The last 36 hours have been awash with rumours and increased speculation about the potential changes that may be ahead regarding the future ownership of Crystal Palace FC. With an American man who 99% of the fanbase being linked as the potential owner, Paul Darville from TheEaglesBeak asks the questions to New Jersey Devils fan, Tim Joyce aka @timjoyce.
PD: Hi Tim, when Joshua Harris and his group of investors took over the NJ Devils, what was their outlying plans? Was their a short term gain or a long term outlook?
TJ: The biggest problem with the Devils is they always had attendance and revenue problems despite winning 3 championships in 95, 00, and 03. They also went on a run and challenged for the Stanley Cup in 2012 but came up short. Same in 2001. Got to the final round in both. So they’ve been one of the elite teams in the NHL, on the ice, for the last 20 years. But they could never fill the building on a regular basis. They’re part of a very crowded NY sports landscape, with 3 other hockey teams within 90 minutes of each other. So to equate that to the London market, it definitely fits. Their plans were to make the Devils an elite franchise off the ice as well. And they’ve been doing that by increasing sponsorships and selling many more premium tickets. They also increased the season ticket holder base and have a goal within 3 years to be at 13,000 season ticket holders (that’s what top franchises in the NHL have). I believe they’ll do it. I do too. The long term outlook is outstanding. They’re in it for the long haul and I’m very happy about it.
PD: Was there a staff turnover in place in terms of playing staff or on the managerial side?
TJ: The Devils have had the same General Manager since 1987, Lou Lamoriello. Think how Fergie was such a part of the fabric of United. That’s what Lou is to the Devils. There was zero turnover in the staff on the managerial or players side. There was no need. They let Lou do what he does best and they took care of the business side. On the business side, they hired a CEO and President who have been absolutely amazing at their jobs. The President of the team, Hugh Weber, is amazingly personable and you can always see him walking around the arena and always open to talking and improving for the fans. That’s the best thing about Harris, it’s ALL about the fans. You can trust them to hire great people for the club.
PD: How famous is Joshua Harris in America? Is he well known within the public eye?
TJ:Not at all. I’m sure he’s very well known in the hedge fund world, but on a day-to-day basis, no one knows who he is. And that’s a good thing honestly.
PD: Were there any plans or changes made regarding the team’s stadium since the new owners came in?
TJ: Yes! They created new points of sale and expanded the team store and also changed the concessions and they’re hands down the best of any stadium I’ve been to. They put a specific New Jersey touch to them with our very famous diners and also the legendary Jersey Shore boardwalk. If there are things specific to Palace fans and that subculture, they will exploit that in the best way possible, for the good of the club. Our arena (Prudential Center) only opened in 2007 so there really didn’t need to be much improved in terms of the structure itself.
PD: How have ticket prices changed in terms of long term ticket holders as well as those that purchase single game tickets?
TJ: They created many different price points around the whole arena which helps the franchise as a whole and keep the value of tickets at the right amount. They don’t jack up prices at all. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 12 years now and from last year to this year, my prices went up by $2 per game. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. They’re fair.
PD: What sort of owner is Joshua Harris? Is he hands-on or the sort of man that can take a back seat and allow those more experienced to run the team for him?
TJ: He’s more the money man. He trusts the men he hires to run the team. He’s still running his hedge fun so he isn’t spending all day just running the Devils and 76ers. His company specializes in buying poorly performing companies and completely turning them around. That’s how he made his money. He’s really good at it. If Palace could turn into a club like Stoke then I think you guys should be very excited.
PD: English fans have bad visions of potential American owners after the Glazers, Randy Lerner and the previous Liverpool owners (Gillett/Hicks), would Harris be someone who would embrace the English game, much as John Henry has in recent years at Liverpool?
TJ: Absolutely!! Glazer saw United as a profitable endeavor, Lerner uses Villa as a toy, and Gillett/Hicks just got way over their heads. They don’t even own their teams here in the States anymore. The popularity of the EPL has skyrocketed the last 3-4 years in the NY Metro area. The owners will absolutely embrace the game. There may be a learning curve. There was with Devils fans. But they’ll adjust. Let them know and they’ll do their best to make the fans happy.
PD: What would you say has been the biggest change that Joshua Harris has made in terms of improving the NJ Devils infrastructure?
TJ: Perfect example…The Devils had a player named Zach Parise who could’ve been one of the best Devils of all time. He was up for a new contract and issues with the franchise on a money level caused him to go elsewhere. Money is now never ever a problem again in terms of signing someone. If Lou Lamoriello thinks a player should get X amount of dollars, Harris is cool with it. The NHL has a salary cap so you can’t just pay a guy whatever. You have to work within a certain structure. But you guys won’t have to worry about losing young players based SOLELY on salary. That’s a good thing. You’re not going to get Ronaldo obviously, but you could hang on to a good young player a little longer before you sell him off for a higher price.
PD: If you could describe your thoughts about Joshua Harris in 5 words, what would they be?
TJ: Intelligent man who loves fans.
PD: Should Palace fans be excited by this move?
TJ: Absolutely. Give him one full season. They’ll figure everything out. You’ll be much better in the long run. I honestly don’t know much about your ownership situation right now, but I can promise it will get much much better with Josh Harris.
We’d like to thank Tim for taking his time out to not only answer 10 questions for TheEaglesBeak.com, but for also answering countless questions from other Palace fans. You can follow Tim at @timjoyce, and if you are a fan of ice hockey in general, but don’t have a team to support, why not lend your fandom to his team the New Jersey Devils, a “legendary, fun team to watch”, but most importantly of all, we may now have a connection with this team through Joshua Harris and his partners.