Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Crystal Palace - Mind Over Money

Despite a fair degree of managerial upheaval, the 2014/15 season turned out just fine for Crystal Palace, as they finished in 10th place in the Premier League, an improvement from 11th the previous year.

Tony Pulis unexpectedly resigned just two days before the first game and was replaced by Neil Warnock who returned to the club for a second spell as manager. This didn’t work out very well, so in early January the Eagles brought in former Palace player Alan Pardew, who guided the club to the upper half of the table.

Not only did this ensure a third consecutive season in the Premier League, a feat that they have only managed twice before, but this was their best finish in England’s top flight since 1991/92, when they also finished 10th. In fact, that was the equal-second highest position the Eagles have ever finished in the football pyramid, having placed third in 1990/91. They also recorded 48 points and scored 47 goals, the most achieved in a 38 game Premier League season.

This is a far cry from 2010 when the South London club was in administration and prospects looked fairly grim before they were rescued by a consortium of wealthy businessmen, known as CPFC 2010 and fronted by Steve Parish.

"Mr. Bolasie"

Since then, Palace have enjoyed a splendid renaissance, as chief executive Phil Alexander observed, “We have made some very, very good decisions for the future of this club. It is in a very healthy place right now, but we’ve got to build on this and keep pushing forward.”

This explains the decision to allow US investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer to take a 36% stake in the club in December. There will be an initial £50 million injection of capital with more cash to follow. Harris and Blitzer will join chairman Steve Parish in a general partnership structure, with each of them having an 18% share, while the other members of the CPFC 2010 consortium (Stephen Browett, Jeremy Hosking and Martin Long) will also retain a “substantial” shareholding.

The club said that the deal “offers the best opportunity to build on the enormous progress made over the last five years”, adding, “while overseas investors are joining us, the heart and soul of the club remains in South London.”

The deal is further evidence of Palace’s steady, long-term strategy, as the money is intended for development of the stadium and the academy, as opposed to a short-term boost to the playing squad.

"McArthur Park"

Given some of the issues experienced with overseas investors at other clubs, some supporters will surely be concerned about Palace’s future direction, but the new arrivals are certainly saying all the right things: “We were drawn to the club’s rich history, exciting brand of football, strong leadership and, above all, its passionate fans.”

That said, Palace’s solid financial position probably did not hurt, as they have a very low cost base and no external debt (actually they have relatively high cash balances) with the massive new Premier League TV deal just around the corner. In fairness, the new investors are clearly passionate about sport, owning franchises in the NBA Philadelphia 76ers and NHL New Jersey Devils.

Furthermore, Parish emphasised that the success of their investment was dependent on Palace continuing to progress: “These guys aren’t interested in taking money out, they’re interested in the club increasing in value, which it will only do if we do the right things. So, the fans’ interests, their interests and my interests are completely aligned. They see an amazing opportunity – 900,000 people living in Bromley and Croydon, 2.4m in southeast London and no other professional (Premier League?) clubs until you get to Southampton.”

Palace’s development can be seen in their financials, as the club recorded a second successive year of profits in 2014/15, though profit before tax fell by £15 million from £23 million to £8 million. A lower tax charge meant a smaller reduction of £12 million in profit after tax from £18 million to £6 million.

Revenue rose by £12 million (13%) from £90 million to a record level of £102 million with increases in every revenue stream. Broadcasting income was £5.5 million (7%) higher at £79.7 million, partly due to the higher Premier League finish, but the most impressive growth came in commercial income, up £5.6 million (82%) to £12.5 million. Gate receipts also rose by £0.9 million (10%) to £10.2 million.

According to the club, “the main reason for the reduction in profitability was that further investment was required to acquire and strengthen the squad to remain competitive as well as continued investment in the infrastructure.” This translated to significant increases in the wage bill, up £22 million (49%) from £46 million to £68 million, and player amortisation, up £5 million (88%) from £6 million to £11 million.

Other non-cash expenses, player impairment and depreciation, also increased by £1 million, though other expenses were cut by £1 million from £14 million to £13 million. This presumably includes the £1 million write-back of impairment on the investment in CPFC Limited, due to that company’s improved trading position and profitability.

Despite the reduction in profits, Palace’s figures still look pretty good and are the fifth best of the 11 Premier League clubs that have so far published their 2014/15 accounts, only surpassed by Arsenal £25 million, Southampton £15 million, Hull City £12 million and Manchester City £10 million. Palace’s financial acumen had already been demonstrated in 2013/14, when they produced the fifth highest profit before tax in the top tier, which is a fine achievement for a club of their size.

Moreover, it is far from unusual for Premier League clubs to report lower profits in the second year of the television deal’s three-year cycle, as there are limited possibilities for revenue growth, while wage bills continue to grow apace.

The only teams that have significantly grown profits in 2014/15 were both boosted by once-off events: Manchester City had higher profit on player sales and exceptional charges (FFP fine) the previous season; Arsenal also had higher profit on player sales and reported more profit from property development.

The influence of player sales on a football club’s figures is clear, as the four Premier League clubs that have reported higher overall profits than Palace in 2014/15 were all helped by healthy profits from player sales: Arsenal £29 million (Vermaelen to Barcelona, Vela to Real Sociedad), Southampton an amazing £44 million (Lallana and Lovren to Liverpool, Chambers to Arsenal), Hull City £9 million and Manchester City £14 million

In contrast, Palace’s profits have been achieved without the benefit of meaningful profits from player sales, which were worth less than half a million in 2014/15, the lowest of all the clubs that have published accounts for last season. This was actually higher than 2013/14 when they only made £92,000 from this activity.

Since CPFC 2010 came into existence, Palace’s finances have been on an upward trend. Losses reduced in the first two years (2011 – £9 million, 2012 – £2 million), followed by rising profits in the next two years (2013 – £2 million, 2014 – £23 million), before 2015’s fall to £8 million.

Nevertheless, in the two years since promotion to the Premier League, Palace have delivered combined profits before tax of £31 million, which is (to date) only beaten by Manchester United and Southampton.

As we have seen, many clubs have effectively been subsidising their underlying business with profitable player sales, but this has not been the case at Palace, as they have only made £17 million from player disposals in the last five years.

Indeed, Palace have only exceeded £2 million once in that period, namely 2012/13 when they made £14 million profit from player sales, mainly Wilfred Zaha to Manchester United and Nathaniel Clyne to Southampton, which the club rightly described as “a great testament to our continued investment in the Academy.”

Of course, this is somewhat of a double-edged sword, as the lack of profitable player sales might have an adverse impact on the bottom line, but it could also be considered as a sign that the club has done well to keep its squad together.

Palace’s figures have sometimes been influenced by exceptional items in the past few years. For example, the 2011 figures were restated to reflect the full impairment of goodwill (excess of the purchase price compared with the fair value of net assets acquired) following the acquisition of the club. The price of success was then seen in the 2013 accounts, which included a £5 million once-off payment arising from promotion.

It is not clear where the compensation package agreed with Newcastle United to take manager Alan Pardew away from the Geordies has been booked in these accounts, though this has been reported as £2-3 million.

It is worth exploring how football clubs account for transfers, as it can have such a major impact on reported profits. The fundamental point is that when a club purchases a player the costs are spread over a few years, but any profit made from selling players is immediately booked to the accounts.

So, when a club buys a player, it does not show the full transfer fee in the accounts in that year, but writes-down the cost (evenly) over the length of the player’s contract. Therefore, if Palace were to spend £15 million on a new player with a 5-year contract, the annual expense would be only £3 million (£15 million divided by 5 years) in player amortisation (on top of wages).

However, when that player is sold, the club reports straight away the profit on player sales, which is essentially equals to the sales proceeds less any remaining value in the accounts. In our example, if the player were to be sold 3 years later for £18 million, the cash profit would be £3 million (£18 million less £15 million), but the accounting profit would be much higher at £12 million, as the club would have already booked £9 million of amortisation (3 years at £3 million).

This is all horribly technical, but it does help explain how some clubs can spend big in the transfer market with relatively little immediate impact on their reported profits.

Notwithstanding the accounting treatment, basically the more that a club spends, the higher its player amortisation. Thus, Palace’s player amortisation has shot up from less than £1 million in 2013 to an £11 million peak in 2015, reflecting renewed activity in the transfer market.

Palace have also booked £2 million of impairment charges in the last two seasons. This happens when the directors assess a player’s achievable sales price as less than the value in the accounts.

In our example, if the player’s value were assessed as £4 million after 3 years instead of the £6 million in the accounts, then they would book an impairment charge of £2 million. Impairment could thus be considered as accelerated player amortisation. It also has the effect of reducing the annual player amortisation going forward.

In any case, despite nearly doubling in 2015, Palace’s player amortisation of £11 million is still one of the lowest in the Premier League. It is obviously miles behind the really big spenders like Manchester United (£100 million), Manchester City (£70 million) and Chelsea (£69 million), but it is also below the likes of Swansea City (£18 million) and Stoke City (£12 million).

The other side of the player trading coin is that player values have also surged since promotion, rising from £1.4 million in 2013 to £31.9 million in 2015. Parish also noted that “the depth of squad is bigger than in the Championship.”

As player trading (and particularly profits from player sales) have had a limited impact on Palace’s figures, the improvement in their bottom line is very largely due to the profitability of their core operations.

This can be seen by looking at the club’s EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxation, Depreciation and Amortisation), which can be considered as a proxy for the club’s profits excluding player trading – even though the famous investor Warren Buffett once memorably cautioned, “References to EBITDA make us shudder. It makes sense only if you think that capital expenditure is funded by the tooth fairy.”

Palace’s EBITDA was slightly declining (and negative) in the Championship, but has shot up in the Premier League, reaching £30 million in 2013/14, before falling back to £21 million in 2014/15.

That’s still pretty good and is only really outpaced by clubs that have higher revenue generating capacity. Obviously Palace are a long way behind those clubs that Sam Allardyce sometimes refers to as the “big boys” (Manchester United £120 million, Manchester City £83 million and Arsenal £63 million), but they are actually ahead of major clubs like Chelsea and Everton.

Since promotion Palace’s revenue has grown by more than 600% from £14.5 million to £102.4 million with all revenue streams benefitting from the elevation: broadcasting income is 20 times as much (£4 million to £80 million), while commercial is three times as high (£4.4 million to £12.5 million) and gate receipts are two-thirds higher (£6.2 million to £10.2 million).

Although probably not a financial reference, no wonder part-owner Steve Browett said that promotion to the Premier League “was never the plan, it was the dream.” That said, the club is acutely aware of the risk of going in the opposite direction: “Relegation would have significant implications for the group’s core revenue.”

The main reason for the increase in the Championship in 2012 was a successful Carling Cup run where Palace reached the semi-finals, beating Manchester United on the way.

Even after this revenue growth, Palace’s 2015 revenue of £102 million is still one of the lowest in the Premier League. All clubs are yet to report, but it looks like Palace had the 14th highest revenue last season.

It should be noted that this ranking is based on the revenue figure in the club’s accounts, which is £2 million more than the £100 million used by Deloitte in their annual Money League, which places Palace 16th in England. Either way, they have consistently outperformed their revenue, e.g. finishing 11th last season.

There is now a bunching of a few clubs at the £100 million level along with Palace: Leicester City, Swansea City, Sunderland, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion.

The increase in revenue, fuelled by the TV deals, has led to the rise of the middle class clubs. As Parish observed, “The gap’s closing. The top clubs can only have squads of 25. They can’t buy every good player though they still turn over £500 million. I turn over £100 million. Our job is to bridge that gap, but over a long period you’re only ever going to be an Atletico Madrid. You can’t be a Real Madrid.”

Of course, Palace’s revenue is still miles below the English elite, e.g. Manchester United’s £395 million is around four times as much, while four other clubs earn £300 million or more: Manchester City £352 million, Arsenal £329 million, Chelsea £314 million and Liverpool £298 million.

Palace made their debut in the Money League last season in 27th place, along with Leicester City and West Brom. As Deloitte observed, “This is again testament to the phenomenal broadcast success of the English Premier League and the relative equality of its distributions, giving its non-Champions League clubs particularly a considerable advantage internationally.”

That’s obviously a fine accomplishment, but it does not really help Palace domestically, as no fewer than 17 Premier League clubs feature in the top 30 clubs worldwide by revenue. Parish has underlined this point, “This is the richest league in the sporting world by miles, but we have to be careful, as we are competing with each other.”

Even so, Palace now generate more revenue than famous clubs like (deep breath) Napoli, Valencia, Seville, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Lazio, Fiorentina, Marseille, Lyon, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Porto, Benfica and Celtic.

Parish gave an example of the new footballing landscape: “We had an Italian club visit us when we got promoted. A club I remember, as a kid, winning UEFA Cups. The meeting was basically, ‘Which of our players do you want to buy?’ And then you look at turnover and think, ‘Wow, we have twice theirs.’”

Clearly, TV money is the main driver behind Palace’s new standing on the world stage, contributing an incredible 78% of the club’s total revenue, though this has actually reduced from the previous season’s 82%, as commercial income has risen from 8% to 12%. Gate receipts remain at 10%.

This might sound very worrying, but this is fairly common in the Premier League. For example, in 2013/14 half the clubs in the top flight were dependent on TV for more than 70% of their revenue, with four clubs earning 80% of their revenue from broadcasting, namely Palace (“leading the way”), Swansea City, Hull City and West Brom.

Nevertheless, Parish is well aware of the need for growth in the other revenue streams: “We’re about £12 million away from the next step up: Everton, Villa, West Ham, Newcastle. We’re clicking at £22 million non-TV income. They’re at £35-£39 million. That’s the only dial we can move: bigger, nicer stadium.”

In 2014/15 Palace’s share of the Premier League TV money rose 6% from £73 million to £77 million, due to finishing one place higher in the league and being shown live on one more occasion. The distribution of these funds  is based on a highly equitable methodology, described as a “masterstroke” by Parish, with the top club (Chelsea) receiving £99 million and the bottom club (QPR) getting £65 million, a ratio of around 1.5.

Most of the money is allocated equally to each club, which means 50% of the domestic rights, 100% of the overseas rights and 100% of the commercial revenue. However, merit payments (25% of domestic rights) are worth £1.2 million per place in the league table and facility fees (25% of domestic rights) depend on how many times each club is broadcast live.

Given the importance of TV money to Palace’s business model, it is unsurprising that Parish has a good understanding of the mechanics: “The league is infinitely more financially valuable than any cup. Moving up just two places is worth as much as winning the cup (i.e. £2.5 million).”

In this way, Palace’s climb up the league table has really helped boost their revenue. For example, if they had only just escaped relegation (by finishing 17th), their merit payment would have only been £5 million, compared to the £13.7 million they actually received. Palace’s finances would also be helped if they were shown live more often, e.g. they received £9.5 million for being broadcast 11 times, compared to, say, Tottenham’s £14.8 million for being shown live 18 times.

The blockbuster new TV deal starting in 2016/17 only reinforces the need to stay in the Premier League. My estimates suggest that Palace would receive an additional £34 million under the new contract, increasing the total received to an incredible £112 million, though even that might be conservative, given the size of the overseas deals announced. As Parish surmised, “To think we might have more TV revenue than Barcelona. Higher wage bill than Atletico Madrid. It’s insane.”

Gate receipts rose by 10% (£0.9 million) from £9.3 million to £10.2 million, for a number of reasons: (a) average attendance slightly increased from 24,114 to 24,421; (b) there were two more home games staged at Selhurst Park; (c) many 2013/14 season tickets were pre-sold at Championship prices.

In fact, last season had the highest number of season ticket holders in Palace’s history with the stadium full for nearly every game (apart from the odd away section). Even though Palace’s attendance is one of the smallest in the top flight, only ahead of Hull City, Swansea City, Burnley and QPR, their fans do provide great support. As Pardew said, “It has the best atmosphere in the Premier League – bar none.”

Although season ticket prices went up by an average of 21% following promotion, they are still among the cheapest in the division and have since been frozen for two seasons. Attendances have grown from below 15,000 six years ago to just under 25,000 this season.

A combination of these factors mean that Palace’s match day revenue is one of the lowest in the Premier League. To place their £10 million into context, Arsenal generates over £100 million a year from this revenue stream, which means that they earn more from three matches than Palace do in an entire season.

As mentioned, one of the main drivers of accepting external investment was to provide funds to develop the stadium, expanding Selhurst Park to a 40,000 capacity arena, including 2,000 lucrative, corporate seats.

The plan is to build a new main stand on top of the current one, retaining the existing ordinary seating, but adding a new premium deck. The thinking was outlined by Parish: “The direction of travel for clubs has to be as much corporate as you can get, then keep the price of general admission low.”

Palace have done well to grow their commercial income by 82% (£5.6 million) from £6.9 million to £12.5 million in 2014/15, comprising sponsorship and advertising £3.6 million, other commercial activities £4.8 million and other income £4.1 million. This has taken Palace above Southampton, West Brom and Swansea City, though the leading clubs are practically out of sight: Manchester United £197 million, Manchester City £173 million, Liverpool £116 million, Chelsea £108 million and Arsenal £103 million.

Progress has been made on the principal sponsorship deals following promotion. According to club sources, the shirt sponsorship has gone up from £500k in the Championship (GAC) to £2 million last season with Neteller (a service from online payments provider, Optimal Payments) to the current deal with online gaming company Mansion House worth around £3 million a season.

This is still a long way below the leading clubs, e.g. Manchester United’s Chevrolet deal is worth £47 million, while Chelsea’s new agreement with Yokohama Rubber is for £40 million, but it does better reflect Palace’s profile. The club also signed a new two-year kit supplier deal with Macron from 2014/15, replacing Avec, a subsidiary of Nike, as a sign of their more elevated status.

Given Parish’s marketing background, it is no surprise that the chairman is keen to “create a brand position for the club” that could be the source of future sponsorship income, based around qualities like its South London identity, a magnificent crowd atmosphere and player development.

For the first time last year Palace featured in the Brand Finance list of the 50 most valuable brands in world football, “Crystal Palace have returned emphatically to the Premier League, which has strengthened the brand and given it a great platform and exposure to big global audiences.”

As a sign of growing commercial focus, Parish has talked of expansion in America, facilitated by its new owners: “The US represents a particular area of interest for us. We have quite a US centric brand. I’ve always said that if somebody from America bought a football club and wanted to rename it, they might call it something like Crystal Palace. Red and blue. An eagle as its mascot emblem.”

The wage bill rose by 49% (£22 million) from £46 million to £68 million, which means that it has increased by £49 million since promotion. The important wages to turnover ratio has also worsened from 51% to 66%, though in fairness it is much better than the 129% reported in the last Championship season (though this included £4.6 million of promotion bonus payments).

The reasons for the growth include better players signed to strengthen the squad, contracts extended on higher wages, bonus payments for Premier League survival (last year contingent liabilities included £5 million for this eventuality) and an increase in headcount from 142 to 187 (players, managers and coaches up from 88 to 102, administration and commercial up from 54 to 85).

Palace’s wage bill will continue to rise, as evidenced by the purchase of Yohan Cabaye, which Pardew confirmed has broken the club’s wage structure. Parish added, “Nothing about the Cabaye deal is a bargain: we paid full whack to the club, full whack to the player. But sometimes you just have to pay to take you to another level.”

Palace’s 16% increase in the wages to turnover ratio to 66% is by far the highest reported to date in 2014/15, but basically only brings them into line with most Premier League clubs, e.g. Swansea City 69%, Chelsea 69%, Stoke City 67%, Southampton 63%, Everton 62% and West Ham 60%.

Palace’s £68 million wage bill is still firmly at the lower end of the wages league, which is one of the main reasons for their high operating profits. To place this into context, the top four clubs all have wage bills around the £200 million level: Chelsea £216 million, Manchester United £203 million, Manchester City £194 million and Arsenal £192 million.

What is interesting is the convergence of many mid-tier clubs at around the £70 million level: West Ham £73 million, Southampton £72 million, Swansea City £71 million, Sunderland £70 million (2013/14 figures), Aston Villa £69 million (2013/14), Palace £68 million, Stoke City £67 million and West Brom £65 million (2013/14).

Parish is of the opinion that simply increasing spending is no guarantee of success, “One of the great myths in the Premier League is that the more money you spend the better you do.” He can point to Leicester City’s rise and the increasingly competitive nature of the Premier League as evidence for his theory, but it is still a real challenge for clubs like Palace to consistently compete with the financial might of the leading clubs.

The chairman has made another good point about player salaries: “The wages in the Premier League are crazy. They’re mad compared to any other league and the problem we are giving ourselves is, if we want to sell a player, there are no other leagues in the world that can afford them.”

After many years of net sales, including some forced player selling as a result of administration, Palace have averaged net transfer expenditure of £22 million annually in the last three years (per the Transfer League website).

Last summer saw the arrivals of Cabaye, Connor Wickham and Alex McCarthy, which Parish described as “investing heavily… to continue to bring this club up to the standard required to be a force within this division.”

Over the last three seasons, Palace actually have the 8th highest net spend in the Premier League, around the same level as Newcastle United, Everton and Chelsea. However, in many ways this is simply the logical result of promotion, as the club explained, “We had to assemble a team to compete in the Premiership in a reasonably short window.”

They have struggled a little in the recent window, as shown by the short-term deal with Emmanuel Adebayor, a striker that often flatters to deceive. Parish explained the club’s predicament thus: “We are trying to improve on where we are. If you want to go up from 10th or 11th in the Premier League, you are dealing with players towards the top of the pyramid. The quality narrows and the prices go up and it makes them more difficult to get. It is good news we're in that market, but it's a much tougher market to deal in.”

Many supporters have hoped that the American investment would finance the purchase of new players, but Parish has emphasised that this money is earmarked for infrastructure investment: “I should stress, this isn’t for new players. We can manage that out of our own resources.” Nevertheless, there should still be a little more money available, as the money currently spent on the stadium and academy can be diverted to the playing squad, but we are not talking huge sums.

However, as Pardew noted, “The most important factor is we are under no pressure financially. So when a club does come to talk to us about one of our star performers, they will have to drive a very hard bargain and really twist our wrist.” This gives the chance a better chance of hanging on to key players like Yannick Bolasie.

Palace are in the fortunate position of having no external bank debt. The only debt that the club has is £10.7 million of interest-free shareholder loans, split between the four owners: £3.0 million from each of Steve Parish, Stephen Browett and Jeremy Hosking plus £1.7 million from Martin Long. In fact, once £28.7 million of cash is considered, the club actually has net funds of £18.0 million.

In addition, £8.9 million is owed to other football clubs for transfer stage payments (up from £2.7 million), though Palace’s contingent liabilities, dependent on things like number of appearances, are now only £0.3 million. After year-end Palace spent £21.5 million on new players, but recouped £7.4 million in sales proceeds.

Palace’s £11 million gross debt is also one of the lowest in the Premier League, which must have been attractive to their new investors. In fact, there are actually five clubs with debt above £100 million, namely Manchester United £411 million, Arsenal £234 million, Newcastle United £129 million, Liverpool £127 million and Aston Villa £104 million.

Palace’s prudent approach is evident from looking at the cash flow statement. In the two years after the club exited administration, the owners provided £14.7 million of financing, split between the £10.7 million of debt and £4.0 million of new share capital, but the club has not needed any additional funding since 2012.

The impact of promotion to the Premier League is particularly striking, as Palace have generated an impressive £78 million from operating activities in the last two years. They have spent around half of that (£40 million) on player purchases (net), £9 million on capital expenditure, £4 million on tax, while they have put £25 million into the bank account – another tick in the box for the Americans.

The capex was used in many areas, including the purchase of the training ground in Beckenham for £2.3 million in 2013, new bar and restaurant facilities in the stadium, improvements to the retail catering areas and a new pitch with undersoil heating.

Palace’s cash balance of £29 million is actually the 6th highest in the Premier League, only behind Arsenal £228 million, Manchester United £156 million, Manchester City £75 million, Tottenham Hotspur £39 million and Newcastle United £34 million.

One challenge that Palace will have to confront is the Premier League’s new Financial Fair Play rules, or more accurately its Short Term Cost Control regulations. Given their return to profitability, they will have no problems meeting the loss targets (no more than £105 million aggregated over a three-season period between 2013 and 2016), but they might well have issues with the wage bill targets.

Specifically, clubs whose player service costs are more than £52 million will only be allowed to increase their wages by £4 million per season for the three years from 2013/14. However this restriction only applies to the income from TV money, so any additional money from higher gate receipts, new sponsorship deals or profits from player sales can still be spent on wages.

Parish is aware of this problem: “There are regulations, cost control measures and targets we have to hit. And we were close with ‘issues’ in that respect.” My guess is that they have just about managed to stay within this de facto salary cap in 2014/15, though this could be a real headache in future years – unless the rules are amended in light of the new TV deal.

"Dann! Dann! Dann!"

For the time being, Crystal Palace are a great story. The Eagles survived administration and have managed to establish themselves in the Premier League, one of the most competitive divisions around.

It will clearly be difficult to maintain their upward momentum, as the air becomes even more rarified at the highest levels, but the sensible approach adopted by Palace’s owners should be applauded.

While some supporters might prefer a “pedal to the metal” strategy, Palace are likely to continue to follow their course, which Parish has described as “evolution rather than revolution” – even with the additional funds injected by their American investors. Given the club’s previous flirtation with financial disaster, that seems fair enough.

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