Offside, 27 July

If Disney wants to sponsor Crystal Palace, fine: but what's in it for Disney?

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

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Imagine my horror when I saw the mocking headline on the back page of the London Evening Standard: ‘Palace want to be a Mickey Mouse club.’ (1)

These are the sort of jibes that Crystal Palace fans have endured in recent years. (Unless you have witnessed a portly Tomas Brolin waddling around ineffectually in your team colours, you simply don’t know the meaning of the word ‘humiliation’.)

Now chairman Simon Jordan is courting further ridicule by discussing a possible sponsorship deal with Walt Disney World. ‘Disney are looking to link up with a British club and we are just seeing if it could be us’, said Jordan.

Invariably, there has been a mixed reaction from Palace fans, as illustrated by postings to the Holmesdale Online message board (2). While some fans were happy to take the Disney shilling, others expressed strong misgivings. ‘How much more of a joke does everyone want Palace to be?’ asked one disgruntled supporter. ‘I’m 100 percent against the idea’, declared another. ‘We are an English club. Why can’t Disney f**k off and keep to screwing all loose change they can out of American baseball teams?’

Would Disney sponsorship mean, as one fan suggested, ‘walking to the New Den with “The Little Mermaid” on your shirt?’

After all the false dawns at Selhurst Park I can understand why fans might be cynical. You only have to look at the Whitehorse Lane end at Selhurst Park, where the capacity was reduced to house a Sainsbury’s supermarket, to see that previous commercial arrangements haven’t exactly benefited the club.

Former manager Alan Smith perfectly articulated the gulf between the club’s lofty ambitions and the less-than-glamorous reality: ‘Every time this club looks as though it is on the verge of good things, we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot, revert to the volatile, slightly spivvy reputation we have sometimes deserved over the years.’ (Smith himself was sacked a few months later, having presided over yet another bout of foot-shooting which saw the club nearly relegated to the second division).

Personally, I’m prepared to have ‘Donald Duck’ emblazoned across our famous red and blue shirts if it meant we could afford world-class players. (Although I draw the line at novelty baseball caps with big Mickey Mouse ears attached.) You see, a club like Palace simply can’t afford to be sniffy about sponsorship. While Naomi Klein was writing No Logo, Palace fans were living the reality – the club spent a year in administration with no shirt sponsor. No Logo meant No Income from Sponsors – and therefore, No Money to Pay the Players.

Palace clearly need a wealthy benefactor, but what’s in it for Disney? The Evening Standard report suggests that Disney ‘would benefit from new opportunities to encourage the club’s fans to holiday with them in Florida’. My theory is that Disney is looking to open a new theme park – Crystal Palace World. There would, of course, be no parking facilities for visitors. You’d also have to stand in long queues for the privilege of drinking watered-down lager served by miserable staff. Your family could then cram into the cheap uncomfortable plastic seats and listen to the loudmouth behind you ranting incessantly.

The main attraction – the game itself – would be a breathtaking display of misplaced passes, defensive errors, goalkeeping howlers, and inept finishing. Afterwards you’d trudge off to a seedy pub and moan about what went wrong. Now that’s what I call entertainment.

(1) London Evening Standard, 17 July 2001

(2) See the Holmesdale website.

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Topics Politics


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