Palace fans turn to Trust as debts bite

The Football League has announced that it’s going to dock Crystal Palace 10 points following Tuesday’s news that the club was entering administration. While it’s hardly unexpected – fans are all too familiar with sporting sanctions nowadays – it’s still a blow to fans who now see their club sucked from the outskirts of the play-off slots to a relegation battle.

Tales of financial woe have been an all too common theme this season, everyone from Manchester United down seems to be in some sort of difficulty unless they have a deep-pocketed sugar daddy.

Palace may be the first Football League club to enter administration this season but they probably won’t be the last and plenty more are on the brink. In non-league football things can be even more precarious. Spare a thought, for example, for fans of King’s Lynn FC who were officially wound up back in November 2009 while Chester City have just been given a 42-day window to pay off a £26,000 tax bill.

Chairman Simon Jordan warned of cash flow problems last year and has been searching for a buyer since 2008. The club were due to appear in court yesterday to face HMRC over an unpaid £1.2m tax bill while administrators P&A Partnership will be looking to find a new buyer and satisfy the clubs creditors.

As ever there’s a tangled web of finance and interested parties. It seems the debt is around the £30m mark and Jordan was taking advice and (costly) loans from a company who specialise in keeping afloat businesses operating at a loss. That’ll be a football club then.

Palace fans’ opinion on Jordan seems split, some admire his brashness while others allege incompetence which allowed the club to slip into the level of debt it found itself in anyway. One thing’s for certain, Jordan wasn’t shy to say what he thought on the way, so it could be a bumpy ride on the way down.

The fire sale of the club’s players will no doubt catch the headlines, Moses could be parting the seas to join Real Madrid if you believe the reports (or more likely Newcastle, WBA, or Forest) and ex-chairman Ron Noades is playing down rumours that he’ll return.

However it isn’t just player sales that concerns Palace’s hardcore, even Selhurst Park could be up for grabs. “PwC must enter into dialogue with the Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust (CPST) and other interested buyers to discuss how the ground can be safeguarded,” said Lesley Palmer of CPST when we spoke to her.

The ground is currently rented back to the club by PwC on behalf of one of the club’s largest creditors, Lloyds TSB, and supporters are desperate to find out just what’s going on.

Set up in 1999, during Palace’s last stint in administration, CPST certainly have the experience (and ambition) to make a difference.

They've also seen numbers jump in recent days with hundreds of new members joining and Lesley predicts the numbers will rise further as fans wake up to the fact that all is not well in the world of football finance. If ever there was a time that Palace’s fans should get involved in the Trust movement it's now.

Join up and read more on Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust here, and join FSF affiliate the Palace Independent Supporters’ Association (PISA) here.