Simon Jordan buys a Park to go with his Palace and while Wembley lurches towards welcoming some football the main Olympic venue shies away...
Champagne corks were popping all round SE25 yesterday at the news that Simon Jordan, the outspoken chairman of Crystal Palace, had prised the freehold of the club’s ground, Selhurst Park, away from the control of controversial former chairman Ron Noades. The deal is said to have been done for £12m, or Andy Johnson + Fitz Hall + Mikele Leigertwood in real terms.
In fairness Palace have spent some of those proceeds on players, but the funding for this deal is not yet clear. It looks as though Jordan has repeated a tactic he used when buying the football club of doing business through an intermediary, in this case property developers Structadene, purchasing the ground from them immediately after they acquired it from Noades. Although Noades was on Sky yesterday saying, “We knew it was a shell company who were buying it,” he stopped short of stating he knew it was linked to Jordan, adding weight to rumours that he called the Eagles’ chairman just before the sale went through to see if Palace wanted to make a counter-offer. In the same interview Noades, who kept the stadium freehold when he sold the club to Mark Goldberg, said, “I held onto the ground because I wanted to ensure there was always a ground for Crystal Palace to play at,” which doesn’t sit easily with the suggestion that he sold up to a company apparently unrelated to Palace, though there is talk of a clause prohibiting the use of Selhurst Park for anything other than football.
The deal may indeed be as straightforward as Jordan suggests, but fans will rest more easily when more details are known, including whether or not the football club itself has been a party to the deal. Jordan has a history of commitment to Palace, but Noades has not been alone in demonstrating that a chairman can keep his interests in football and business separate if he so chooses. At the moment there is nothing to suggest that Jordan wants anything other than to use some capital to fulfil a pledge to supporters while reducing the running costs of the club, though intriguingly, given the recent rush of foreign investors eager to buy football clubs with prospects, when asked about his plans he replied:
Ultimately my desire is to build an elite football club, and I am going to do it the best way I see fit. I am not going to rule any possibilities out. I haven't spent the money to buy the stadium to suddenly put houses on it. Where am I going to play? That is not a discussion for now.
Something harder to put off will be the fans' expectation that he will quickly set about renovating ageing, leaky facilities, particularly in the main stand. The test of his long term objectives appears to lie in his commitment to that, though it may be unreasonable to expect sudden, widespread changes before a return to the cash mountains of the Premiership.
Photo of an eagle at home via Hometown Invasion Tour's Flickr stream.
However, even in the promised land the riches are not boundless. Manchester City got a very good deal on moving into the former Commonwealth Games stadium, but it seems unlikely that a London club will benefit in the same way from the 2012 Olympic showpiece. The admirable David Conn reports in The Guardian that:
The ODA [Olympic Delivery Authority] and Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, are responsible for securing a sustainable "legacy" for the massive public money - upwards of £2bn - which will be spent on hosting the Olympics, and there is no appetite for millions of it to subsidise a Premier League football club which wants a bigger home on the cheap… West Ham, the subject of takeover speculation and carrying £40m of debts, are not considered a realistic prospect to take on the stadium, and Tottenham are a long way from having the required amount of money.
This assumes that the stadium in Stratford actually gets built in time, of course. With relations between Wembley’s various feuding parties finally thawing a bit you could even check out the construction yourself if you’re thinking of joining one of the official clubs that guarantees a seat. By the way, it would be a good idea to repair to the comfort of a strong armchair before checking on the price of doing that.