attempt to hack it yesterday) is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would be happy to phone him back to question him further about the handling of this matter.
- 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
- Palace steward Pearson escapes all sanctions (insidecroydon.com)
- Councillor Pearson could miss cup semi-final over steward row (insidecroydon.com)
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- Pearson turns pantomime villain over council’s attempted ban (insidecroydon.com)