Like many Addicks, I am a long-standing member of the Valley Gold scheme. At £10 a month its real cost has gone down over time, although I see that we are now being urged to take out multiple subscriptions. It's a way of supporting the club's Academy work which gives you the chance of winning a prize (I got £500 once).
There are currently 1,720 subscribers, although some of these have multiple memberships. So at a guesstimate it might raise £225k a year but then you have to take off the cost of the prizes and of administration by the slightly oddly named 'Charlton club'.
I also get the Valley Gold magazine which I don't always read as closely as I should. But having some time last week between afternoon meetings and an evening reception at the House of Commons I sat down in St.James's Park, ignored the tourists feeding and photographing lazy squirrels and read it from cover to cover.
Understandably there is a feature on Callum Harriot. He is the current Academy product who gives the greatest cause for hope and let's hope that he realises his potential. There haven't been so many in recent years and the two most promising ones (Shelvey and Jenkinson) have been snapped up by top clubs, albeit providing us with some cash flow. But I suspect that in all Academy operations, many are called and few are chosen. The non-league system is certainly full of former Academy players who failed to make the cut.
It's possibly a little disingenuous of Valley Gold to say, 'Charlton's academy has always been about providing players for our first team - we've never intended to sell players after four to eight years of development for another club's benefit.'
What was of concern to me, and what I had not realised before, was that proposed changes to the academy system which are due to be implemented in the 2012/13 season could have a significant and negative impact on our efforts.
Academies are going to be categorised and basically you need a lot of readies to get into the coveted category one. For example, you would have to provide on-site school provision from the age of 14 (requiring tutors and classrooms) plus at least seven full-tme coaching staff.
As the Valley Gold magazine comments, 'More worryingly, category one clubs would only play matches against other category one clubs.' In other words, Arsenal or Chelsea would no longer have to face the possible humiliation of defeat by Charlton. As the magazine goes on to note, 'This is an area of real concern because it looks as though it's another step towards the academy system becoming more elitist.'
Clearly moves of this kind could undermine the academy's recruitment strategy, leading to a fall in the quality of the players. Quite what we can do about this is another matter.
Congratulations to the Bromley Addicks on raising enough money to support the U15s. This group of supporters has always been very prominent in club activities, including organising very interesting meetings.
Incidentally, I see someone has written a book on supporting Bromley FC which is to be turned into a film. His parents wouldn't let him go to Palace as it was all kicking off down there. My first thought was why didn't he go to The Valley, but then I realised this was probably in our exile years and before the return to The Valley when the Bromley branch turned up in an open top bus.