Supporters of such rival clubs as Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon and Brighton have long suspected it and now it is official: Crystal Palace are in danger of becoming a Mickey Mouse outfit. The south Londoners have held talks with representatives of Walt Disney, which wants to forge links with one or more football clubs similar to the agreement the film company has with the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
The Braves play warm-up matches and hold out-of-season training sessions at the Wide World of Sports facility at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which Celtic used during Scotland's winter break this year, playing a friendly against Tampa Bay Mutiny. A Celtic spokesman confirmed: "It was a very good trip, and there was talk of a link-up, though I don't think it's been taken any further."
According to Disney officials, a football club would benefit from warm-weather training amid impressive facilities, while the corporation would hope to tempt supporters into holidaying there. "We have five pitches and we cater for more than 30 different sports," a spokesman said. "We would like to attract more high-calibre teams to our facility."
Whether a side that only avoided relegation to the Second Division in the final few minutes of last season comes into that category has yet to be decided. Palace's own Lion King, the ambitious chairman Simon Jordan, does not lack faith, however, in either himself or his club, having promised as they flirted with relegation: "I know I will have a Premiership club on my hands in a very short space of time. It will happen." Yesterday he said: "Disney are looking to link up with a British club and we are just seeing if it could be us."
The Football Association has dismissed suggestions that a Great Britain team might contest future Olympic Games's. The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, had said that a united team competing in Greece would not affect the influence held by England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the world governing body, but the FA's spokesman, Adrian Bevington, said yesterday: "This proposal is not under consideration."
Alan Shearer, the Newcastle United striker, is to visit a specialist on Friday. The former England captain, who collected his OBE from Buckingham Palace yesterday, has not played since March after surgery on tendinitis in his knee, but he is confident the injury is finally beginning to heal.