There Can be a Solution to the Holmesdale Fanatics Issue for Crystal Palace

Written by Robert Sutherland

Crystal Palace released a statement on Sunday evening. FYP editor Robert Sutherland takes a look at the fallout from the HF disbandment and how it can be fixed. 

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Everyone is angry and everyone has a perspective on the big issue surrounding Crystal Palace at the moment. The Holmesdale Fanatics, their wish to move to block E of the stand, and the apparent reluctance of the club to commit to it has been the hot topic since it became clear that the group would no longer occupy block B. 

This is a divisive issue. There are factions who think this should be facilitated no matter what. There are others who think that the club shouldn't give in to demands of a small core of fans. There are more who bemoan the lack of an atmosphere as a result of this situation, and there are some who think fans should just step up and do the work of the HF instead. 
We have multiple sides, some who support the club's stance (which has only really become apparent since the statement was released yesterday, three months too late) and those who support the HF's stance (although from what we can see, no statement has been released by the group.) And stuck in the middle of all of this are the folks in block E of the Holmesdale, whose views haven't yet been accounted for. 
These are the facts as we know them: 
  • The HF wished to move to a more central position in the Holmesdale stand. The move had been trialed in a number of cup fixtures and in the Julian Speroni testimonial. 

  • The club appeared to be adaptive to such a move. Plans for this to happen got to a stage where the club were holding back season ticket sales in the Holmesdale, which suggests they were considered to be serious.
  • At some point during last season, the club changed its mind. The HF responded by essentially disbanding; members took seats up in different areas of the Holmesdale stand instead.
  • As a result of this, the atmosphere at games has taken a significant hit. 
There are a number of questions that have come as a result of the club's statement
  • Were there face-to-face discussions about the matter? Or were all discussions conducted over email? 

  • Were any season ticket holders in block E consulted about potentially moving seats to accommodate the Holmesdale Fanatics? 

  • Did the club consider any kind of compensation for those fans inconvenienced by such a move?
The key line in the statement seems to be that the club were concerned by the 'leak' of season tickets being frozen until a decision could be made. Arguably, the club would have benefited from a more transparent approach to this situation. Had fans in block E been consulted in a more broad way, with a focus on understanding their concerns, there may have been less of a backlash. 
There should also be some context here. At the time the club froze season ticket sales, the team were teetering on the edge of a relegation battle. The added spice of a seat move announcement could have made matters worse. Palace would have taken that into consideration. 
For the sake of balance however, the fatalistic approach to not finding a solution from the HF is problematic too. The case for such a move hasn't really been made. What benefit is there from such a move? How does it positively impact on the atmosphere. Is this a move that is intended for just the HF, or is there a greater benefit with the establishment of a singing section of the ground? 
UPDATE: The Holmesdale Fanatics have, since this article was published, released their own statement, citing their concern for a deterioration in atmosphere at the stadium as a primary concern in their wish to move to a more central part of the Holmesdale. The statement in full reads:
"The club and group were working together on proposals for an inclusive singing section to be introduced this season, open to all supporters.
"This had twice been agreed to by the club and the HF had submitted proposals to ensure it was inclusive to all fans, with long-term supporters being looked after first. It was never intended to simply swap HF members for existing Block E season ticket holders - and would have been open for all fans.
“It was felt this was crucial to the Selhurst atmosphere, which had been going backwards for a number of years and would have created a consistent, supportive environment for the players and club. Using the model that was so successful on the world stage at the FA cup final at Wembley, this was a massive chance to take the club to the next level and create a consistent world class supportive, positive atmosphere”
"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 HF feel aspects of the statement are misleading and not representative of the last 12 months discussions.
"For example, those in block E know that there was no official consultation regarding this proposal which immediately casts doubt over the rest of the clubs statement being presented as fact. And no real consultation with the real proposals being properly discussed was ever allowed to happen.
"The HF are hoping for a resolution to safeguard the massive strengths of Palace's unique supporting culture before they are lost forever.”
Ultimately, what all of this seems to highlight is that there needs to be better communication from all parties. The club and the HF have now released statements making their own positions clear. What hasn't yet happened is for there to be a willingness to find a solution in the short and long-term.
Arguably the most telling element of the HF statement is their promise for this to be inclusive. It's fair to ask how they will look to do that -- is it reliant on safe standing being approved, for example? How does the club make this possible?
There are questions about how this could all be implemented. Areas which the club would likely need to consult on, too -- not just with fans but authorities, also. 
So what steps can be taken to try to find a solution? 
  • The club and HF need to hold face-to-face discussions about this. The impression we get is that discussions were held over email -- which is ultimately an un-emotive way to find a solution to a divisive issue -- words can be harsher and views won't always be listened to. If discussions have been held face-to-face, there arguably needs to be some mediation that represents a broader spectrum of fans. 

  • There needs to be a better consultation of those fans directly affected. The club have season ticket details for those fans -- so ask them the question -- would you consider moving? What would it take? 

  • Consider offering these fans some kind of benefit/compensation for doing so -- what would it cost the club? What kind of benefit does having the most colourful fanbase in the Premier League have? Does one outweigh the other? 

  • Would the HF consider reforming while such a consultation is carried out? If block E season ticket holders refuse to move, would they consider waiting until the new Main Stand is built? 
All of these points aren't resolutions as such but they offer an insight into the matter while temporarily solving the issue of a tarnished atmosphere at Selhurst Park. 
We want Selhurst to be a home we can be proud of. The HF helped to make it such a place. A balanced approach to this is needed from everyone -- a solution can be found among the mess that's been created. 
This is an emotive issue but transparency from all parties would be a great first step in understanding the problems at the root of it.