Monday afternoon saw a statement released on behalf of season ticket holders in Block E of the Lower Holmesdale which has created quite a stir online and whilst I do have real sympathy for the supporters affected by the proposed seating shift, there are a few questions which I feel compelled to ask.
Perhaps the most important takeaway of all from the words put forward of behalf of Block E is the lack of any tangible solution on their part. Whilst their statement makes noticeable reference to the positive impact the Holmesdale Fanatics have had on Selhurst Park’s atmosphere over the last 10 years, (it’s actually 13 but who’s counting between friends?) it ends by asking for an “equitable solution” to be found without giving any hint as to what that might be.
Quite clearly, there is a huge groundswell of support for the Holmesdale Fanatics reintroduction at Selhurst, meaning that somewhere across the lower Holmesdale, a group of supporters will be displaced. Is that ideal? Not at all. Is it necessary if the proposals are to prove workable? Of course. To my knowledge, the lower tier of the Holmesdale Road stand seats some 6,000 supporters, with well over 5,000 of those being season ticket holders. Clearly, any plan to relocate the Fanatics will result in a group of fans being left to feel frustrated but in Steve Parish’s defence, he is merely attempting to implement what a huge number of fans have asked for over the last few weeks.
By putting together a package with discounted season ticket rates with other (albeit minor) benefits thrown in as a form of compensation, there is a genuine effort on behalf of the club to soften the blow for those affected when in reality, there is no solution which leaves everyone feeling fully satisfied.
The Fanatics themselves had informed the club that their previous residency in Block B was no longer workable towards the end of last season, given the lack of room to expand and welcome new people into the section. I’ve seen plenty of fans suggest that the Fanatics “threw their dummy out of the pram and demanded a move” but in truth, the decision was taken for logistical reasons before being brought back onto the agenda thanks to a remarkable level of support from supporters across the club’s fan-base following their disappearance from Selhurst on match days.
With that in mind, a 400-seat section has been earmarked at the back of Block E and whilst some are questioning why it was to be so large, the club themselves are no doubt trying to guard against the shift fizzling out before it’s been given room to flourish. Were Palace to offer every single incumbent Block E season ticket holder the chance to stay put, stand and sing amongst scattered Fanatics members, there is a possibility that everyone would opt to do so, thus voiding the entire point of the move in the first place.
I should stress that I feel a huge amount of sympathy for those who are being told that they must leave their current seats in Block E, but by placing support for the Holmesdale Fanatics within the statement, I’m left wondering what their solution would be? Steve Parish has been placed between a rock and a hard place on this and is choosing to go with what thousands of supporters have requested. It doesn’t mean he’s over the moon at the thought, with the compensation package (which he is under no obligation to offer) acting as proof but given the unique dynamics of the situation, I struggle to see another way around this for him.
I’ve seen countless comments from fans referring to the Holmesdale Fanatics as “kiddies” “teenagers” “children” and “brats” with claims that a small group of supporters are trying to influence the club, all of which are ironically being made by a separate small group of supporters who are doing exactly the same thing.
I’m not trying to take sides, my sole aim in penning this article is to highlight the difficulties and possibly accidental contradictions being put forward by Monday’s statement on behalf of Block E season ticket holders. If you are to put yourself in Steve Parish’s shoes, there simply is no perfect win-win solution. By choosing to implement the shift he will have expected a degree of unrest but after such huge support for the proposals, he would have been continuously berated for standing idly by had he chosen to ignore them.