Crystal Palace chairman and part-owner Steve Parish opened the club’s new academy facility last week – a physical embodiment of one of the greatest sources of pride at Palace, and a facility which also stands symbolic of Parish’s tenure of involvement with the club. In fact, under Parish’s ownership, the Eagles have forged a real identity for themselves as a club which is heavily rooted in it’s local area and takes pride in it’s history and background.
Steve Parish, leading a consortium which was also backed by fellow Palace fans; Stephen Browett, Martin Long, and Jeremy Hosking, bought the club in 2010, saving it from extinction as fans protested outside Selhurst Park and Lloyd’s Bank. Without the investment of these men, Crystal Palace football club, a club which is rooted in history and within South London, would cease to exist – and for that, Palace fans will be eternally grateful.
Upon his arrival as owner and chairman in 2010 he described the club as ‘underfunded and under-loved,’ since then, Palace have spent nine straight seasons in the Premier League, a feat only matched by nine other clubs currently in the league, and are now far from being described as underfunded. During Parish’s period of ownership, they have spent £15m+ on five different players, with three of those having come in the past two years – fees which were simply unimaginable for a club who were on the brink of extinction only 11 years ago.
And yet, transfer fees and player signings are not by any means the only thing Palace have to show for Parish’s involvement. The new Category 1 Academy facilities in Beckenham are a shining beacon of the work being done behind the scenes at Selhurst Park, and with that adding to the plans to redevelop the stadium and build a new Main Stand (although these plans have been pushed back a further year) show a clear desire by the ownership to develop the club both on and off the pitch and secure their place long term as a top side, and as a big club. As the stature of the club grows on the pitch, those in charge look to sustain this period of success by developing off it, making some real smart investments to secure the club’s future and allow them to push on.
Even on the field, the recent investments in to the first team for the Eagles show a clear route the club want to take – invest in quality young players from the local area and help them to develop at our club. Huge names in football such as England manager Gareth Southgate, current Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha, Premier League and FA Cup winner Victor Moses, and many more made their name at Palace, and this is source of immense pride for the club. With legendary Premier League midfielder Patrick Vieira now manager of the first team, Palace are playing some of the best football they’ve ever played, and are currently on fantastic form in the Premier League, giving fans a real hope and excitement for the rest of the season.
Backed by American investors Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and more recently John Textor, Steve Parish has turned his ideas and dream for the club he’s supported since he was four years old in to reality. To turn an ‘underfunded and under-loved’ club in to one which Parish described in the recent documentary When Eagles Dare as ‘untapped potential’ and one which is ‘standing on the edge of greatness,’ Parish has played an integral part in the club becoming what it is today, and in that he can draw an enormous sense of pride. To have an owner and chairman who is also a boyhood fan of the club is a rare thing in football now, and one which is very much respected and appreciated by the fans. In an age of faceless ownership and state-funded investment, Crystal Palace are run by fans and with the fans in mind. That in itself, is special.