The Crystal Palace crowd potential (A tale of London club catchment area)

The concept of a club’s catchment area will be a well understood idea by any fan of one of the country’s smaller football teams. This understanding will be more acute for fans of clubs which are based in highly populated areas. So the below image of eleven of London’s clubs published in the late 1970s may well be of interest to supporters of capital city teams where arguments rage as to which area belongs to which club. These sorts of disagreements were brought into sharp focus during the process of  West Ham’s move to the publicly funded Olympic Stadium, into an area of the city many see as an encroachment onto Leyton Orient’s territory.

This image below from the Marshall Cavendish Football Handbook, set within the chapter on Crystal Palace, suggests that the Eagles (or Glaziers if you prefer, and you should) may have a large resource of untapped support on their doorstep. However, these things are rarely that simple. Anyone who has ever tried to travel to Selhurst Park by car or train will understand just how far from civilisation it is. While many of us may chuckle a little at delusions of grandeur many fans sometimes exhibit when mentioning catchment areas, it’s a little more concerning when chairmen start believing it. The below map also neglects the red tinge that the whole of the city acquires from the thousands of Cockney Reds that inhabit the city’s sports bars on Super Sunday afternoons.

The Crystal Palace Crowd Potentiala
The Crystal Palace Crowd Potentiala

Published before Wimbledon gained their Football League status (and lost it again to a ‘town with a catchment area’) and before they regained it again a few years ago, it precludes non-league clubs from its calculations. The main query I had after I posted it on twitter was where Hamlet were. A surprising comment, as I had assumed that a club like Dulwich Hamlet were above such capitalist concepts as catchment areas.

The rest of the Crystal Palace section barely mentions the huge potential fanbase and instead covers a basic history of the travails of Crystal Palace and a lot of information regarding the current (late 70s) Selhurst Park club. One of the more interesting stories mentions Palace manager Dick Graham whose unconventional methods once saw him select a right-winger in a number 3 shirt and a centre-half wearing number nine. This practice of number-abuse is common in modern-day football but in the 1970s it was seen as an innovative ruse to perplex their archaic opposition. Whilst Palace may have an illustrious history in football shirt numbers, their crowd numbers haven’t lived up to their supposed huge catchment potential.

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