Crystal Palace v Arsenal. A lesson in how a club should NOT treat its core fans.

By Bulldog Drummond.

This weekend we are off to Palace, and once again there is a story of a stadium to tell.  And indeed a story of club PR mismanagement – or (I must add) so it seems to me as an outsider looking in.

Of course we’ve followed the story of Tottenham Nomads who will not after all play at New WHL this year, and so the tour around the North Circular Road with occasional visits to Milton Keynes looks set to meander on, and on.

And as we have seen these stadia are pesky things.   Difficult to deliver on time.  Of course for most other clubs such a delay to a stadium with all the attendant publicity about disasterous building cock-ups that appeared in Construction News would be a PR disaster, but Tottenham know they can count on a number of powerful friends in the media, so it all just gets reported as a date change, with no mention of the stories behind such matters.  Clever work by Tottenham.

But not so clever by Crystal Palace – who are of course not building a new stadium.  But their results this season show what can happen when a discussion with supporters is mishandled.  And indeed the disaster that can befall a club when a manager is allowed to talk about a dispute with fans without being properly briefed by someone with a spot of knowledge about PR.

It is a fascinating tale, and to tell it we need to go back to basics and have a look at Palace’s last  ten games…

Date Match Result Score Competition
20 Aug 2018 Crystal Palace v Liverpool L 0-2 Premier League
26 Aug 2018 Watford v Crystal Palace L 2-1 Premier League
28 Aug 2018 Swansea City v Crystal Palace W 0-1 League Cup
01 Sep 2018 Crystal Palace v Southampton L 0-2 Premier League
15 Sep 2018 Huddersfield Town v Crystal Palace W 0-1 Premier League
22 Sep 2018 Crystal Palace v Newcastle United D 0-0 Premier League
25 Sep 2018 West Bromwich Albion v Crystal Palace W 0-3 League Cup
01 Oct 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace L 2-1 Premier League
06 Oct 2018 Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers L 0-1 Premier League
21 Oct 2018 Everton v Crystal Palace L 2-0 Premier League

That is six defeats, one draw and three wins.

Now if you are a regular reader of my little doodles, you might have noticed the importance I’ve placed on separating home and away form for clubs, and then using the relevant home or away programme as a guide for making a prediction.   We have been doing this for a couple of years now, and I’m convinced it is the best prediction method there is.  Far from perfect of course, but better than any other approach I’ve seen.

If we look at Palace’s three wins in the last ten, all three of them have come away from home – against Huddersfield, WBA and Swansea.  In their most recent games at home they have lost to Liverpool! lost to Southampton, drawn with Newcastle and lost to Wolverhampton.  For Newcastle that was one of only two points they have picked up in nine games this season.

Palace’s total home record this season is played four, drawn one, lost three.  Goals scored: 0, goals conceded five.  Last season it was seven wins, five draws and seven defeats.

And this is at least partly due to a dispute between the club and one group of fans, the Holmesdale Fanatics.  I’ve commented on the very positive away support that Palace can generate in the past, and anyone who has been to Selhurst Park in the past will know what these supporters do for Palace.  Indeed at the Arsenal Stadium much as I hate to admit it, there have been times when they out-noised us through the game.

Anyway, last season the noisy gang asked Palace if they could move from their position at one corner to behind the goal, to create more impact on the game – which I suspect most certainly would have happened had the club agreed.   The club made the foolish error of appearing to be positive about the scheme only to turn it down; not what anyone in PR would ever advise.  If there is going to be a PR problem, face it straight on.  Be clear, be firm from day one – but this is football club management we are talking about here – completely removed from the reality of the fanbase in many clubs.

So chairman Steve Parish gave the impression of being interested, but later said any move of fans was unworkable, thank you for you support, goodbye.

The supporters group – the Holmesdale Fanatics said that an agreement on the issue had been reached twice with the club to create a ‘consistent, world-class, supportive, positive atmosphere’ at Selhurst Park.  But then apparently the club changed its mind – an incredibly stupid thing to do.  Worse they made matters public, to which the Fanatics spokesman replied,

“The group was intending to stay quiet about the issues for the good of the football club and are therefore disappointed that the board have decided to conduct what should have been a private internal issue with public statements essentially painting their own fans in a bad light.”

The Fanatics also point out that there had been no official consultation on their plan, but they still wanted, “a resolution to safeguard the massive strengths of Palace’s unique supporting culture before they are lost forever.”

As the dispute rumbled on, Roy Hodson then made matters far far far worse by saying, back in August, “If there’s a small band of people who for some reason are in some sort of dispute with the club, I hope that will get sorted out in the best possible way. But it won’t affect me, it won’t affect the team and it certainly won’t affect the atmosphere because, as I say, we’ve got 24 and a half thousand people who make the atmosphere and not just a particular group…”

If there is a PR person at Palace I suspect he or she resigned at that point for that statement was the dumbest thing imaginable.  Do not ever call a group of people you are in disupute with “a small band” – especially when they make as much noise as this group can.   Don’t call a problem “some sort of a dispute” because it shows ignorance and disrespect.  Disputes are very important to the people involved and lingo like that simply puts down those who feel they have a problem.  All such language does is make matters far, far worse.

And don’t belittle the group by talking about the rest – the 24 and a half thousand.  For the people in dispute, the dispute is all important.

And don’t make stupid predictions like saying, “I expect the atmosphere to be every bit as good as it was last year.”

Now there has been nothing in the media of late on this topic, and maybe matters have been resolved, although the results suggest otherwise.   For this season it is the home results that have dragged the club down.  Away from home Palace are the 10th most successful team.  In a league table made up just of home games they are 18th.

This dispute is interesting because in one snapshot this shows the power that fans can have, and the complete and utter ignorance that clubs have of the power of group behaviour.   Of course a lot of people (and certainly most journalists I have come across) would snort with derision if a story ever came out saying that a club had employed a social psychologist to help come up with ways of improving the atmosphere in the ground.  That too would be a PR disaster.

But had Palace taken advice they would have been told in no uncertain terms of the dangers Palace were running into, in not listening to their fans and letting the manager belittle their hard core support.

It really does make me wonder about club managers – how they can live in such isolated bubbles away from the people – the fans – who really make their club.  It makes me understand why clubs love foreign managers whose English is poor.  They at least stick to the simplicities of life on the pitch.



10 Replies to “Crystal Palace v Arsenal. A lesson in how a club should NOT treat its core fans.”

  1. OT: I’ve only just been able to watch the Europa highlights on the Arsenal website.
    Can anyone tell me:
    Who made the upfield pass from Arsenal’s half that led to Danny’s goal?
    Was it Mihki who back heeled it on?

    My eyes are not what they might be and this old Tablet has got a cracked screen!
    Thank you

  2. Pass was Torriera I think. Flick was Auba

    Mr Emery , despite his beautifully limited English vocabulary, has already addressed the supporters positive influence. Apparently,not all Managers…nee Coaches are ignorant, to a bigger picture.

  3. OBD

    Great piece. Bit more dirty detail on the Spuds disaster would have been icing, on the icing!

  4. @Ferg, OT stand for: Out of Topic. But I believe you are not ignorant of what OT stand for on internet abbreviation usage.

    Crystal Palace board currently having problem with their home supporters, the Holmesdale is a welcome news to Arsenal. For, because of the now Crystal Palace weak home support for their Eagles of C Palace, the chances of Arsenal inflicting a collateral home defeat damage on Roy Hudgson’s Crystal Palace managed Eagles team has increase tremendously to the point of the Gunners likely getting an 0-5 away win against the Eagles at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon in the PL.

  5. It’s a complicated situation, the fanatics wanted to move to the centre blocks en masse, the club asked existing season ticket holders if they were prepared to move, they said no thanks. There was no practical reason except it would of given them more exposure on TV etc
    I think it shows more that the fanatics think more of themselves than they do of the club and other fans.

  6. ThankYou Samuel.
    Ignorance has legs. Ask Mr Wright. Or many other pundits
    I enjoyed my version while it lasted .

  7. This was never going to happen.

    People sat in their favourite place, a place they have probably occupied for years, expected to move for a bunch of loud mouth yobs !!!

    Are you having a laugh ?

    Now obviously these guys asking for the move are not yobs, and there intentions are well meant, but I think even they knew it was a big ask, but hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get and all that.

    So how to deal with a tricky situation?

    Hmmm ? Not like this me thinks.

  8. Wow! Tony and his hypocrisy once again. Now you’re castigating crystal palace’s management for behaving the way Wenger &arsenal’s management had been for years, that you supported since it meant “supporting the Lord Wenger in all that he did”

  9. I think it would be most intresting if you gave some examples of the way in which you think Mr Wenger behaved which is a parallel to the situation BD described at Palace.

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