Selhurst Park welcomed Chairman of UK Athletics Ed Warner as a special guest speaker to the club’s first Business Club Lunch of 2016.
Warner, a Palace fan from childhood, gave an honest and engaging speech about the current state of affairs of cheating in sport – football included – and had vivid recollections of his boyhood club falling fowl to a footballing scam led by an Asian betting syndicate back in 1997.
“Corruption in sport, doping in sport, cheating in sport, they’ve come to dominate my working life at UK Athletics, but no sport is immune to it. One of my first very direct experiences of cheating came when watching Palace in their game against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground. It was a fantastic match, and I was frustrated as a fan when it had to be abandoned because I thought we were capable of winning the game. When the floodlights went out, came back on, and went out again with the scores level at 2-2, I had no idea it would be down to a betting ring who had a lot of money on a score draw.”
The scam was the first time an Asian betting syndicate had managed to infiltrate a British sporting event, but it wasn’t the last, and Warner believes there is a responsibility on players, coaches and chairmen, who need to keep the sport free of cheats.
“If I saw any wrongdoing at Palace I think fans – me included – would turn their back on the club, and so they should, because you want to watch honest sport. Even the small things like when players go down and dive, you always feel slightly ashamed. We all want to see honest victories and honest endeavour and no one wants to support a corrupt club. We’re fortunate we have a club owned by genuine fans who are in control our destiny. The work they’ve done in the last few years is something all of the fans should be very proud of, I certainly am. But if you ever found out they were condoning Wilf or one of the players, or serious cheating was going on in the team, it would be shameful. I can’t believe it would ever happen under their leadership - we all want to feel in life that we’ve won honestly.”
Born and raised in nearby Orpington, Warner has been an Eagles supporter since 1971 and is passionate about the work of the club’s Foundation, and using the Palace brand to widen its reach within the local community.
“I’d contacted Steve (Parish) about how I could get involved and act as a kind of ‘thought provoking advisor’ and bring an outside perspective because I’m not ingrained in it. We know what will really transform the Foundation and that is if we can jump up its income to give it much more flexibility to do the things it does really well, and do them even more deeply and widely. If we can get the Foundation looking and feeling an integral part of the club people will not just think of Crystal Palace and where they are in the league, but also as a team that does great things in the local community and it will become a virtuous circle.”
Ed Warner was speaking at a Selhurst Park Business Club Lunch networking event. The event involves a three-course lunch accompanied by wine tasting, and is an opportunity for Crystal Palace corporate partners and their guests to meet like-minded business professionals.
For more information about the next Business Club Lunch, please contact Anna McCarthy at email@example.com or on 020 8768 6013.