Putting the Cristal into Palace?
If nothing else, the rumour about the hip-hop star taking over at Selhurst Park has blinged up a dismal season.
P Diddy to buy Palace? I nearly choked on my Bovril (okay, admittedly it was a cappuccino but Bovril sounds a bit more ‘terrace’).
Palace fans have endured a grim few weeks since the club went into administration in January: 10 points deducted; a string of poor results; star-player Victor Moses sold; manager Neil Warnock poached by QPR; the relegation trap door beckoning. The administrator Brendan Guilfoyle claims that there are plenty of prospective buyers but so far no one has stumped up the cash.
Meanwhile newspaper rumours of potential sugar daddies abound. ‘Convicted Italian fraudster Massimo Cellino keen to buy Crystal Palace’, claimed one newspaper. ‘I would love to help Crystal Palace out of their troubles’, former chairman Ron Noades told the Telegraph. ‘Sir Richard Branson looking at buying Crystal Palace Football Club’, suggested another headline. What the Virgin boss actually said was: ‘We are always happy to have a look, but I think the chances are less likely than likely.’ In other words: not interested at all.
Ron Noades and Italian fraudsters: these are the sort of people we expect to be linked with Palace. We’re more likely to attract a spivvy property developer than a filthy rich Arab oil tycoon. Mind you, after Portsmouth’s succession of dodgy foreign owners maybe we’re in safer hands with Uncle Ron. Better the devil you know, as they say. But P Diddy aka Diddy aka Puff Daddy aka Puffy aka Sean Combs aka Sean John – the idea of a rap mogul taking over a football club is a paradigm shift. It could spark a bidding war with rival MCs also putting their cheddar (aka wealth) into football clubs. Jay Z, who claims to be an Arsenal fan, has hinted at the possibility. ‘I don’t know a lot about the business of soccer, but in the future if the right opportunity presented itself, then who knows?’ he said.
The P Diddy rumour is certainly different, but is there any truth in it? The story first appeared in the Sun showbiz gossip page which doesn’t augur well, veracity-wise. According to the paper’s source: ‘Diddy was in London meeting football fixers a couple of weeks ago… He could cover their debt and bankroll a return to the Premier League. He liked the name as well.’ Brendan Guilfoyle, however, has poured cold water on the rumour. ‘There is no truth in it whatsoever’, said Guilfoyle. ‘I am a big hip-hop fan and I would be delighted if P Diddy wanted to buy Crystal Palace. I would welcome an approach and would willingly fly to New York to discuss purchase.’ (I don’t know what’s more preposterous, the P Diddy takeover rumour or Guilfoyle’s bid for rap credibility.)
While the story itself seems improbable, it’s certainly caught the imagination of Palace fans on the cpfc.org bulletin board. A thread on the P Diddy rumour had, at the time of writing, attracted a staggering 100,000 views and 1,934 posts. The entire Croydon diaspora appears in the grip of Diddymania. Some supporters welcomed P Diddy’s supposed interest. ‘I’m ridiculously excited by this’, gushed one fan. Another suggested that, with Diddy at the controls, the club could widen its fanbase: ‘If by some madness this actually happens, it would be a brilliant angle to get local black kids who all seem to support Arsenal interested in Palace. It’s a market we’ve been unable to reach in any numbers yet.’
Could a Diddy takeover enhance the matchday experience? Some fans felt it could. ‘Crystal Palace Cheerleaders replaced by Beyonce-looking booty dancers. A kit with sequins and diamonds sown on to the shorts. Sipping Cristal instead of warm fosters from a plastic bottle at half time’, enthused one supporter. ‘Should get some decent Bling on sale in the club shop now’, quipped another. P Diddy is reportedly worth £360million. But does buying Crystal Palace FC represent a sound investment opportunity? Some supporters were sceptical. ‘Savvy businessman and Crystal Palace. Sorry that does not make sense’, wrote one world-weary fan. ‘Neither does a grown up man calling himself “P Diddy”’, added another.
There are invariably fears that an American owner might start to tamper with hallowed club traditions that he neither understands nor values. ‘Why did he change his name from Puff Daddy to P Diddy? What would he change our name to?’ asked one concerned fan. P Diddy reportedly likes the club’s name so he might keep that. But what about the nickname? Would the serial nickname tamperer be tempted to rebrand us? ‘The Puffs’, proposed one fan. ‘The Diddymen’, was another suggestion. In an online poll, the majority of fans were vehemently opposed to any name change – though a significant minority were quite happy for the club’s birthright to be sold for a mess of pottage. Some fans warmed to the idea that the players might all be assigned rap names. Given the generally unimaginative nature of English footballers’ nicknames, this might not be a bad idea. I ran a few Palace players’ through the rap name generator at MyRapName.com and the results were quite promising. Club captain Shaun Derry becomes Bad Chronic SS Dog while Danny Butterfield becomes Big DB Money.
The growing disenchantment with the foreign takeover of English football clubs has been highlighted by protests against the US owners of Liverpool and Manchester United. So far there are no signs of any ‘Yanks Out’ demonstrations at Selhurst Park. That might be because Palace are so cash-strapped we’ll gladly take anyone’s money. Fit and proper person? Who cares – just show me the money. Or it is because we all know the Diddyfication of Palace is pure fantasy? Colonel Gaddafi was rumoured to be interested in buying the club a few years ago, so we take stories like this with a pinch of salt. The rumour might be nonsense, but at least it provides some light relief. ‘True or not, this has absolutely made my day. So cool, so funny, so ridiculous… I hope it becomes reality’, said one fan. ‘I was getting a bit down, frustrated and bored with Palace, and then a mental rumour like this thunders out of the woodwork. Not a cat in hell’s chance, but it did bring the smile back.’
Hip-hop plus football doesn’t normally really mix – witness Liverpool’s wretched ‘Anfield Rap’. And, with no sign of a P Diddy bid for Palace, it looks as though the bootylicious game won’t be coming to SE25 any time soon. Shame, we could have been bad (meaning good) but it looks like we’ll just have to put up with being rubbish (meaning rubbish).
Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.
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