The development of Crystal Palace Football Club 1905-1918


It has frequently been argued, perhaps most notably by Tony Mason and Richard Holt, that the establishment of professional football clubs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a profound impact upon working-class consciousness, leisure activity and life in general. In his seminal work Association Football and English Society 1863-1915 Mason argued that by the outbreak of World War One professional football had become a social barometer in England and that supporting a team created a real sense of belonging for the local working class community. Elsewhere in this book Mason examines the evolution of the game from the gentlemanly amateur era to its working-class professional successor and the attitudes with which these changes were perceived at different levels of society. Mason also looks at the development of hooliganism as professional football began to feed sub cultures such as drinking and gambling. In this dissertation, however, it is what Mason has written about the impact of professional clubs upon their communities that is of chief interest.

It is also notable when looking at the historiography on the subject that the evidence available is not always extensive, particularly in comparison to that which we have for other spheres of late Victorian and Edwardian life such as political records. James Walvin argues that many professional clubs purged themselves of their rich and valuable history by poor preservation of records and Mason makes similar complaints, arguing that of the clubs he investigated only Swindon Town and Sheffield United had decent archives. Likewise, research for this dissertation led to similar discoveries as neither the Professional Footballer's Association or the Association of Football Statisticians were able to yield any useful information. Therefore much of what has been written, and can be written, is not always the result of hard facts, but often due to informed speculation. Much has been written about the social history of English football and historians such as James Walvin, Nicholas Fishwick and Dennis Brailsford have certainly added to the debate, but it is the work of Mason and Holt, which largely remain the standard.

The purpose of this dissertation is therefore to test this established theory against a particular case study, that of Crystal Palace Football Club in the period from its foundation in 1905 to the end of World War One. Already Mason, Holt and others have written about the overall impact of professional football and most clubs have also had extensive factual histories written about them, but it seems that less has been written concerning the impact of particular clubs on their localities and it is for this reason that this investigation is a useful historical venture. Chiefly this dissertation will seek to determine how, and to what extent, Crystal Palace Football Club impacted upon its surrounding community. The idea of identification will be crucial right throughout as attempts will be made to discern whether the community came to identify itself with the club and vice versa. It is also important to discuss briefly the events of the club's foundation. Mason identifies three principal areas from which professional were founded in the period he considers: churches, public houses and the work place , but it is noteworthy that even here Crystal Palace FC did not fit this conventional model. Although various amateur teams, called 'Crystal Palace' had played sporadically at the venue beforehand there was no attempt to form a professional club until the early years of the twentieth century. Crystal Palace Football Club was a business-led foundation and a Southern spin-off of the leading Midlands club Aston Villa: having observed the immense popularity with which the FA Cup final had been greeted since it moved to the Crystal Palace in 1895 some shrewd businessmen saw that a professional club was viable at the site. The general manager of the Crystal Palace in 1904, J.H. Cozens, approached the Aston Villa Chairman William McGregor with the idea of forming a professional club. McGregor was very much in favour of the plan and sent his promising assistant secretary Edmund Goodman to oversee the club and the team; a task Goodman fulfilled commendably. By the summer of 1905 the club was ready to compete. Considering that, in many ways, the club was landed upon the community rather than evolving out of it, any sizeable impact it subsequently had is particularly noteworthy.

The primary sources that this dissertation will be based upon are largely contemporary newspapers, both local and those written for a wider audience, alongside some of the club's own ephemera from the period. On a local level chief use will be made of The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser, which although containing much biased coverage of the club, seems to make a largely justified claim to be the voice of the local community. The most useful source that will be used is the Athletic News, which was the leading sports newspaper of the period and where supporters turned to for their information. As the following extract reveals the Athletic News was also a fairly literary publication, which indicates something of the contemporary football supporter's intellect. Reporting on a 3-0Crystal Palace victory over Southampton the newspaper wrote: "One does not wish to infer that the absence of these two players was the cause of Southampton's heavy defeat, but it certainly synchronised with a pronounced deterioration on the part of the team."

This dissertation will be divided into three chapters. Firstly I will look at the club itself, the circumstances surrounding its foundation, its survival despite the setbacks faced as well as its attempts to cultivate both talented local players and a local fan base. Secondly I will then consider the supporters themselves more specifically and will focus on data such as match day attendances. Alongside this specific examination will be made of local rivalries that existed with other clubs, player popularity and what we can conclude of supporters' emotional involvement with the club. Thirdly I will then look at the local community, in an immediate and wider sense, considering factors such as the club's economic and civic impact.

Chapter One: A vibrant club

Mason believes that the foundation of professional football clubs had a great impact upon their surrounding communities and much evidence that this theory fits the model of Crystal Palace Football Club in this period can be found in the potential and actions of the club itself. This chapter will set out to show how from its foundation in 1905 the club already had great geographic and demographic potential as there was no local rival club for it to compete with at the time. The chapter will also highlight the club's survival during this period despite the setbacks it faced as well as the club's concerted attempts to discover and develop talented local footballers. Finally emphasis will be placed upon the club's successful attempts to cultivate its fan base and the good relationship that existed between the two.

Taken together these factors would seem to suggest a club that actively built upon its natural advantages, but also it should be noted that any vaguely well-run club could have made the best of the circumstances available at the Crystal Palace. In this chapter and elsewhere it is important to consider whether it was not simply the attraction of professional football that was popular at the Palace, regardless of which teams were playing, rather than this particular club per se.


When the Football League first came into being in 1888 it was almost exclusively the domain of Northern and Midlands clubs, but by the Edwardian period the League and especially the Southern League, in which competition began in the 1894/5 season, had witnessed a greater geographical dispersal, with London at the forefront of this development. By the early Edwardian period, clubs such as Woolwich Arsenal, Chelsea, Queen's Park Rangers and the 1901 FA Cup Winners Tottenham Hotspur were at the vanguard of a London revolution in professional football. Whilst this revolution had not yet produced teams, which would consistently challenge for the First Division title (this did not happen until Herbert Chapman's great Arsenal side of the 1930s) it is in this light that the foundation of Crystal Palace Football Club in 1905 must be viewed.

Despite developments elsewhere in London, there was still in 'the Edwardian football boom' a vast untapped region of potential support for football in South London and stretching southwards past Croydon into Surrey. It was into this context that Crystal Palace Football Club arrived in the summer of 1905 and thus this context helps to account for the club's significant impact upon the local and surrounding community. Although another local club, Croydon Common, did go on to feature in the Southern League in our period, Crystal Palace FC had essentially stolen a march on its later rival and had far greater prestige due to its location. It should be noted, however, that the club did not start from scratch and gather momentum from a small position as many clubs like Everton FC had done in the north of the country (the Liverpool club was founded by St Domingo's Chapel, a city church, in 1878 and took the name Everton a year later).
It should be noted that for all the active steps taken by the club to cultivate its support (discussed below pp 19-24) it was set up in an area where a degree of support was practically inevitable, especially given the location of the FA Cup final at Crystal Palace. As a result what this dissertation is seeking to do is not merely to chart the football club's progress between 1905 and 1918, but to assess the extent to which the fans were really impacted by the club itself as opposed to, in a more general sense, the establishment of regular top class football in their neighbourhood. Comparison with the club's modern day fan base is useful in that the beginnings of the club's relative hegemony over South London are apparent here.

The FA Cup is an ideal way to begin this investigation, not least because, even more so than today, the FA Cup had an incredible hold over supporters. The ground at Crystal Palace where the club played its home fixtures until World War One had hosted the FA Cup Final since 1895 and as Mason adds a couple of pages later in his book it was the move of this showcase final to the Crystal Palace in 1895 that sealed the final as an annual national event. Thus since the biggest game in English football had been played at Crystal Palace for ten years prior to the club's foundation the club's potential cannot perhaps be overestimated. The club's historian, Revd Nigel Sands, argues that "there was magic at the Crystal Palace before a ball was kicked in the Southern League."

A crucial question to ask is just how much the club's actions actually cemented its impact in South London or whether it was just able to benefit from its extremely favourable circumstances. It is in this first section of the chapter, however, that the argument for the top class football and not the club specifically impacting upon the community can hold most weight and there is more to follow. William McGregor, founding father of the Football League and Chairman of Aston Villa at the time, wrote in the Football Star in December 1904: "The high water mark of prosperity in the metropolis has not been reached and I believe a really good team at Crystal Palace would be a tremendous draw." There were few more influential and knowledgeable characters in English football at the time than McGregor and thus his views were well respected and are useful and indicative of the prevailing opinion of the time. It is clear here and will be substantiated elsewhere that Crystal Palace's foundation was noticeably different from most comparable clubs at the time.

The club's potential went beyond this, however, as becomes apparent when it is observed that Crystal Palace FC were actually playing at the world famous Crystal Palace in Sydenham, one of the great symbols of late Victorian Britain. The map (Plate 1) emphasises the size of the sports arena at the Crystal Palace and helps to convey the status and impact the club must have had simply by its illustrious location. From a social point of view the presence of so many regular attractions such as the museum, funfair and switchback railway already at the Crystal Palace meant that the ground was a natural meeting place for people of all classes. The Crystal Palace was already a popular social venue for London's well to do and middle classes as is demonstrated in the number of substantial musical concerts held at the venue which were avidly reported in publications such as the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. Following the club's foundation in 1905 a special sixpenny ticket was issued on Saturday afternoons in order to allow fans into the ground who perhaps could not have afforded the usual one shilling ground pass. Indeed in its pre-season preview for the 1911/12 campaign the Athletic News wrote: "For a few weeks the usual sixpenny supporter will have to pay a shilling to view football - thanks to the exhibition and this will go against the grain." Six years after its foundation it can be seen that the club was far more than just another attraction at Crystal Palace: this article implies that the football club had developed its own separate sphere within the grounds.

This special ticket would certainly have seen far more working class South Londoners at the Palace and perhaps, as will be considered in chapter two, was key to developing the club's fan base. Clearly the club had to act under the auspices of its landlord the Crystal Palace Company, but this was at least a step to acknowledge the club's importance. As such therefore a football club that was to set up at the Palace had an instant pedigree: the already converted football fans had a high profile place to fulfil their needs and the casual visitor to the Crystal Palace could not fail to be intrigued and perhaps drawn in by this new 'attraction' of regular association football. It should be noted that its prime location, entrepreneurial foundation and links with Aston Villa gave the club great impetus, but, the club still had to add to this to ensure its sustained impact.


Although Crystal Palace benefited far more than most clubs from the context of its foundation this should not belittle the hurdles the club faced both at the beginning and end of this period. Firstly, in 1905, Crystal Palace FC won the approval of the game's governing body, The Football Association, without much difficulty, but was denied election to Division One of the Southern League by a single vote and instead had to spend its first year in Division Two, often competing against the reserves teams of clubs in Division One. Of this predicament Sands writes: "The financial implications were considerable, but the seriousness of the situation will be better appreciated by today's reader when it is realised that several clubs had already tried to prove themselves in the Southern League in its earlier years, only to fail and withdraw." Strikingly in the same 1905-06 season another local club called Southern United from Nunhead was also founded but folded the following April. As much as the club could draw upon its association with all the entertainments at the Crystal Palace it still had to be financially viable or risk becoming just another bankrupted sideshow. Even in 1906 the club still had to be elected to join Division One despite its highly successful performances in winning Division Two for the loss of just one game. Thus the very fact that the club was able to overcome the setback of 1905 to establish itself in the first division is indicative of the immediate impact it had. That the club was able to call upon sufficient numbers of supporters in this first season to survive is highly significant. One could hardly compare the lowly Southern League Division Two with the national institution that was the FA Cup Final so when home gates were averaging over 2,000 in this league it seems that the club was almost immediately establishing itself in the South London community.

Indeed the local newspaper, The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser, which quickly adopted the club as its own, has plenty of observations on the supporters' interest and enthusiasm from the outset of the club. Revealingly the match report on the 3-1 victory over West Ham in February 1906 notes that despite the rain and a "terrific gale" the fixture was very popular and 2,000 fans attended ; a figure comparable to many matches played in more favourable conditions.

At the end of the period the club came up against much greater adversity when the outbreak of the Great War saw the Admiralty take control of the Crystal Palace and close the whole area to the public in February 1915 in order to use it for naval training purposes (plate 2). Yet despite having to move a significant distance from its now established fan base to the ground of the famous amateur club West Norwood at Herne Hill the club remained in business. That the club survived this major upheaval and uncertainty is testament to the status it had gained within its local community: fans still came to watch an often very makeshift team at Herne Hill. Sands said that the war had "tempered" the club. When one considers that the club had two of its strongest seasons on record in 1919/20 and 1920/21 the level of strength the club possessed in the prior period can be seen retrospectively. Understandably professional football played a rather lesser role in society during wartime, but it is clear that the people of South London did not forget "their" club during the conflict and this in itself suggests a significant impact. Statistics such as the 2,000 fans reported to have attended the London Combination home fixture with Tottenham Hotspur on 1 September 1917 reveal that even in the heart of the Great War support was retained. This was also despite the fact that the club's line-ups in these years often depended heavily on "guest" players as most of the regular players became involved in war work of some kind. If it was entertaining football and nothing more that brought fans to Sydenham, then there is a great deal of difficulty in explaining away the support that remained for the club during World War One and indeed during the club's first season in Southern League Division Two.

At this point it is useful to consider another local club that fared rather less well than the club under investigation. In 1918 Crystal Palace FC moved to a ground known as "The Nest" in Selhurst, which had previously been the residence of Croydon Common FC: a club that had ceased to function after the end of the 1915/16 season. Six years later Palace moved to their current stadium of Selhurst Park. Croydon Common had joined Palace in Southern League Division One in the 1909/10 season, but had never really been able to rival the level of support possessed by its local adversary as match attendances demonstrated. Indeed, even the record crowd of nearly 10,000 spectators who attended the fixture between the two teams at "The Nest" on 5 March 1910 is likely to have comprised of significant numbers of Palace supporters, many of whom hailed from Croydon as remains the case in modern times. Whilst the processes, which saw Crystal Palace FC survive and Croydon Common FC fold during the war must not be over simplified it does appear that the latter club had significantly less of an impact upon the locality than the club that overtook their former ground.


This entire chapter seeks to highlight the prominent role played by the club itself in its impact upon the community and nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than in the cultivation of local playing talent. Although the club's first manager, J.R. Robson, understandably had to look to the North and the Midlands in order to find the professional players, such as former Newcastle United man Ted Birnie who became the club's first captain, to form his initial team in 1905, it soon became an express policy of his and in particular of his successor Edmund Goodman to tap into resources closer to home. As is the case with modern football crowds, there was no more popular player than a 'local boy made good' and this exactly what Goodman, an extremely shrewd operator, sought to establish at Crystal Palace. In the run up to the 1908/09 season Goodman is quoted in the Athletic News saying: "It has been the pet theme of the Palace Management to cultivate local players and to train the unknown youth." Given the immense influence Goodman had over the club until well into the 1920s it can sensibly be concluded that this was effectively a policy statement for the club.

The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser includes in its build up to the club's first season in Southern League Division One a report on the trial matches the club was holding in order to discover potential local players. The article goes on to say that hundreds of people attended one of these matches and talks of the great local anticipation for the upcoming season. Although it is perhaps difficult to be sure of this, there is little evidence that other London clubs went to such lengths to seek local players of their own. That many of these locally recruited players became instrumental in the club's comparative future success only served to strengthen these links. Less than two years later the Athletic News, a publication that was very much the popular voice of football at the time, wrote in its 'Southern Notes' section full of praise of the club's local players Ryan, Woodger, Baker and Collyer and commented that they are the "excellent results of the cultivation of local talent." That the Athletic News, without any of the pro-Crystal Palace slant shown in the local press, is so complimentary indicates just how successful a venture the club's 'investment' in local talent was already proving to be. The club's emphasis on finding local players helped to create a symbiotic relationship with its extremely devoted supporters. Fishwick writes that even by 1930 83 per cent of players in Division One of the Football League came from the traditional geographical areas such as the Midlands, North West, North East and Scotland , and the data available for the players of Crystal Palace suggests a figure well over 50 per cent for the South London club during our period. Despite this necessary dependence on Northern players it is therefore noteworthy that a significant number of local players also came to prominence.

Mentioned in the Athletic News article above is George Woodger: a player who deserves special attention here. Not only was Woodger a local boy, but he also shone out as the club's star player and an incredibly popular talent. It might be argued that it was just Crystal Palace's good fortune that a player of such skill was born in the club's locality, but this could only ever be a partial explanation of Woodger's success. In the Edwardian period there was hardly the sophisticated scouting network or youth team systems that are so in abundance in the modern game: quite simply without the conscious efforts of a club like Crystal Palace even players as gifted as Woodger would not necessarily have risen to prominence. Woodger was no ordinary player and indeed is mentioned in almost every report on his team in the Athletic News for the 1907/08 season, but it is important not so much to see him as an exceptional case rather than the best product among many.

In the report on Crystal Palace's 1-0 defeat away at West Ham on 21 September 1907 the Athletic News mentions that Balding, the second choice goalkeeper who had played in the match, had been discovered at Bromley in Kent. Less than a year later the same publication reports that five local amateur players had now turned professional for the club. Elsewhere in December 1913 we learn that the club were still very much alive to recruiting local players with the two-goal haul for Bright on his debut. Thus the overall picture is one of a constant aim on the club's part to recruit local players and not just to rely on 'imports' for success. The idea of identification is a key theme in this dissertation: on the one hand local people identifying with the club and the other vice versa. It was clearly easier for the local fan to identify with a Croydon born man such as Woodger, who may have been a well known local character before his swift elevation to the first team, and regard him as one of their own and it seems clear that the club both recognised this fact and sought to actively develop it in their favour. Once again here, we see the club's officials seeking to act upon potential that was already there. It was not as if the club had to develop these local players from scratch in the same way that it did not have to specifically attract supporters to the Crystal Palace since the FA Cup final had already been there for ten years. Yet still, that the club was proactive in these ways, especially in signing up local players, seems to have at least partially assured its longevity and popularity. In a simplistic sense the club and certainly Goodman himself knew what the supporters wanted and this was what they tried to give them.


Whilst the club was most successful in cultivating support by developing local talent the impact it sought to have and indeed had upon its surrounding community by its efforts away from the field of play can also be noted. Chiefly noteworthy in this respect were the various official club publications and in particular the season yearbooks, which were extensively advertised in the local press. Sands spoke of the overall high quality of the club's ephemera during this period and said that the yearbooks themselves were of a high standard intellectually and showed advanced production techniques and photographic reproduction. The 1913/14 season yearbook (Plate 3) was one such example: the eye catching resemblance between the glass house above and the goal net below is typical of the meticulous nature of these publications. Sands also stressed that such publications were evidence of the great effort the club took to build identification with its supporters. In this the club was actively cultivating supporters and thus although much of the impact the club had on its community was simply due to its high profile location it does appear that we can also see a 'secondary' impact due to the club's specific actions. Sands added that the club's initial failure to be elected to Southern League Division One in 1905 meant that it was more aware of the need for a strong local fan base and more apt to cultivate this. By pulling together with the community Crystal Palace FC could get the people behind "their" club and move it into a more financially rewarding position.

The extent to which the club actively cultivated its fan base is also shown in many of the articles printed in The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser; a medium that increasingly became a mouthpiece for the club. As early in the club's history as December 1905 an appeal is made regarding the upcoming home FA Cup tie with Luton wherein local supporters are requested to turn up in force. On the one hand this is of course evidence that the club was not perhaps getting the support it had hoped for having been consigned to Southern League Division Two, but on the other we can see a club run by dynamic men such as Goodman who are extremely keen for it to be grounded in local support. Incidentally the resultant attendance for this cup tie on 9 December was 5,000, a marked improvement on previous fixtures so perhaps this appeal to the newspaper's self professed 20,000 readership had some success, bearing in mind of course that in those days the FA Cup was always more popular than the league. Later in this inaugural season an April issue of the local newspaper ran an article actually entitled "An Appeal" in which fans of the club were encouraged to travel to a league match at nearby Leyton as the club closed in on the Southern League Division Two title. The following week the match report stated "the importance of the issue in this Southern League match drew several hundred of the Glaziers to Leyton." The Glaziers was the nickname immediately acquired by the club and its fans and referred to the immense glass towers that dominated the Crystal Palace. Here once again the appeal seems to have been answered although there was no actual recorded attendance figure for the match. Indeed in Chapter Three reference will be made to the rapport that was developed between the club and the local press: in many ways a sure sign of its impact upon the locality.

It has been noted above that the club's failure to gain election to Southern League Division One in 1905 had certain financial repercussions. Although the club was able to survive its first season thus paving the way for progress in future seasons, 1905/06 was no easy ride. Thus another way the club actively sought support was by appealing in the local press for supporters in June 1906 to buy up the remaining £2000 share capital it held. The same article described the close season as an "anxious period" for directors and management. It is unclear whether any supporters responded to this particular appeal, but it is still further evidence of a club determined to reach out to its community and to create symbiotic bonds between the two parties. If, as perhaps seems likely, some supporters did become shareholders in the club it would have meant that the club had become a significant part of their lives just over a year after its inception. It would seem unlikely for such an appeal to be launched unless some degree of response was expected by the club's officials; men who clearly valued the local community and sought to strengthen the mutual bonds in many different ways.

This correspondence in the local press can be compared with evidence in the Athletic News in September 1906. In a feature on the club, the second in a series entitled "Football Progress in The South" the article notes that although initial match attendances in the 1905/06 were poor they did rise significantly after appeals to local residents. Considering that elsewhere in the capital supporters had been able to watch Southern League Division One or, even in the case of Woolwich Arsenal, Football League matches this growing affinity that the club was able to engender in the locality was highly significant.

As the club gathered momentum it increasingly became a focus for community activity, particularly in the philanthropic sense, which even on its own would suggest a significant impact. One particular incident that highlighted this role played by the club occurred at the home fixture league fixture against Welsh side Merthyr Tydfil in October 1913. At this game the Upper Norwood Prize Band played to enhance a collection being made for the Welsh Miners' Disaster Fund (a high profile cause in light of the mining disaster at Senghenydd near Caerphilly on 14 October in which 439 people were killed). Here, it seems, was a significant leading institution in the local community taking the lead for the community in assisting the plight of the Welsh miners. The report itself includes the phrase "community spirit" and this was exactly what Crystal Palace FC was representing on this occasion. In the space of eight years the club had gone from being a popular new attraction at the Crystal Palace to a community defining and shaping force. It is worth noting that whilst the club clearly was heavily reliant on the Crystal Palace Company who owned and ran the whole attraction, it was the club that progressed as the overall attraction struggled. Indeed in a rather ironic juxtaposition the front page of the Athletic News in October 1911 has a report about the Crystal Palace being up for auction whilst inside on page two there is a glowing match report on Crystal Palace FC's 6-0 home demolition of Norwich City. It could even be suggested that the club was fast making itself the borough's chief attraction.

A quotation from the Football Star in April 1906 sums up much of what has been argued above. As the election for next season's participants in Southern League Division One loomed a Football Star correspondent called "Rover" wrote of the club:

I believe it would be a good thing for the Southern League if there were a First Division club on the slopes of Sydenham. The Palace have a good side, and their best men have been retained. They have created a local following and numbers will be trebled if they gain admittance to the First Division.

The use of the verb created in the final sentence is particularly interesting and does suggest a very active role played by the club itself as it became almost a dead cert for election to the higher division. Within its first season Crystal Palace FC had a good rapport with its fans: this was actively sought, but also reciprocated, as Chapter Two will discuss.

Chapter Two: Enthusiastic Supporters

Having set out in Chapter One the role the club played in establishing itself within its community it has been noted how hard the club strove to do this. It was the actions of the supporters, however, that insured the club had an impact and this is the subject of this second chapter. For all the lengths the club and its leading personnel could go to, they needed a captive audience and much of the evidence indicates that one existed. Unless a committed fan base grew up for the team it could well be argued that football was merely just another entertainment at the Crystal Palace.

In this chapter examination will be made of the statistical evidence available for the period 1905-18 such as home match day attendances and the make up of these numbers. Already here there are problems in that it was unusual for football clubs during this period to accurately record the numbers of people who attended any particular match and this was part of the generally poor record keeping Mason notes at the beginning of his authoritative book. Thus often the data available may be little more than the educated guess of a reporter at the match, but nevertheless useful conclusions can be made. This section will be closely linked to the next in which Crystal Palace FC's rivalries with other local teams are noted, an area, which was a key indicator as to how actively supporters identified with "their" team. Thirdly the degree to which the club's supporters became emotionally involved with the team will be discussed: this will include fans' reactions to the club's successes and failures. Finally in a more overarching sense mention will be made of the popularity of certain players in the eyes of the supporters: although in this period, like most clubs in the South of England, the majority of Crystal Palace players came from the Midlands and the North, they were still well received by the local supporters.


Initially it is worth noting a little about this group who are referred to in this dissertation as the supporters. A point made above in chapter one needs to be reinforced here. The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser printed a 'prospectus' for the club in May 1905 and in this detailed that on a match day admission to Crystal Palace and its grounds would only cost 6d per person two hours or less before kick off . In effect this meant tickets to watch the team play cost 6d. Thus we can conclude that the Crystal Palace FC supporter was likely to be of a lower income bracket than the more regular visitor to the Crystal Palace. Interestingly the newspaper reports a few months later that a friendly match with the Grenadier Guards had been poorly attended as due to the National Band Festival currently taking place at the Palace all admission to the grounds had been fixed at one shilling. One might argue therefore that the club's fans tended to represent more of the local working classes as opposed to the more middle class patrons of the Crystal Palace. This is a view shared by Sands who states that most of the club's fans at the time were of a commercial working class standing and that during this period the suburbs of South East London (the key location of the club's supporters) were populated by people involved in various clerical occupations. Whilst there is no overwhelming demographic evidence here it should be noted that such knowledge for other clubs is equally bare.

In this section much of what will be stated is in reference to table 2.1 (opposite) and I will also refer back to it later in this chapter. In assessing the impact the club had on its local community, immediately noteworthy was the enthusiasm amongst supporters as the club began its first season in 1905. That the club could record an average home attendance of approaching 3,000 despite its very recent foundation and membership of lowly Southern League Division Two showed both initial impact and great potential as many commentators at the time noted. Indeed after the club's first competitive fixture, a 3-0 away win at Brompton in the United League (a competition the club entered alongside the Southern League), The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser reported that: "many wished to witness a performance of the team." Taking aside the newspaper's local bias the evidence does point to a degree of immediate impact for the club amongst its very new supporters.

Clearly the data in the table supports the idea that the FA Cup was a more popular competition than the league: this was a phenomenon equally true in the Football League at the time. The averages for 1906/07 and 1910/11 are unusually high due to the calibre of opposition faced on each occasion, but even this is useful evidence to suggest that alongside a hard core of fans existed those who came along for the biggest matches. In 1907 some 35,000 fans attended the FA Cup Quarter-Final tie with Everton and the same gate was recorded four years later for a first round tie with the same opposition at the Palace. Everton were one of the biggest clubs of the day and thus a big draw for the community and so the fact that Crystal Palace FC were doing well enough to face such opposition in the Cup must have raised the club's status, even amongst the casual fans. These crowds represented far more than a large away contingent: to confirm matters the Athletic News described the crowd for the 1907 match as being "mostly southerners" and of course transport to London was not cheap for a working class man.

The table also reveals a degree of consistency amongst attendances. After the club had established itself in Southern League Division One home attendances hovered largely around the 8,000 mark, which indicates that the club had a dedicated band of supporters, many of whom would have been season ticket holders, who would turn up for every home fixture and maybe a few of the away ones as well. This stoicism and commitment is seen elsewhere in some of the newspaper reports on the team. Remarkably, for example, a report in the local press states that some 1,500 people attended a reserve team fixture against Chelsea. This was some dedication just a year into the club's competitive life.

In a wider sense what does become obvious is that weather conditions and the team's league position did not have a drastic effect on attendances during these early years. Although the Athletic News can write in April 1909 that with the club's slide down the table "supporters…have fallen off considerably during the painful experience" such an episode appears an exception and may perhaps have been caused by specific economic factors rather than just being a reaction to poor results. For example at the end of the 1906/07 season the last six home fixtures still averaged around 5,100; a figure comparable with the overall season average of 6,400. The argument here is not that the club almost immediately had some of the most committed fans in the country, but that a clear dedication is apparent. In May 1907 The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser wrote "when it is announced that close upon 5,000 persons attended the last match of the season at the Crystal Palace it will be realised how strong a hold the game has upon the neighbourhood." The club's season had been in steady decline since the end of their Cup run at Goodison Park, and a final league position of 19th out of 20 had little to commend itself so this seems fairly strong evidence that the club was impacting upon its community. When the report talks of the game's hold upon the neighbourhood, the sense of the article is very much that this is club's doing.

If one looks at a picture of the football stadium at the Crystal Palace (plate 4) one sees how exposed most of the fans would have been to the elements during a match, but yet consistently the reports talk of people braving the cold and rain to attend. Chapter One referred to a match in the club's first season that was blighted by rain and a gale that had not deterred spectators and in March 1909 the same local newspaper wrote of the "undaunted enthusiasm" of the home fans in a rain sodden match with Exeter City on a water logged pitch. Elsewhere in the Athletic News we read in December 1908 that 9,000 people attended the 3-1 home victory over Watford in "dull and threatening" weather. In order to get something of a measure of the size of the club's support we find in an Athletic News report that no Brighton fans travelled to Crystal Palace in the home team's 2-1 victory that was watched by 10,000 spectators. If this figure is reliable then the club must have had at least this number of supporters by their third season.

The figures quoted here do of course have difficulties over accuracy so are best used in conjunction with the other evidence we have. Although the general picture for attendances at the Palace is useful to suggest a committed fan base and therefore a high level of identification towards the club in the local community, little snippets of evidence prevent the picture being totally conclusive. In April 1912 the Athletic News wrote that the "big counter attraction at Chelsea (the FA Cup semi-final between Barnsley and Swindon) was responsible for the rather moderate attendance at Sydenham." This attendance was only 5,000 and just hints that maybe some of the regular spectators at the Palace were more football fans than fans of the club per se. Overall, though, the bulk of the evidence points away from this and towards a direct and specific identification with the club.


When one is looking to ascertain the level of popularity and impact a club has within its local community useful indicators include rivalries with other local clubs and the attendances at these matches: this was as true of the period 1905-18 as it is nowadays. In this section more will be said about how supporters were actively identifying themselves with the club and some of the rivalries the club appears to have had will be examined to see what they can tell us about the impact of Crystal Palace FC on its surrounding community.

Most of the rivalries the club had during this period were with other London clubs such as Fulham, Millwall, Queen's Park Rangers and of course Croydon Common whose former ground Crystal Palace FC took over in 1918. Essentially such fixtures represented an important opportunity for Crystal Palace supporters to identify with and get behind the club they regarded as their own against a recognisable "enemy" from elsewhere in the capital. In Table 2.1 the column regarding derby matches (defined as those against other London opposition) largely corresponds to such rivalry. Firstly here for all but one full season the club played in the Southern League from its foundation until the outbreak of World War One the average attendance for a local derby at the Palace was significantly higher than for a 'regular' league fixture. In the case of the 1907/08 season, where both figures for average attendances are around 8,400 it is the match against Leyton on 14 December 1907, which only seems to have recorded a gate of 5,000 that 'upsets' the figures. This match may have had special circumstances surrounding it (the corresponding fixture in the next season recorded a gate of around 10,000 spectators) and does not detract from the bulk of the evidence that derby matches were better attended at the Palace. Conclusions here must not go too far and ignore the fact that these figures could have had much to do with travelling opposition fans, but some tentative inferences do seem reasonable, especially in light of other evidence.

In September 1906 The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser wrote in its report on the team's 3-0 home loss to Fulham that "every lover of the game in the South of London was interested in the event." The attendance for this game was recorded at around 8,000 thus making it the highest yet the club had achieved. Whilst the report in no way suggests that all these football lovers actually attended the match the very fact that such interest was apparently stirred up would indicate that the club already in 1906 had had a degree of impact upon the community. Indeed three weeks beforehand on the first day of the new season the same newspaper wrote "There is a hum of football gossip in the suburbs of which the Crystal Palace forms the centre, over the prospects of the Glaziers." The club, at least according to this local paper, was popular conversation fodder at the time and local rivalries could only cement this.

Still in their first season in Division One the Athletic News writes of the intense rivalry between Crystal Palace and Luton that drew a greater attendance at the Palace. This is interesting in that this rivalry was with a team further a field than London. Essentially this rivalry appears to have been because Luton were one of the best teams in the division and therefore a direct threat to the club's title aspirations. Also considering the distance between the clubs it is likely that the 8,000 present for the match was almost exclusively comprised of Crystal Palace supporters. Thus whilst this is further evidence for local people supporting their club against a big rival it also shows how ambitious the supporters were for their club: they were not just in Southern League Division One to make up the numbers. It may therefore be concluded that these supporters were identifying themselves not just with the club, but also with its expressed aims to rise up the leagues. This can be seen in 1908 when after the 2-0 home defeat of Luton the Athletic News wrote: "There are visions of championships among the folks at Sydenham."

As with much of what has been argued thus far there are some caveats to bear in mind here also such as the benefits the local press could receive in terms of sales by over-exaggerating the club's popularity. Given the popularity of football there was plenty to gain economically from saturating the local press with coverage of the local football team and glamorising its achievements. For all the popularity of the club in general and for local derbies in particular, evidence such as that regarding the 1912 FA Cup semi-final highlights the need for a degree of scepticism in places.

The Athletic News wrote after the club's first match in Southern League Division One that the club had "already attracted a faithful following, which only success is required to increase very substantially." As has also been observed above, many of these supporters went religiously to the match despite adverse weather conditions. This popularity occurs as a prevailing theme throughout much of the evidence and taken alongside the specific instances of the derby games paints a fairly positive view of the club's impact. That the attendance figures for this period reveal a fairly consistent pattern suggest that at least some broad conclusions can be made. Likewise the figures for the 1911/12 season where both the home derby attendances we have are recorded as 14,000 and those for 1907/08 are best seen as part of the bigger picture rather than as worthy of lengthy conclusions in themselves.


For all the evidence in terms of attendances, one key area yet to have been discussed is the level of emotional involvement supporters had with their club: the passion with which the club and its players were supported and in many cases praised. The conclusions from the statistics observed thus far can certainly be embellished when one considers the degree of fervour many participated in when supporting their club. If these supporters were merely fans of watching football and not specifically of the club per se then it seems unlikely that their 'support' of the club would have extended beyond 90 minutes of action on a Saturday afternoon. However if the club's fans during our period did identify directly and specifically with the club then it is important to look as much at events reported surrounding and in between matches, as at the match reports themselves.

It has been noted already that there was an almost immediate desire in the locality to watch the club in action after it began competing in September 1905. This at least shows popular opinion regarding football. Towards the end of the club's first season The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser writes of the tone of excitement amongst supporters and of their joy that the team was at the top of Southern League Division Two. This article suggests a direct identification with the club and also is one of the first examples of the emotion the club could stir up in its supporters. At the end of the year, following three impressive league wins in a row, the same newspaper remarks that: "The supporters of the club are jubilant over the club's doings." Such sentiment is also echoed in the more objective columns of the Athletic News, which reports on "the remarkable display of enthusiasm from the crowd at Palace's winner" in the side's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth; a victory made even sweeter because the winning goal was scored by the local hero Woodger. The Athletic News, printed in Manchester, was renowned for its highly literary prose style and fair reporting of sport and thus here we can discount much of the sensationalism that may have characterised reporting in the local South London press.

One piece of evidence to back up this argument of supporters' emotional involvement with the club was clearly the events of Saturday 12 January 1907. This was the FA Cup first round tie against Newcastle United away at St James' Park, which Crystal Palace deservedly won 1-0 with a goal from Astley. The result itself, coming against one of the biggest clubs in the land, was remarkable enough, but it was the reaction back down in South London that sums up the popularity and mass identification the club had already achieved in less than two years since its foundation.

The next issue of The Crystal Palace and District Advertiser described the scene when some of the Palace players arrived at Crystal Palace station on the night of their victory at Newcastle. The newspaper talks of some 2000 fans headed by the famous Upper Norwood Temperance Prize Band being gathered at midnight to welcome the players with a great ovation.

The reporter also wrote the following in the same edition when other players, many of whom were natives of the North East so had stayed behind visiting friends and family, returned later: "Similar scenes were witnessed on Monday evening when other players returned. The crowd was even larger than Saturday's, the band again attended, a torchlight procession to Averley and back was held, and the popular and amiable captain, Innerd, was carried on the shoulders of a stalwart supporter of the club."

Clearly such a match was a one off event, but that does not mean any conclusions drawn are inherently flawed. The FA Cup in those days was by far the most popular football competition in England, more so than the league competitions, so such fervour must not be seen as typical. The club, however, had already been able to command up to 10,000 supporters at home in the Southern League so there is at least a prevailing context for this account of mass jubilation. It is notable that the supporter who carried the captain Innerd on his shoulders is described as a "stalwart" considering that the club had only been playing competitively for less than a year and a half. This would suggest the club had had an immediate and deep impact on at least a few supporters: there is no indication that as a stalwart this man is an exception. Also, even today, the FA Cup still has a special appeal amongst supporters so the 'Newcastle victory' seems an important place to focus this argument.

When one gets a North East perspective on the fixture, the shock of the result is further reinforced and thus the excitement of the club's fans back in London makes sense. The Durham Chronicle wrote in its next edition: "The news (of the result) was a "shocker" and many would not credit the tidings until the evening papers were to hand." The Durham County Advertiser of the same day said: "The match at St James Park provided the sensation of the year…Fanatical supporters of the Magpies never received a more severe shock in their lives."

Even in the more staunchly pro Newcastle United local press one finds an admiration for this burgeoning club and its fantastic achievement, notably secured with many former Newcastle players amongst its ranks. Having put a cartoon on its front page stressing the inevitability of a home victory (plate 5) The Newcastle Evening Chronicle was forced to eat its words in its unavoidably positive match report for the visitors on the back of the next football edition! Another local paper, The Newcastle Weekly Chronicle wrote on its front page: "Admitting that Newcastle played below their form, it must be confessed that they were 'up against' a very clever organisation." Grudging praise indeed: Crystal Palace FC had gone from plucky cannon fodder to the talk of the 'Toon' in one day and caused great joy in South London.

This same newspaper had the previous week conveyed the stature of the Newcastle United team and therefore the magnitude of Crystal Palace's achievement with a front page cartoon showing Newcastle's lofty aims for the year ahead: wining one of the major domestic trophies (plate 6).

This is not to say, however, that the supporters' identification with the club was a fait accompli, in fact one could argue that much of this new-found identity hinged on such a giant killing result. Clearly from the outset the knowledgeable football supporter had much to admire at Sydenham due to the attractive play so often attributed to Crystal Palace in the pages of the Athletic News, but it seems logical that the defeat of such a football superpower as Newcastle United would have gone a long way to entice the potentially interested South Londoner. This is at least partially borne out in the overall trend of increased attendances following January 1907.

If a club's local supporters failed to react at all to a result such as this their commitment and identification with the club might well be doubted, but when a scene such as that at Crystal Palace station occurs it is clear a great rapport was already in existence. The scene described in the local press would not have been out of place if it had been receiving an FA Cup winning side rather than one who had 'simply' progressed to the second round.

Alongside all the supporters' enthusiasm documented some other emotions are detailed, which seem to enhance this point. An Athletic News report in late September 1912 notes that the referee had become very unpopular with the home fans when he awarded a late penalty in a league game against West Ham United. This aggression towards the referee would seem to reveal a strong passion for the club and against any 'opposition' it faced. In the last full Southern League season before the outbreak of war one report described the home fans as having "shouted themselves hoarse with delight" following two late goals, which secured a 5-3 victory over Bristol Rovers. Two months later the same pages spoke of "mild panic in the camp at Sydenham" when Coventry scored first in a vital league match at the Palace. If these supporters cared less about their club then such a situation would surely have been viewed as less serious.

In this section, therefore, there are perhaps some of the strongest arguments to suggest that the club had a profound impact upon its surrounding community, or at least those of a more working class status. When 2,000 fans go to greet the team at midnight as was the case in January 1907 this surely suggests a great deal of popular identification with the club despite any caveats that should be noted.


It was noted in Chapter One that the club went to great lengths to field local players in its teams, even holding open trials for this express purpose. Local players were clearly popular with the supporters, especially if like Woodger they became real star men. This section will consider the popularity of particular players amongst the fans as evidence for the club's impact on its local area. That some players were clearly held in high renown amongst the supporters rather than simply being seen professional entertainers, the sort of which could be seen at the various musical concerts at the Crystal Palace, was important. Indeed for all the local talent employed by first Robson and then Goodman in their capacities as manager, the squad in this period was however largely comprised of 'imports' from the North and the Midlands and therefore that such players, with whom the crowd would have had little natural affinity, could be highly popular is useful to note. When it is remembered that the club itself was an entrepreneurial foundation seeking to exploit a niche market in South London rather than having developed out of the community as many other clubs had, any significant player popularity is particularly worthy of note.

Returning to the amazing scenes described in The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser following the FA Cup defeat of Newcastle in January 1907, the captain Innerd is described as "popular and amiable" and was borne aloft on a fan's shoulders. Innerd was another import from the North East and indeed a former Newcastle United player, so that an 'outsider' like him should be so lauded and popular suggests supporters were really seeing the club and therefore its players as their own. Innerd himself, we can learn from the Newcastle press, like some other Palace imports, had not been a first team player at St James' Park (a brief story from 1905 comments "our sympathies again with poor Innerd, of the Newcastle second team, who had the misfortune to lose one of his fingers last Thursday while following his employment" ) so it was not even as if the South London club had signed a star player.

In the build up to the 1906/07 season, Crystal Palace FC's first in Southern League Division One, the Athletic News wrote that the club's position had been gained "by sheer merit and not by favour." Looking at the background of the players who had taken the club to this position reveals that they were almost to a man imports from the North and the Midlands. Thus the club began with Robson, a Northerner, as manager and Goodman, a Midlands man, as secretary and a squad of imported players. That the evidence suggests the club was immediately popular indicates its significant impact on its locality. It should however be noted that the club did have a phenomenally successful first season; only losing once in the Southern League (the very first game) and then embarking on a 17 game winning run from mid October to the first week of April. There is therefore a slight element of doubt as to whether a less successful start would have engendered such popular support as the sources seem to indicate. Yes these imported players were popular, but perhaps much of this was to do with the fact that they were winning their matches and in the years to come continued to be fairly successful. In October 1906 the Athletic News featured in its 'Football Chatter' column a short piece on the Crystal Palace player Wallace who is described as a profitable Sunderland export and once again the implication is that the player was proving very popular in his new surroundings at Sydenham.

A further mix was added to the Crystal Palace FC playing staff when William Davies signed for the club in the 1907/08 season. The player was described as a rising Welsh star in the press and was quickly welcomed by the supporters. It is easy to see how local players might quickly become popular, but that players from more distant locations were equally well received would suggest that in the eyes of the supporters once a player was playing for 'their' club he was one of 'their' players. After Woodger left for Oldham the club signed another very useful local player and popular forward from Halesowen called Charlie Woodhouse and his untimely death in late 1911 received a front page obituary in the Athletic News. The understandable emphasis on Northern imports, albeit alongside some local talent, proved consistently popular with the club's supporters throughout the period, which perhaps suggests that it was the club that came first in their mindset. Clearly it was the local players who were perhaps held in highest regard by the supporters, but the warmth with which many Northern imports such as Innerd and Astley were received indicates any North South antipathy would be put aside in the interests of the club with which they closely identified themselves.

Chapter Three: A community transformed

As well as in the actions of the club itself and the dedication of its supporters the nature of Crystal Palace FC's impact in this period was evident in its wider community. Indeed it is perhaps here that the size of the club's impact can best be appreciated and evaluated. In this third chapter significant mention will be made of the infrastructure surrounding the club such as the excellent public transport system, which included both tram and conventional rail services. Since this structure was already in place to service the Crystal Palace, the football club had the obvious advantage of being more easily accessible to supporters than if it had been founded elsewhere. Thus it is important to consider the club's impact in this context: in this way, as in others mentioned in Chapter One, the club was certainly not developing from scratch.

Having made this caveat there is plenty of evidence to indicate much transformation in the surrounding community. Local business was both galvanised by the club and often forged links with the club's supporters by providing services such as telegram reports of away matches, which were eagerly received at home. The demand for such services and their provision were both indicative that local association with the club was not just limited to home matches on a Saturday. The club was, in fact, an economic stimulus to the locality. Another key element in this chapter is the role of the local press: this is a key source throughout this study and shows very clearly how the community, symbolised by its newspaper, was identifying itself with the club. Allusion will also be made to the club's catchment area and the many amateur clubs that grew up in it often at least partly inspired by Crystal Palace FC.


Just as Crystal Palace Football Club clearly benefited from playing at the same ground as the FA Cup final was played at, the club also clearly benefited from the infrastructure already in place at the Crystal Palace. Since the Great Exhibition was moved from Hyde Park to the site in 1854 a substantial public transport network had grown up around where the club came to play. This factor should act as a caveat to overestimating the club's impact, but nevertheless there is much evidence to demonstrate the level of impact the club had. Firstly it is noticeable that the club's finest hour in the period 1905-18 was celebrated at the ornately decorated station. The extract from the local press quoted above in Chapter Two says that on two occasions in the immediate aftermath of the epic 1-0 FA Cup defeat of Newcastle thousands of fans gathered at the Crystal Palace Station alongside the Upper Norwood Temperance Prize Band to welcome home their heroes. That such large numbers attended this occasion reveals their devotion to the club, but may also hint that the station acted as a focal place for supporters. It seems likely that some fans would have travelled to home matches on the train and it could also have been a place for fans who had come from different directions by foot to meet up before heading to the ground together. It is clearly hard to come up with any solid evidence for this, but it can certainly be concluded that the existence of the London transport system can only have aided the club's impact on its community in terms of accessibility.

An article about the FA Cup Final venue in the Athletic News in October 1909 states that "for the reception of a huge crowd the Palace possesses advantages over most grounds." Whilst the attendances recorded for the club during this period were certainly far below those for the showcase final, the good facilities at the Palace were still available to benefit the club's supporters. The same article goes on to say that Sydenham can only be reached from central London by a "circuitous and inconvenient route," but from the evidence available it seems most of the club's supporters did not travel from central London so would not have been inconvenienced in this way. Indeed on the contrary a later article published in the same newspaper comments that due to the 1911 Festival of Empire Crystal Palace FC now had one of the most easily accessible grounds in London.

That the supporter had an easily accessible ground no doubt helped to create a faithful following early on and thus should be borne in mind in trying to assess the level of commitment that existed amongst supporters. On the other hand though, it was not necessarily the case that the "sixpenny supporter" the Athletic News refers to could afford or would always choose to pay for public transport to get to the ground. Many supporters would certainly have lived within walking distance and thus whilst it should be taken into account, the favourable infrastructure surrounding the ground should not unduly affect the conclusions being drawn.


It was mentioned in Chapter One that the club had become a focus for community action. A more in depth look at the community reveals that it was becoming involved with the club on various levels and that these ventures showed that the club was well established in its community: there was both demand and means for such interaction. The club as a focus for the community coming together was seen most graphically at events such as its Smoking Concert in March 1906. The report in the local press described the concert's very large attendance and that the chairman, manager and players were all praised by the assembled masses. Here in just its first season, the community was rallying round the club and coming out in force. Although sought, there did not seem to be any evidence available to link the local Borough Council to the club in this period, but aside from this there is much to draw upon.

The immediacy after the club's foundation in 1905 with which the evidence attests its impact has been noted. In this context an article in the local press for January 1906 is particularly interesting as the following was written:

A spectacle - for this district a novelty in itself - was witnessed on Westow Hill Saturday afternoon last, a crowd of persons who take a great interest in the Crystal Palace Football team waiting for hours outside the shop of Mr Briggs to learn by means of telegrams the progress of the cup tie between the Crystals and Blackpool, which was being fought out at the latter town.

Thus a local businessman, Westow Hill was only a few miles from the stadium, was providing a service he would not have been able to before the club was founded and the service was well received. The club had only begun competitive football in September, four months before this event, and already the local community was adapting to the new club that it soon identified directly with. This piece of evidence also indicates a high level of support for the club in its first season as well the economic and social opportunities the club had already opened up by early 1906.

Official merchandise was another area that developed almost immediately, indicating the popular status of the club and the desire for supporters to clearly identify themselves with their team. It is unlikely that local businesses would have produced and advertised merchandise for which there was little demand and thus the existence of such merchandise points to a commercial demand for it. One particular example here were the official club neckties: an advert in the local press , again in January 1906, from a Norwood outfitters shop encouraged supporters to buy these items. The advert also appears in later issues, which could suggest that previous adverts had been successful in attracting supporters to invest in the neckties. As such merchandise was already being produced halfway through the first season for a club in the comparatively insignificant Southern League Division Two, it seems that on a community level the club's impact was deep rooted from an early stage.

Much of the evidence available indicates the club's significant economic impact upon its community. In Chapter One it was observed that the club produced some excellent quality yearbooks for its supporters and these of course provided a substantial contract for the printer J. Nichols of Anerley and also the link with the club would have worked as a good advert for Nichols' business. Likewise with the demand for pictures of players and team groups both in the local press and the Athletic News the club's official photographers, J. Russell and Sons of Crystal Palace, had an ideal job in providing the official images.

It was noted in Chapter Two that it is hard to quantify the level of away support the club was able to muster for particular matches; even if an attendance figure exists for an individual game, there is still the question of how many of these were travelling Palace supporters. Therefore any data available that points to a sizeable away following for the club is very useful in assessing the club's impact: to travel away to watch one's club was a great litmus test of a supporter's loyalty to his club. One specific piece of evidence that seems crucial both to this chapter's discussion about the community and the theme of the previous chapter, specifically focuses on the Great Western Railway. An article in the local press in January 1908 notes that the train company was prepared to arrange a special excursion for Crystal Palace fans, who wished to travel to Plymouth Argyle for the upcoming FA Cup Second Round tie. Whilst this does not necessarily suggest that such an excursion was a regular occurrence or even whether this one took place, this source does reveal that the train company perceived such a demand to exist amongst the club's local support. Also the GWR was a highly significant company operating out of London and thus that it was seeking to associate itself with the club at this early stage is another indicator of the widespread and significant nature of the club's impact upon its community.

That such an excursion was proposed may also suggest that many of the club's supporters could afford to make the return journey to Plymouth. The relative economic status of the club's supporters has been suggested in Chapter Two, but it is also useful to consider the social and gender make up of these supporters. This example concerning the GWR and the comparatively high cost of train travel may suggest that not all the club's supporters were from the working classes. There is very little evidence to deny or confirm whether women, for example, attended Crystal Palace fixtures, but the many references to the jubilant community after particular triumphs do not seem solely to refer to men. Also contemporary cartoons such the one opposite (Plate 7) depicting the universal popularity of football matches would conceivably have been the case at the Crystal Palace.

It is evident that throughout this period the local community remained the heart of the club's support, but there is also evidence indicating that the club had a lesser following further a field across London. This would suggest that their largely attractive style of play had a wide appeal and that Crystal Palace FC was firmly established in the realm of London's professional football clubs by the beginning of the Great War. A match report in the Athletic News for the club's 2-0 home FA Cup win over Bury in February 1913 notes that some 14,000 supporters were in attendance. That day in London, only Crystal Palace and Chelsea were at home and thus this higher than average attendance could well have been due to the extra influx of Londoners whose teams were drawn away from home in the FA Cup. Considering in a more general sense the popularity the club seemed to hold in its locality, it might even be argued that some positive fluctuation above the usual dedicated masses in home attendances was caused when these more 'casual' supporters visited the Palace.

It is useful to compare Crystal Palace Football Club with West Ham United from London's East End. In an article for the Journal of Contemporary History Korr attests that:
From 1905 the tone of West Ham United was set - a team competing at the highest level that depended on quality football to attract supporters, but also a team that physically established itself in the heart of an area where playing football was the usual recreation.
Although the setting for this East London club was considerably different from the suburban communities that fed Crystal Palace FC, the importance of the community to the club was borne out in both cases. In many ways much of what Korr argues for West Ham's community influence can also apply to Crystal Palace FC.


Ever since the local press became a widely read popular phenomenon in the mid nineteenth century such newspapers have often been or represented the voice of the particular community they covered. Thus when the local press represents the community's voice it can be inferred that consistent coverage of a particular institution in a newspaper signified that the institution formed a major part of or had had a significant impact upon the local community. Of the early twentieth century John Hargreaves argues that: "The sports pages were absolutely vital from the beginning, both in the successful selling of this form of popular press to working class people and in the place sport achieved in working class culture." With this in mind there is much to be gleaned from the coverage of the club found in The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser during the period in question. In its design and editorial slant the newspaper made a significant play of the fact that it represented its community and that it had approximately 20,000 readers. Considering this and other factors such as the lively correspondence featured in the letters section it would seem fair to conclude that this newspaper did indeed represent the voice of its surrounding community.

It is therefore highly significant that issues of the newspaper published before the club's foundation in 1905 only featured a rather stale local sports column, which was certainly not a mainstay of the paper. Following the club's foundation one can note that the single column increases in size progressively until it is effectively a sports section. This can be seen to represent the impact the football club had upon its community: suddenly there was a new local attraction, which demanded far more column inches than had previously been set aside for sport. The newspaper sought to reflect the interests of its readership and the increased emphasis on sport following the club's foundation should be seen in this light. The paper also had a section called "Crystal Palace day by day" which was essentially a guide to the upcoming week's events at the Crystal Palace, but this section became less significant in size after the football club was founded as the club's stock rose and the paper's reporting shifted towards events on the football field.

The evidence in the local press would indicate that the club's foundation definitely had an impact upon the community and looking specifically at the way the press reported on the club in our period reveals more of the nature of this impact. In November 1905, just two months into the club's competitive life, the newspaper included a fairly biased report of the recent United League match at Luton (although the club did not win this league, it provided vital practice in its first season). This subjective reporting soon became a more apparent tone for the paper's coverage. Likewise correspondence in the newspaper often became increasingly centred on the club. In a letter to the editor in March of the following year, written by a person calling himself "An Old Footballer", the writer describes himself as "an enthusiastic supporter of the Crystal Palace Football Club" and speaks out against any possible moves for the club to relocate to Croydon as well as talking of the club's bright future the following season in Southern League Division One. On the one hand a supporter is clearly taking a great interest in the club, which in itself is a crucial notion in this dissertation and on the other hand the local newspaper is clearly being used as a forum to air such views, which stresses its validity as a source in this context.

When the club went through a bad run of form in November 1906, the newspaper ran an article in which the team's problems were analysed: the diagnosis offered here was that they suffered from a poor half back line. Here the local press was voicing the fans' concerns as they saw their team slump, the reporting was not merely factual, but set out to tell the supporter what he or she needed to know about the team. It seems that the identification between the newspaper and the club was cemented in early 1908 when the term "our" was first used in conjunction with the team. A report in January 1908 described Watford as "our visitors" and thus it seems that, in the eyes of the community, Crystal Palace Football Club had now become their team. It is interesting to note that the newspaper's modern day successor, The Croydon Advertiser, continues today in its historic association with the football club. The impact here was cumulative and crucially pervasive in that a very strong association was built up between the community and its club, an association often borne out in the local press.


Before forming any overall conclusions it is important to consider briefly the catchment area the club had during the period in question. In Chapter One mention was made of what was described as a geographical region of support that the club possessed. Clearly before the club's foundation in 1905 there was a significant part of South London and beyond that did not yet have 'its' own professional club to support. Thus the fact that Crystal Palace FC was able to have established itself across such a wide area was on the one hand not totally surprising, but on the other indicative of the nature of its impact upon the community. In its coverage of the build up to the 1906/07 Southern League campaign an article in the local press said the following of the club: "the area from which support will be obtained is an exceedingly large and populous one." Whilst much of what has been said in this chapter refers to the most local community in the environs of the Crystal Palace itself this source, amongst others, indicates that there was also a wider community impacted by the club as well, even during the club's early years. A relatively small club, when compared with its London neighbours such as Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal on the north side of the city, was radiating outwards.

Mason argues that the early part of Edward VII's reign saw a mini mania for setting up professional football clubs in London and Crystal Palace FC should certainly be seen in this context. Looking subsequently at the impact the club had upon its wider community it is noticeable that a number of notable amateur football teams seemed to have formed around the same time in this area. It is clearly very difficult to account for the exact motivations behind each foundation, but considering the stimulus that Crystal Palace FC was to many facets of the local community one might suggest that the enthusiastic support the club was able to generate at least partially translated itself into the foundation of amateur clubs. A look through the photo archive in the Croydon library alone reveals that the following clubs all started up around the period in question: South Croydon Wednesday FC, Croydon Empire Palace FC, Croydon Parish Church CLB FC, Croydon Postal FC, Selhurst Albion FC and Croydon Tramways FC.

Although much of this particular hypothesis cannot easily be proved, these arguments, taken alongside others discussed in the chapter, seem to paint a picture of the club having a concentrated impact upon the local community as well as a more general impact upon the wider community up to Croydon and beyond. It is thus indicative of the stature the club had obtained within the community that in April 1909 that the Athletic News could describe the team's poor form in the FA Cup as "one of the disappointments of London football this season." This was not just disappointing for a few local fans, but in a wider context as well: Crystal Palace FC had become part of the London football scene.


By simply being founded at the time and in the place it was, Crystal Palace Football Club had an impact upon its community. It had a world famous venue to play at and impressive infrastructure by which it could be reached. Therefore, to an extent, a professional club at this location that had been less well run than the Palace would also have had much of this primary impact. In a secondary sense too it is clear that the club was able to build upon the favourable circumstances of its foundation to achieve a wider impact. The club actively sought to cultivate its fan base and this dedication was reciprocated in the way these supporters rallied behind their club. Beyond all of this the club also clearly established itself on the community to the extent that it was able to overcome the difficulties posed by World War One.

If some degree of primary impact seems undeniable we must be careful, however, not to overemphasise this secondary impact and in so doing to imagine that the gaps in our evidence such as the low number of recorded home attendances in the 1913/14 season would, if filled, merely serve to underline a very positive conclusion. Likewise the chief local newspaper of the time, The Crystal Palace District Times and Advertiser was unashamedly championing the club. Since this is a chief source for this dissertation it should be accepted and acknowledged that the newspaper rarely fails to give the club favourable coverage and thus needs to be handled with care. Descriptions such as the Newcastle victory celebrations in January 1907 may well have been talked up beyond what actually occurred. Yet that the newspaper was keen to print such reports hints that such positive stories about the club were what much of its audience wanted to read, and therefore again shows the level of popular support the club had. It should also be re-emphasised that the club played at a very suitable location, which was well supported by public transport such as the South London tram system and of course the Crystal Palace station. Perhaps if the club's supporters had had to take a more arduous route to the stadium, as many of their peers in the North did, we may have a better indication of their commitment. Having said all this the caveats here are largely outweighed by the positive nature of the evidence suggesting the club had a significant impact upon its community.

Having established that the club had an impact on its community at various levels it has therefore been important to consider the nature of this impact. There is no better way of judging the nature of a football club's impact upon its local community than in the commitment and passion of its supporters and this is exactly what Crystal Palace FC seems to have generated in our period. To see the celebrations in January 1907 following the FA Cup victory over Newcastle United at St James' Park as typical behaviour would be an exaggeration; this was an exceptional scenario, but the many other descriptions of supporters' joy and emotional involvement with the club point to a genuine impact. It was not as if the club was always highly successful between 1905 and 1918 so the degree of consistent commitment we can observe was not simply a case of people supporting a winning team. Throughout the period though, match reports attest to the entertaining style of play at the Palace and how it was well received by the supporters. When one adds to this the wider effect the club seems to have had on its community as a whole such as economic opportunities for local businesses and the obvious status to which it had risen by the end of our period the overall impact it had is emphasised.

Likewise, although it could be argued that with the ravenous potential support available in South London and further South East, where no professional club yet existed, a new club in the region could not fail to attract a fan base, the collapse of Croydon Common FC in 1915 suggests otherwise. Crystal Palace Football Club had an initial advantage over its Croydon rival in terms of location, but was also, under the shrewd leadership of Goodman, far more concerted in its efforts to attract support and impact upon the community. If one looks north of the border Queen's Park FC played at Hampden Park, the home of Scottish football and venue for their Cup Final, but this club had far less of an impact upon its community than Crystal Palace achieved: another indication that the South London club had to do far more than play at a prominent stadium to have the impact it did.

In many ways, the nature of the club's impact upon its community, can best be seen by looking at factors other than the basic events of a home match day afternoon. The watching of professional football in England had been a massive social phenomenon since the closing decade of the nineteenth century so it was hardly remarkable that the people of South London were so ready to watch a local team when it was founded. Crucially, however, this was not the extent of Crystal Palace FC's impact upon its community. The evidence clearly points to the club's economic impact in terms of the way it created a captive market for local businesses and alongside this the club also became a focus for community activity. It is only when these factors are considered fully that the variegated nature of the club's impact is revealed. From a football perspective the support afforded to the club was fairly predictable given the contemporary climate, even if the large scale it came to take on at the Palace was perhaps less so, but given the above the impact of the club can be seen as a wider social phenomenon. Whether or not a resident of Anerley, for example, was a football fan he or she would not have been able to ignore the way the club had visibly affected his or her community.

Despite the immense disruption the Great War had upon the club, Crystal Palace FC continued to prosper in the years afterwards, gaining promotion to Division Two of the Football League in 1921. This ultimately revealed the club's strength and the relative depth of impact it had had upon the community between 1905 and 1918. Crystal Palace clearly did not become one of England's leading clubs and certainly had had a great head start by its prestigious and popular location so we must not over exaggerate its impact. Yet the evidence we have does attest to a significant degree of identification with the club amongst its supporters and that the club gained considerable status within the community. Whilst there is no numerical scale we can use to answer this question we can certainly conclude that the club's very survival points to a degree of impact on the community and its net progress between 1905 and 1918, despite its difficulties, indicates that this impact was far reaching and not temporary.