In what could be a unique sponsorship deal, Croydon FC’s under-9s took to the pitch for their match this weekend with their shirts emblazoned with the regalia of a secretive society, the Freemasons.
The area’s oldest non-league club has accepted the sponsorship deal – thought to be worth a couple of hundred quid, the price of a set of kit for the next generation of Gareth Southgates and Wilfried Zahas – from the Selsdon Park Lodge masonic organisation.
The new “Master” of the sponsoring Selsdon Park Lodge is someone familiar with footballing controversy: Tony Pearson, the former Tory councillor for New Addington who was the target of the ire of Crystal Palace fans when he was working as an over-zealous steward at Selhurst Park.
According to unconfirmed reports from the local under-9s league, opposition team skippers have sometimes been confused by the pre-game handshake they have been offered this season by the Croydon FC captain.
It is understood that the Croydon under-9s have received special dispensation from their sponsors not to have to play matches with one leg of their shorts rolled up.
There may be some personal or family connection between a senior member of the Selsdon Park Lodge and this age group at Croydon FC, since they appear to have been sponsored by the Freemasons last season, too. It would otherwise seem to be an odd sponsorship deal: all of the Croydon FC under-9s have to wait at least 12 years before they will be old enough to sign up for Masonic membership.
According to the Masons themselves, “Freemasonry is the largest and oldest secular fraternal order in the world, crossing all religious boundaries to bring men together of all backgrounds and opinion in peace and harmony.
“Its members have included well known religious figures, kings, and presidents. To join the brotherhood, you must demonstrate the values that have been shared by millions of Masons for hundreds of years. You must be of good standing with no criminal convictions and have a belief in a Supreme Being.”
It is suggested that Pearson’s interpretation of that latter requirement may involve Margaret Thatcher or Gavin Barwell.
Pearson , this year’s Selsdon Lodge’s Master, was a not very highly regarded Croydon councillor for the Conservatives from 2010 until May 2014, when he lost his seat in New Addington ward, collecting just 650 votes – fewer votes, even, than a UKIP candidate.
Pearson’s membership of the Freemasons only came to public attention a year ago, when he turned up for the Remembrance Day parade outside the Town Hall wearing his full Masonic rig, with an apron and white gloves. It was almost as if the ex-councillor wanted to draw attention to himself.
Throughout his time as a councillor, Pearson never declared his membership of the secretive Masonic brotherhood.
“It is arguable that the council’s code of conduct and the Nolan principles of conduct in public office demand that membership of the Freemasons really ought to be declared among a councillor’s interests,” a senior Town Hall figure told Inside Croydon.
“Pearson doesn’t appear to have done so. It must have slipped his mind. Four years in succession.
“It’s little wonder that many people regard the Masons with some suspicion when their members choose to behave in such a secretive manner.”
It is understood that a complaint about Pearson’s failure to declare this interest when a councillor may be lodged, if that’s the word, with the Borough Solicitor.
Inside Croydon asked the leader of the Croydon Tories, Tim Pollard, for his thoughts on members of his group behaving in such a secretive manner, and in being members of the Freemasons. But Pollard’s chosen to keep his views… a secret.
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