The NFL has has come to England via Crystal Palace

Jul 23, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Crystal Palace fans tailgate in the lot prior to the friendly match versus the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 23, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Crystal Palace fans tailgate in the lot prior to the friendly match versus the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports /

Crystal Palace is not your average Premier League Club. One need only travel to Selhurst Park on game day to see that. No other English ground will bombard you with cheerleaders at the opening of the match and no other fan base could embrace a figure so divisive as Alan Pardew. Many fans see the tactics of Crystal Palace as a novelty act, but not me. I see their tactics for what they are: a direct copy of what has been successful for NFL franchises over the years.

Before you begin to question whether or not Palace is a successful Club let me point out they currently sit fourth in the standings. That means if the season ended today Alan Pardew’s side would qualify for Champions League football. While I don’t expect them to keep this pace up, it’s still a remarkable achievement eight games into the season. No one saw this coming with the possible exception of the Club’s most fervent fans and the ever confident, Pardew.

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On top of their on field success, they also have experienced success in the box office. Their upcoming match against West Ham is already sold out and the demand for entrance into Selhurst Park is the highest it’s been in years. A club of Palace’s size depends heavily on gate revenue so the uptick in demand reflects very positively on their long term outlook.

So now that we’ve established Palace are on a hot streak both on the pitch and at the bank, the question we must answer is how have they pulled this off. They aren’t blessed with any geographical favors given their proximity to bigger clubs and with all due respect to Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie there are no superstar players on their side to win games on their own or draw fans in droves. Instead, at the leadership level Crystal Palace made a very wise decision. They made the choice not to be like the rest of the Premier League. They realized they can’t out history Liverpool or outspend Chelsea so they opted to compete in a different fashion altogether.

Instead, they looked across the sea and studied what made NFL franchises successful. They took these principles, applied many of them to the Palace product and now they are reaping the benefits. The most important choice they made was to ignore how many felt about Alan Pardew and just worry about how their fans felt about him. Palace fans love the oftentimes arrogant manager and that’s all that really matters.

Palace stopped worrying about the popularity contest across all of England, and smartly catered to its own fans. Bill Belichick is considered by many Americans to be a cheating, arrogant, despicable head football coach. Patriot fans don’t care at all about that. They love Belichick, the hoodie and everything that goes with it. He is their coach in the same way that Pardew is Palace’s manager. That subtle shift in philosophy has meant a world of difference for Palace and would be well observed by other Premier League clubs.

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  • Palace also looked to the NFL to guide its player acquisition strategy. They spent the majority of their time and effort in the off season retaining their valuable core. They didn’t panic and sell stalwarts like Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon who certainly had the interest of higher clubs. They also paid a great deal of attention to reintegrating Wilfried Zaha back into the side. They really only sprinkled in one high level acquisition in Yohan Cabaye. We see over and over again the most successful NFL franchises take care of their own players and only spend money to add quality in key spots. Crystal Palace followed this strategy perfectly in the off season.

    I joked a bit earlier about the cheerleaders at Selhurst Park, but they are clearly a feature from the NFL. While a lot of football purists find them silly and off putting, I don’t see it hurting their attendance. I’d venture to say that many of their red blooded fans quite like the “spirit” they bring to game day. What’s most important is that it provides them with another point of differentiation from their more established peers. It gives them something different to sell to perspective fans.

    Many English fans are wondering when the NFL is going to come to England. News flash, it already has. Crystal Palace has been using NFL philosophies to succeed all year.