Palace fans accuse New Addington councillor of persecution

Crystal Palace fans are accusing Tony Pearson, a Croydon councillor who represents New Addington, of conducting a persecution campaign against them and the club, after a favourite match-day pub, the Portmanor on Portland Road, has been threatened with losing its licence.

Councillor Tony Pearson: vice-chair of the licensing committee, and accused of being biased against Palace fans

Councillor Tony Pearson: vice-chair of the licensing committee, and accused of being biased against Palace

This follows a public protest against the council by fans at a game last month, accusing the council’s Safety Advisory Group, of which Pearson is a member, of harassing the club unnecessarily, at a time when policing in the borough might have had other priorities.

Pearson had previously held a part-time position with Crystal Palace as a senior steward, until an incident at a game more than two years ago led to his suspension and ultimately his departure from the club. No disciplinary action was ever taken against Pearson possibly, according to sources at Selhurst Park, as the result of a threat of legal action.

Fans had accused Councillor Pearson of having had heavy-handed approach to supporters, including allegations that the steward had ripped people’s clothes and destroyed one fan’s smart phone when they had tried to video him in action.

Since leaving his Palace football stewarding role, the Tory councillor for New Addington has been appointed by the Conservative-controlled council to the Community Safety Partnership and the Community Police Consultative Group.

Councillor Pearson is also the vice-chair of the council’s licensing committee, which will decide on the Portmanor’s fate.

The police appear to have started making judgement on interior decoration and the calibre and background of pubs’ clientele. In the Portmanor’s licensing application, the police reported: “The Portmanor Public House has gone from a welcoming attractive community friendly venue to a run down tatty looking venue which is the preferred location of football hooligans who have been allowed to ‘mark’ the venue as their own.”

“Football hooligans”? Really? Can the police demonstrate this?

The pub is used by the Holmesdale Fanatics, and supporters have linked this to the police’s sudden interest. One online user on cpfc.org said: “The HF gather there, so it must be shut down. This is harassment to an extreme degree.”

Holmesdale Fanatics display their true colours at the Portmanor last year. This looks like football passion, rather than hooliganism

Holmesdale Fanatics display their true colours at the Portmanor last year. This looks like football passion, rather than hooliganism

At a time when the world of football, including the likes of Jose Mourinho and Robbie Savage, is pouring praise on Palace fans for their passionate  support, much of it orchestrated by the Holmesdale Fanatics, Eagles supporters are convinced that they are being persecuted by powers within the council.

And Pearson’s name has come up as Palace fans question the bias and motivation of a man with a dubious track record with supporters. “The Pearson farce has been the most shameful act to happen since the new owners brought the club,’’ another commenter on cpfc.org said, referring to the lack of any sanctions against the former steward.

“Every fan that comes to my pub will tell you what match days are like we are proud of the hard work that we have done and up until recently the police were very complimentary about our venue and me in particular,’’ the landlord of the Portmanor, Jeffrey Charles, said.

A Holmesdale End season ticket-holder told Inside Croydon: “With the rest of the country pouring praise on the Palace fan base for its passionate and vibrant support, supporters are clearly an integral, proud part of our Croydon culture that should be celebrated.

“Yet the authorities don’t seem to see this, and clearly want to attack a group that represents the club, town and borough with pride.”

Palace’s next home game at Selhurst Park is in the Premier League next Saturday, February 22, against Manchester United.


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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