This afternoon at 3.28 pm – just a couple of hours after starting the publicity drive that would lead up to the game on Friday – the official Bath City FC twitter feed announced that the Friendly with Crystal Palace was off.

Aaarrrggghhhh! Due to awful weather, Crystal Palace have cut short their pre season tour of South West and THE MATCH ON FRIDAY IS CANCELLED

The reason, given on the Palace website shortly afterwards was:

Upon arrival at our training base in Exeter on Monday we found the facilities unusable due to flooding and with no adequate alternative facilities available we made the decision to return to London.

Having made that decision it was not in the best interests of the squad to travel back down to Bath on Friday evening and we made the unfortunate decision to cancel the friendly because of circumstances beyond our control.

OK, fair enough so far. But the statement continues…

The club are actively looking for an alternative match which will take place on the same date and will be announced in due course.

Woa there! Back up a touch. You’re looking for another game on Friday? So nothing to do with protecting untrained players from injury? Exeter isn’t exactly 5 minutes from Bath, so there was going to be travelling anyway. Basically Palace you’re bored with the M4, oh do fuck off. Get your arses on a coach, it’s a couple of hours down the motorway, come and honour your commitment to play a friendly match against Bath City.

But then, just 200 minutes later at 18:48 the official Palace Twitter account announces that alternative match has magically been arranged in under four hours:

We will take on Lewes at the Dripping Pan on Friday evening in our first pre-season friendly. Kick-off 7.30pm. Details tomorrow morning.

That was despite an offer from Bath City to play the game in Croydon in exchange for half the gate.

To be fair there appear to be as many Palace fans angry as Bath fans, given that many of them have forked out for train tickets and B&B’s in Bath. But a few Palace fans seem to think my twitter anger was an over-reaction, but they forget that there is a world of difference in the financial situation at the two clubs. While for Palace this is a virtually meaningless training session, for Bath this match against Championship opposition represented a stiff test on the pitch and a decent payday off it. Best part of 1000 heads at £10 a head, plus associated income from the bar. Instead the club turned down other good offers of matches for this weekend and the opportunity to host a function in the bar.

So why have Palace done this? Well, I’ve no direct evidence, but the fact that Palace did pinch highly rated winger Bayan Fenwick from Lewes in March this year for an undisclosed fee doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Perhaps Lewes were threatening a tribunal, perhaps the deal was always supposed to be a friendly match but some idiot forgot to arrange it. Whatever the reason, Palace have behaved like the amateur club in this situation.

So why am I writing this? Well, I just like to get things that piss me off, off my chest. I also know that Bath City are far too professional to publicly complain about Crystal Palace’s behaviour, I on the other hand have no qualms about doing so, so I’d like it on the record in perpetuity that Crystal Palace have acted like a bunch of unprofessional fuckwits.

Update 1:

It would appear that the majority of Palace fans believe that it is the professional thing to do the best by their players (3-hour round trip coach rather than a 5-hour one), and to hell with the effects on little old Bath. Just another symptom of football being pretty much rotten to the core, but perhaps calling Palace unprofessional was a little harsh…

Update 2:

Sounds like Bath City chairman Manda Rigby has been putting the squeeze on Palace today and this statement has been put on ilovebathcity website (official site currently under refurbishment).

…the club has accepted the Eagles sincere apologies for the late withdrawal from Friday’s pre-season friendly and their reasons for doing so. To make up for costly cancellation Palace have agreed to send a strong first team to Mayday Trust Park to face City during the 2012-13 season, and provide possible assistance with loan players during the campaign. With the financial impact of the cancellation mitigated by the actions of Palace, City are now attempting to get the footballing side of pre season back on track, urgently searching for opposition to replace the fixture.

So well done Manda for embarrassing Palace into this. We wait with baited breath to see if such a match will actually take place (we did have their word they’d turn up this Friday, after all), and how strong the team would be. I doubt such a mid-season friendly will attract as many fans; but still, credit where credit’s due for recognising their wrong-doing and saying they’ll put it right. Perhaps they’re not fuckwits after all.

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