Updated: Apr 1
“Premier League games are completely sold out and fans of all ages are frustrated by a lack of atmosphere. Supporters can’t do what their predecessors did and just go and stand with like-minded fans on the terrace. That’s definitely what’s happening in the Premiership and other clubs at the moment.”
More often than not, throughout the course of a footballing season, you'll find that it's the away section of fans that are making the lions share of noise in England's all-seater stadiums. This is not the case at South London's Selhurst Park. A lot of this is down to the Palace Ultras, The Holmesdale Fanatics.
If you are unfamiliar with the name, the HF05 are a united block of English Ultras, who have re-installed an atmosphere that genuine football fans can relate to, whether it's the older generation, recalling being stood on the terraces, or the younger generations, who have had memories of rowdy atmospheres growing up. Armed with drums and banners, The HF provide an hostile but electric environment for their beloved Palace to thrive in. It has been described as a continental approach, where 90 minutes of noise is the norm.
The work of the HF is good for football, but how it was initially received is a strange phenom. Having spent the past 20 years ejecting fans for standing, and generally trying to pacify the passionate footballing public, it appears that people at the top of the English Footballing hierarchy are finally coming around to the idea that after all, football games need an atmosphere, and the crowd are the ones that can provide this.
The atmosphere at Selhurst is undeniable, and in previous years, you would be hard pressed to not notice the section of fans, clad in all-black, stationed in Block B. However the renowned ambience in the stadium has not come without paying a price. Feeling they'd outgrown their space in the bottom corner of the stadium, the HF proposed a move into a more central space in the stadium, behind the goal. This was met with both approval and rejection, as the club asked season ticket holders to give their regular seats up for a seat elsewhere, and got rejected. This had lead to a temporary postponement of HF activity, until their dispute could be settled, as seen last year.
Understandably, some fans were aggrieved about the fact that the group that are quintessential to the buzz around Selhurst Park were to be absent for the season; "Lets be honest, its going to be fucking grim. When we're 2-0 down to Wolves in the pissing rain, wheres the noise going to come from?"
Obviously, on the other hand, the HF will have had to deal with comments from fans, long-standing or new, that disagree with what the Fanatics stand for. Commenting on a forum, one fan bid good riddance to the HF and "they're big noisy drum" (their words), after the disagreement, a thought that was echoed by a few other fans, who, it seems, have an issue with decent ground atmosphere. I can imagine these people are the type that don't enjoy a last minute equaliser from a team that have been spurred on by an intense spell of pressure, inspired by the surrounding atmosphere. I can't, however, imagine these would be the types of people you'd be the first to ring at half 10 on a Saturday night when you get an invite to a party.
Fortunately, an agreement was reached and the Fanatics re-positioned behind the goal, allowing for more of a focal point and for more fans to get involved from around the stand. One of the lads was invited down and was lucky to have experienced the atmosphere first hand; and here's what you can expect from an outing with the HF.
What to say about the Holmesdale Road end.. I’ve been up there a handful of times now, the atmosphere in there never disappoints, even 2-0 down to Southampton on a Tuesday night. They’ll have you chanting for 90 minutes and still tell you the atmosphere was scrap. I remember watching the HF from the away end back when they had the smaller allocation and thinking “they’re a right set of fans”. To get in amongst it this year behind the goal was class.
I hear them get some stick, even from their own lot, but I honestly think more teams in the league would benefit from a similar setup. If you think the noise from these lot doesn’t have an effect on the pitch, ask Lewis Dunk.
Love hearing about the relationships they have with other foreign clubs, there’s some stories there. But I’ll never get my head round how a lad can go a full game on the megaphone phone and barely turn round to watch the action.
Every time I leave Selhurst with a bigger hatred for Brighton. It might be the Hodgson style of play that draws me back every time but when footballs back, I’ll be back down the Homesdale Road end.
A fugazi South East Londoner.
The HF have lifted the Selhurst Park atmosphere, to the envy of the country. Like or loathe Palace, and the HF for that matter, there is no denying that they've managed to produce a semblance that is unlike most others in the UK, at this current time. The Holmesdale fanatics' support, and their social influence has not gone unnoticed by the powers-that-be at Palace, with the Chairman hailing the HF as being a 'crucial part' of the Selhurst Park atmosphere. Having a solid core, and an ever growing following, the singing section behind the goal is often the first place people look when Palace are either on MOTD, or when their games are televised. With this exposure to the mainstream, the HF have staged many protests; ranging from the rage against "Premier Greed" in terms of ticket prices for football matches, to affiliation with a successful last ditch attempt to save iconic London nightclub, Fabric. More recent protests have taken aim at VAR, but that's a discussion for another day.
A fantastic asset to the club, it is clear that the HF have inspired others since their birth in 2005. The players, past and present have frequently commented on the quality of the support, and visiting managers such as Jose Mourinho has often waxed fond about the Palace fans, seen applauding the HF more than once.
The HF have not just made their own friends, but also the club, on home shores and abroad. The general stance of the group, alongside the dispute that they currently find themselves in has attracted support from Ultras around the world. Reaching as far as Greek team Panionios, a special relationship has flourished between the two sets of like-minded fans. The HF have also made friends with the ultras of PSG, and were invited to join forces with the Parisians when they travelled to Naples, as an act of solidarity with the European heavyweights during their recent Champions League clash.
As seen during this Corteo in Italy, these groups (generally) aren't attending games to cause trouble. They aren't out to exclude themselves from the rest of the crowd, and to alienate certain individuals, based on race, religion, or background. They are merely aiming to create the kind of experience that all football fans dream of; of 90 minutes of non-stop, raucous support for their team that has been long sought after, and in this country, long abolished. It is brilliant shows of solidarity, as seen by the PSG Ultras that can only help to establish the positive relationships between fans and expose the right kind of attitude towards football, to fans worldwide. The HF epitomise what is good about being a football fan, and have created an enviable environment which is helping them become a big part of the English Footballing landscape.