Palace have the worst toilets in Britain, says a new survey. We’re last out of 149 clubs, with no stars out of five. Quite an accolade. Personally, I don’t like hanging around toilets, but yes, I’m feeling defensive about ours. Ninety per cent of Selhurst Park has decent facilities; the only genuinely basic area is the away end. But they’re just bloody toilets. We don’t have an attendant spraying aftershave in there, but they’re usable.
(Simon breaks the news to Iain Dowie that due to budget restrictions, Palace have replaced rolls of Andrex with recycled copies of Careless Talk Costs Lives)
I’m always surprised by Selhurst’s reputation. Where’s worse? The boardroom at Withdean is a scout hut. And if you want to build a stadium out of pop rivets and MDF, go and look at the Den. At least 60 grounds should be in that list below us. So why do the media relish slagging off Selhurst so much? There’s one big reason: the media facilities aren’t that great. And why’s that? Because the media have consistently had a go at me for the last five years, so I took their biscuits away.
Whatever the future holds, though, wherever we’re playing, however great our toilets become, we and all the other clubs aren’t going to achieve anything in developing atmosphere and reclaiming the spirit of watching football unless we’re able to reverse one thing: the ban on terraces.
This feels like stating the obvious – but in case the FA are reading, let’s do it. Watching football is a passionate, emotional experience. I stand at Selhurst because I always have done: as a youngster I’d stand with my friends on the big, open Holmesdale terrace. Today, fans are standing in seated areas at grounds across Britain, contravening ground regulations by behaving totally naturally.
The Football Licensing Authority tell clubs to force fans to sit down, or face having sections of seating closed. It’s bizarre that clubs should be financially punished. OK, if I was going on the Tannoy and demanding our fans stand up for 90 minutes then fine, charge me, take action against us. But if I’m trying to do the exact opposite – trying everything reasonable – what then? Stewards constantly ask fans to sit, and we’ve even tried writing to repeat offenders threatening to withdraw tickets – a ridiculous threat for a business to have to make to its customers: stop enjoying my product.
It’s so unrealistic. If the away fans, over whom we have no jurisdiction, stand and scream abuse all match, are the FLA really expecting home fans to bite their lips, sit still and ignore it?