Wednesday 20 September 2023

'A club perpetually poised on the brink of crisis'

 For various reasons it has taken me some time to carefully read Michael Appleton's double page interview in Sunday's Football League Paper.  We all know from Gobby's days as manager that there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

Nevertheless, Appleton talks frankly and what he has to say shows realism and make sense.   He admits that he has made mistakes, but he is tried to learn from them.  There is something to be said for experience even if the record is mixed which is perhaps unavoidable in the lower leagues.

The FLP is rightly critical of our recent troubles:

  • 'The Addicks have churned through owners and managers at a prodigious rate in recent years and appear a club perpetually poised on a brink if crisis'
  • 'A youthful side - that for all its potential - looks desperately raw'
  • 'Charlton have now changed manager mid-season for a fourth successive season'
Appleton says that he wants to take the club back into the Championship 'and then to be competitive there.  But for us to do that, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.  A hell of a lot.   There's stuff that needs to be sorted out and rectified before you can even think of promotion.'

'Yes, the club's got great tradition.  It's a very, very big fanbase, especially when you give them something to shout about.  But, for me, the potential of these players to improve - and fast - that was the big attraction.'

'I want to improve the intensity in the way in which we play.  That's not just out of possession, going round kicking people and getting in people's faces.  It's how we move the ball.  I want to see this team press the ball forward much more than it has done.  If you look at my previous teams, that doesn't mean going gung-ho or playing 50- and 60-yard passes straight to the striker.'

'Be positive.  Try things.  And if you make mistakes, makes sure they're positive mistakes. Don't give the ball away because you've been tentative or unsure.  Give it away because you tried to do something progressive.'

'League One is as open as it's been for a long, long time. In previous seasons there have been three or four really big clubs who've had the budgets and squads to cope with 46 games a lot better than most teams at this level.'

Appleton seems to realise that his tenure may be limited: 'If I can be the person who starts that fightback, it's not a bad legacy is it?'

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Rapid managerial turnover is no panacea

Short termism is a British disease, but it is particularly acute in football.   It is driven by an over active stock market, now reinforced by the activities of hedge funds and private equity companies.  Short termism is not the only reason the UK has a chronic productivity problem. but it is certainly part of the picture.

I was struck by the following comment in the Financial Times yesterday about the success of Aldi and Lidl: 'Being private allows Aldi and Lidl to keep prying eyes at bay and not be held to ransom by shareholders if they do not meet their sales or profit forecasts.;

The chief executive of Aldi for the UK and Ireland said 'this is an absolutely tremendous strength of our business.  It means we can make very long-term decisions even when the road is bumpy.'

It's a different story in football and especially at Charlton these days.   The following edited extract from my book Political Football is relevant:

'Expectations in society generally of private or public services have increased, but this is particularly acute in the case of football where there is an immediate measure of success or failure in terms of results and tables. “It’s a results business” is one of the most familiar clichés used in relation to the game,

There has been an increase in managerial turnover. In the ten years to 31 December 2019, “103 different men have been in charge of Premier League clubs in the last 10 years, holding 153 posts between them” (Ridge 2019). Lower-league clubs are also unforgiving of managers that are perceived to be underperforming. There is often a brief improvement in performance after a manager is replaced. However, “eventually results regress to the mean” (Kuper & Szymanski 2012).

A manager’s success may well be affected by luck, such as refereeing decisions or injuries to key players. This, however, does not excuse what has often been a lack of professionalism in the recruitment process. Simon Kuper notes that in hiring managers, as a rule “research is usually hasty. A club owner rings a man’s mobile and offers him the job, typically days after sacking the previous incumbent” (Kuper 2020).

The process of recruitment is slowly becoming more professional. Jürgen Klopp was the subject of a 60-page report by Fenway Sports Group, and he was then interviewed for several hours at a New York law firm before his appointment at Liverpool. However, the Covid-19 pandemic may change the emphasis on external recruitment. Less well-financed clubs “will tend to give top jobs to internal hires with briefs to sell players and develop cheap youngsters” (Kuper 2020a).

The manager may not be as key a factor as some popular discussions of football assume, but that does not mean that they have no impact at all on performance. Examining data on managers that have been in charge for 30 games or more, which would tend to exclude the worst-performing managers, Szymanski (working with Thomas Peeters) found that about 20 per cent of a population of over 1,000 managers had a positive impact on their club that was statistically significant.

Any fan could produce a list of managers they considered to be outstanding and this is consistent with the finding that “most managers made little difference, while a few have a significant impact” (Szymanski 2015). There are exceptional managers, but there are fewer of them than is generally supposed which helps to explain why there is so much disappointment with the performance of managers. This is magnified by the perception of the manager as “some kind of dream maker, who ‘gives hope’ to fans” (Carter 2006).  [Carter writes extensively about Charlton and Jimmy Seed in particular].

Disposing of a manager can be expensive. Chelsea paid out £96 million in compensation to departing managers and their staffs in the 15 years to 2019. It cost Chelsea £23.1 million to sack the “special one” in 2007/8 and £8.3 million in 2015/16. It cost Manchester United £19.6 million to sack him in 2018/19. That’s a total bill of £51 million.    [Even at Charlton there is compensation to be paid].

Friday 8 September 2023

'Experienced' manager takes the reins

As anticipated by the bookmakers, Michael Appleton has been appointed the new head coach at Charlton.  He took training this morning.

Appleton has been round the lower leagues and, inevitably, has a connection with Oxford United.  He tends to have relatively short tenures in managerial or coaching roles, but that fits with the new Charlton way:

I don't see that he is a great advance on Dean Holden and the materials he will have to work with remain limited.  At least we are doing our bit to reduce unemployment in football as he has been out of work for eight months.

Of course, I wish him well and hope that he proves me wrong.  I am generally a glass half full person, but I have rarely been so ;pessimistic about the state of the club.   Perhaps things can only get better.

BTW, Lee Bowyer is now coaching Montserrat.

Sunday 27 August 2023

What went wrong, Part 6, and the future

The ESI episode was so bizarre but also so worrying that it is difficult to sum it up.   Best just to refer back to the court hearing.  This account gives a sense of the confusion:

The Sandgaard period is very fresh in our memories.  I think that he was well intentioned but naive, a typical example of a businessman successful in another field thinking he can sort out the much more challenging and uncertain world of football.  He under estimated how much getting promoted would cost and, like Roland, involved some unsuitable people in running the club, not least his son.  I am more tolerant than some of his egotistical guitar playing antics.  If you are going to put millions into a loss making business, you are entitled to a bit of fun.

I find it difficult to work out what the strategy of the fragmented present ownership is.  If they want to make money out of Charlton, they should get the club promoted to the Championship and then sell it on as a potential Premier League club.   That requires much more investment than has been forthcoming.

Indeed, apart from Alfie May, it's the old story: use Academy players while they are still developing and see what we can pick up at the end of the transfer window on the cheap or as loan signings.  We were very fortunate with Rak Sakyi last year.

I can only suggest that you follow Drinking During the Game on this topic,  Like Dave, I am sceptical about Charlie Methven whom I think is a slippery customer.  VOTV website editor Rick Everitt has been surprisingly silent on the topic: usually he is first in the queue to denounce a new owner.  However, he may be weighed down by his civic duties.

In my view there were two crucial turning points in our history.   First, and most crucially, the failure to back Jimmy Seed when he wanted to make Charlton the Arsenal of South London by developing The Valley and making marquee signings.  Second, the mess made of the Alan Curbishley succession.  He should have been allowed to stay on for a final year while potential successors were researched.  Instead we got Dowie and his all purpose PowerPoint.

What future for Charlton?

'Charlton till I die' has more meaning for some of us and I am unlikely to see the end of this saga, but it may not be a happy one.  Charlton had the third biggest loss in League One in the last accounting period and has one of the biggest debts (£20m).  The ground and the training ground are owned by Roland who is said to want an excessive £50m for them.

So here are three scenarios with probabilities attached:

1. Charlton get promoted to the Championship and are bought by a seriously rich individual who is prepared to spend to get the club in the Premier League.  20 per cent.

2. Charlton muddle through as a mid-table League One club (perhaps including one season in League Two).  40 per cent.

3. Charlton fall into the National League, the club is no longer viable or sustainable.  Fans form AFC Charlton using a Kent non-ground and entering Step 6 of the non-league pyramid.

That's my last post for a while, unless there is some major development at the club.

Friday 25 August 2023

What went wrong, part 5

Some Charlton fans think that the Roland era was much better than what followed or went before, although it's not a competitive league.   Steve Sutherland thinks that Charlton fans will rue amtagonising Rolamd and he does still own the stadium and the training ground.

Roland's idea of a network of European clubs was not in principle a bad one and Manchester City have produced a more sophisticated version on a global basis:   Indeed, Chelsea have now said they will follow suit.

However, it all went wrong for Roland when he lost the mother ship, Standard Liege, after fans there got fed up with him.  All the other clubs in the network apart from Charlton were third rate at best.

So let's look at the charge sheet against Roland.  He appointed as chief executive a lawyer with no previous experience of football who made errors in negotiating contracts.  She introduced gimmicks like the fan sofa, eventually destroyed by fans.  Nevertheless, she subsequently commanded an annual salary estimated to be £137,000 in a similar position at Sheffield Wednesday.

The really big puzzle is why she made no use of her knowledge of competition law.  Roland believed that his financial model would work because there was bound to be a levelling of the playing field in English football, certainly in the EFL.  Katrien Meire should have told him that any such move would have been open to challenge in the courts umder both domestic and EU competition law.   The Premier League had already had its fingers burnt in a face off with the European Commission in 2006.

One of Roland's first acts was to sell off Yann Kermorgant.   He then foisted on us a series of incompetent players from the continent, advised by someone with a laptop and no football background.   When Chris Powell got us promoted, he failed to back him with sufficient funds.  We then had a rapid succession of managers largely in the range barely adequate to useless.

One of the most effective critques of Roland's stewardship ws provided by Millwall fan Rod Liddle:

The barmy Belgian had a great opportunity, but he ended up doing us a lot of harm.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

What went wrong, part 4

Producing this narrative has taken longer than I intended, but I have been afflicted by health challenges.  Indeed, the NHS came to my rescue on Saturday with prompt and decisive action, telling me that I had 'dodged a bullet'.

A persistent belief of some Charlton fans is that prospective purchasers of the club are interested in a property play, although, of course, Roland currently owns The Valley and the training ground.  The Valley is a very awkward site for development and it is in South London not North London.   Watching University Challenge last night, I was struck by how many contestants representing UCL and King's Cambridge were from North London.

Conversion or demolition of The Valley would be expensive.  However, the biggest problem is the constrained access which would make planning permission difficult to secure, plus the steep slope on part of the site.

Nevertheless, one group of owners, sometimes referred to in some quarters as 'the spivs' (shurely visionary entrepreneurs, ed) were backed by sufficient cash to contemplate building a soulless functional replacement stadium near the O2.

Read here about the secret plan to leave The Valley:

There were furher relevations in a court case:

In summary, 'a man called Darius Khakshouri was awarded $4m in damages at the Royal Courts of Justice. In Court 9, Mr Justice Green found in favour of Khakshouri and against Tony Jimenez and Kevin Cash after the property developer claimed he had been deceived by the pair over a loan. That loan was of £1.8m, made in the autumn of 2013, in a last-minute bid to keep Charlton Athletic in business

Cash's  business operations based offshore and split between trusts and holding companies. A similarly nebulous structure was found to lie behind Charlton’s ownership during Jimenez’s and Cash’s involvement at the club. In his ruling, Justice Green found that neither Jimenez nor Cash actually owned Charlton, another reason why their representations to Khakshouri had been deceitful.'

In 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that Jiminez would have to reveal details of his tax affairs:

Charlton does seem to be attractive to entrepreneurs who fall below the highest standards of propriety.

Thursday 3 August 2023

What went wrong, Part 2 - the Roland years

 n order to understand the Roland years, it is necessary to think about his mentality and what he was trying to achieve.  It wasn't necessarily bonkers, it was poorly designed and executed.  Steve Sutherland thinks that the biggest mistake made by Charlton fans was antagonizing Roland.   I don't agree, but I see where he is coming from.

We need some context and I have to give some personal background.   When I queued for tickets for the Greatest Game, I had to then go to Waterloo to catch a Eurostar to Brussels.  Between the mid 1990s and the late noughties, I was back and forth on Eurostar endlessly, having attended meetings in windowless rooms in Brussels.   In those days it trundled through Kent and it was always heartening to pass somewhere known for Addicktion such as Swanley or Bromley.

In the mid 1990s I was rung up out of the blue by the Cabinet Office and asked if I would represent the UK on a minor European Commission committee.  In time the EU asked me with a few weeks notice to lead a major research project while I was seconded to a UK government department to advise on EU policy,.

I was also sent to represent the EU at a conference in a remote part of China which had more ethnic minorities than Han Chinese.  I was presented with a plate of fried wasps as a great delicacy: fortunately my driver ate them.

Imagine my surprise when I switched on the television and there was a very informative feature on how Curbs and Keith Peacock worked together!

The local television station asked to interview me.  I had a minder from the EU's Beijing office and was ready with a few platitudes about pandas.  To my surprise, they had done their homework and started questioning me about levels of air pollution in Greenwich.

What has all this got to do with Roland and football?   Before the financial crisis the Commission took a great interest in football.  The key figure here was Viviane Reding from Luxembourg who was a commissioner from 1999 to 2014, initially with responsibility for sport and ultimately as a vice-president.   Like many politicians from Luxembourg, she punched about her country's weight in the EU.  I only heard her speak once (in the Grand Duchy) and she hardly set the room alight.

Reding and the Commission had a run in with the Premier League over breaches of cartel law.   Tony Blair got involved and in the end the concessions the Premier League had to make were not that onerous.  (I have written on this elsewhere).

Above all, the Commission saw football as a potential integrating force that could help to develop a European identity.   I am not suggesting that Roland talked to the Commission, but he was 'dans le vent' and could see the way the wind was blowing.   Remember that at one time he tried to set up his own political party.   More follows in the next instalment.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Solve this puzzle and win a book

We never went to reserve games at The Valley like most fans, but there was one exception.   On the 5th September 1953 my father and I saw Charlton beat Aldershot 3-0 in the Football Combination Cup.

I remember the occasion vividly because the East Terrace was so empty.   Also, shortly after we arrived, a group of fans came in and asked for the score.   My father noted that they were Aldershot fans.  Not many people go to away reserve games, but I suppose that The Valley was the attraction.

I know why we went, but I would like a funny or ingenious explanation.   The best one will win a prize of my book Political Football.   OK, it has just been remaindered at 50 per cent, but so has the publisher's whole list!   To enhance its value, I will not sign it.

Place any entries in the comments section and I will contact the lucky winner in due course.  They will also receive a surprise bonus book.

No takers yet!   My best selling ever book was on the Common Agricultural Policy (6.000) and was dedicated to Curbs which he rather enjoyed.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Is the long nightmare over?

I have to break silence to announce this:

After the 'spivs', Roland, ESI and the ego trip Danish pastry, I am naturally cautious.   I'm still not clear about their strategy, but will judge them by deeds not words.

Monday 5 June 2023

Charlton sale agreed

The signing of an agreement to sell Charlton to the SE7 Partners consortium has been confirmed:

Richard Cawley notes: 'EFL approval likely to take a number of weeks - maybe between six to eight. Joshua Friedman's takeover party also need to get a lease agreement for Valley and training ground sanctioned by Roland Duchatelet.'

VOTV website editor Rick Everitt points out: '“Sanctioned by Roland Duchatelet” - what could possibly go wrong? Last time this was required it led to a 150% rent increase. The lease will have to be amended because Sandgaard’s US firm is explicitly named in it as the guarantor.'

If the deal is finalised, fans will judge the new owners by their actions not their words.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

'That game was not a bit flat' - Curbs on the Greatest Game

The latest Four Four Two has a special feature article on then Greatest Game with interviews with Curbs, Clive Mendonca, Sasa Ilic and Mark Kinsella.   Curbs said: ''Finals are normally an anti-climax and a bit flat. That game was not a bit flat.'

Clive Mendonca recalled: 'Really I wanted to sign for Sunderland.  I'd come down to Charlton, spoken to Alan Curbishley, and was really happy with what he said.'

When Sasa Ilic didn't concede in either leg of the play off semi-finals, it extended Charlton's streak of not letting in a single goal to nine matches.   Ilic comments: 'Your mindset becomes "There's no way I'm going to concede."  You need loads of luck, but when things go well and you're thinking positively, things happen.'

At Sparrows Lane, 'coach Les Reed changed the dimensions at their training ground to match the playing surface at Wembley.  Mendonca commented: 'Wembley - honestly, it's like an ocean.  It's huge.'  Meanwhile, Mark Kinsella was concerned that Mendonca was preoccupied with arranging tickets for his Sunderland supporting family and friends.

Curbishley admits: ''We were the underdogs that day, I suppose.  But we were confident because we hadn't let any goals in and it was a settled team.'

Sunderland charm merchant Niall Quinn recalls: ''Charlton all had suits with flowers on the lapel.  I think we turned up wearing tracksuits, we were the North East tough guys who were going to take down the soft southerners in their suits.'

Curbs observed: 'We had Sunderland where we wanted them.  Because they were a very offensive team and we were quick on the counter attack.  If they committed bodies forward, as I knew they would, we could hit them on the break.'

Quinn recalls ruefully, 'Richard Rufus' goal is the one thing I still insist should have been avoided.'  Curbs states: 'When Rufus scores, you think "Blimey, perhaps our name's on it."'

Had Charlton not won, Curbs believes that the team would have been broken up.  Mendoca says: 'I wish I could have done it against any other team in the league.'

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Friedman edges in front in takeover battle

An increased Joshua Friedman offer for Charlton has been accepted, subject to contract.  Richard Cawley led to believe Thomas Sandgaard and his associates are continuing to talk with other parties including senior figure at MSD finance group, American businessman Marc Spiegel and Armenian businessman Roman Gevorkyan.

Cawley warns: ‘But this is multiple wealthy people and their lawyers involved. A call to the club earlier this week just got a response of "talks are ongoing" without specifying any more than that.’

'Essentially if the paperwork can get done in time then the plan is that Charlton would be under new ownership by the very early part of June - in time (pretty much) for the opening of the transfer window.'

More here:

Monday 8 May 2023

Armenian interest in Charlton

David Ornstein of The Athletic reports in relation to the Charlton takeover: ‘There are other interested parties, including two with considerable experience in club ownership. Robert Platek, a partner at American IT billionaire Michael Dell’s investment firm MSD Capital, is looking at Charlton as he is interested in adding an English club to his personal stable of European teams. He already owns Serie A’s Spezia and Portuguese top-flight side Casa Pia, as well as Danish second-tier team Sonderjyske.

But Platek is not the only multi-club suitor with his eye on the Addicks, as Armenian businessman Roman Gevorkyan is strongly considering a bid to make Charlton the flagship of his Noah Football Group fleet, which is comprised of Armenian Premier League side FC Noah and stakes in Hungarian top-flight team Debreceni VSC, French second-tier outfit Paris FC and Siena in Italy’s Serie C.'

Both of these proposals are reminiscent of Roland's network model, not necessarily flawed in principle, but meaning that Charlton's interests are subordinated to a wider plan. 

Thursday 27 April 2023

Charlton takeover latest

Richard Cawley reports that a spokesperson for Marc Spiegel says that they look like they may close their deal for Charlton this week. Exclusivity period has expired with Thomas Sandgaard but they also added that negotiations and talks have continued since then.

Cawley warns, ‘Not only does any party buying Charlton need to pay the sum agreed with Thomas Sandgaard, they also have to show EFL how they will fund/run the club for the next couple of years. That process has become more stringent.’

He adds: 'If the deal falls through then TS needs to cover the losses. Summer months are the most painful as no income. Not got exact figures to hand but think £700k a month.'

According to Bloomberg, Spiegel is seeking financial backers for his takeover.   His bidding company — Football Strategies Group — has been in discussions with Charlton since early February, according to an investor document. 

Football Strategies Group signed a potential £11.6 million ($14.4 million) deal for Charlton. It is also looking to inject £20 million into the London club, according to the document. It describes loss-making Charlton as an attractive risk-adjusted investment, though doesn’t say what size stake is being offered. 

“Our ambitions are more than just purchasing a club,” Spiegel said in a telephone interview with Bloonberg. “We want to elevate the club, expose it to new audience and win on the pitch.” A spokesperson for Charlton declined to comment. 

From Spiegel's Charlton sales document: 'Current talent level and work ethic among employee base is not up to par.' VOTV website editor Rick Everitt comments: 'Might well be true but I’m not sure this is how you want to introduce yourself to existing staff?'

Richard Cawley reports: ‘Had further contact from Marc Spiegel's side regarding Charlton takeover. They say they are not looking for funds to run or acquire the club. They say the investment document circulating is to raise funds for some acquisition plans in the next 12-18 months.

Spiegel's side also say they have not been critical of staff or support. Say they had both "in the highest regard" and their desire is to "re-energise". They add they have "nothing but praise for what they have endured in last few years".

They also add that isn't a criticism of Thomas Sandgaard and that without his intervention there "wouldn't be a club" - "all credit to him for rescuing it".’

Spiegel aims to complete the takeover on Friday April 28th:

My hope is that the 600,000 Charlton fans in London don't turn up for the Port Vale game on Saturday.  Perhaps some of them will go to that other London club, MK Dons.

The investment document is a mixture of half truths and misconceptions, to put it mildly.  It doesn't speak well of the prospective owners.

£20m would largely be eaten up by two years' losses, unless some of the 600,000 turn up in SE7.

Friday 10 February 2023

Pope's 'last chance' at Charlton

Nick Pope discusses how his time at Charlton kicked off his football career in an interview in The Times today.   When he started at Charlton, he had to follow the chief scout's car to Sparrows Lane as he did not know where it was.  

'I knew this was the last chance. I’d been accepted to go to university in September.'

He says they were “scabby” gloves that he pulled on to his hands that first time at Charlton’s training ground on Sparrows Lane.

“As a goalkeeper you do think of the first shot, ‘I have to get this.’ ” he says. “You don’t want to look like an idiot. You don’t want to look like you’re out of place.

“I remember wearing old, scabby gloves and catching loads of balls. All of a sudden, you’re chucked in and you’re with professional goalkeepers and a goalie coach and you’re doing actual drills.”

Charlton were impressed. He was at home when he got the call, and the offer of a two-year deal. “I was buzzing, yeah,” he says. “It felt like my last chance.”

Pope says every step is not a forward one. He joined Charlton on £125 a week. There were six loan spells at non-League clubs, starting at Harrow Borough. Aldershot was an hour and a half away, and the first time he met his new team-mates was walking up the aisle of the team bus for an away game.

There had been a debut for Charlton that year, coming on as substitute on the final day of the 2012-13 season. “Running on that day was awesome,” he says. He played 40 times for Charlton and when the club were relegated from the Championship in 2016, Burnley bid £1 million for Johan Berg Gudmundsson, and Pope went, in his words, “as an add-on”.

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Charlton's chaotic cycle

 'A club stuck in a continually chaotic cycle.'   That is the verdict The Athletic has delivered on Charlton.

'Off the pitch, however, there is once again speculation about a takeover and another twist in Charlton’s increasingly chaotic existence.

Sandgaard was hailed as a charismatic saviour from the turmoil that had consumed the club under the ownerships of Roland Duchatelet and the East Street Investments (ESI) group.

Duchatelet’s six-year spell as owner from 2014, when he bought Charlton to add them to a network of teams already under his control, was a hostile, spirit-crushing experience for fans from the moment popular manager Chris Powell was sacked shortly after his arrival. Powell was the first of eight managerial changes under the Belgian, and player turnover was also high, with emerging talents such as Nick Pope,, Ademola Lookman and Joe Gomez all sold as Charlton slipped down into League One in 2016.

Ricky Holmes commented: “We tried to not let the protests affect us. You’ve got to feel for any club that’s been through what they have, it’s been turmoil. I thought with the new owner coming in it would be better but it doesn’t look all rosy. It’s a great club, with great facilities in a great location… you want to see them back to where they should be.”

ESI, a consortium fronted by majority shareholder Tahnoon Nimer and executive chairman Matt Southall, first failed to produce the funds expected and then collapsed in an embarrassing battle for control of the club.

Events took a farcical turn as police were called to the stadium “to prevent a breach of the peace” while legal papers were served on Southall in a baffling few days where nobody knew who was in charge at Charlton.

Five months of interest and prospective owners resulted in a bid by businessman Paul Elliott, backed by lawyer Chris Farnell, being rejected by the EFL before Sandgaard finally became majority owner.

From choosing to reveal his interest in buying the club via Twitter, to wielding a guitar on the pitch as he played Addicks To Victory, the heavy metal song he penned for the club, Sandgaard — a businessman based in the US state of Colorado and founder of multi-million dollar medical device manufacturing company Zynex Inc — has been an eccentric presence.

“We had quite high hopes actually when Thomas Sandgaard took over,” says Heather McKinlay, chair of the CAST. “He went through a lot to get the ownership sorted, because at that point it was in the courts and everything. It was a complex transaction and he showed a lot of determination to get that done.

“We all felt that hopefully it would be the start of a new era but he was maybe a bit over-exuberant with some of his comments — he talked about (being in) the Premier League in five years, things like that.

“That probably is where it started to go wrong for him. If he had come in saying that we’re in the third tier, that’s how it is and it might take a while to get out, there’s a lot that needs rebuilding and we’re going to need to pull together to achieve it, that would have been a more realistic foundation. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring in the experienced management off the field and he’s chopped and changed managers on the field.”

The lack of formal management structure and Sandgaard choosing to involve his family in club operations “aren’t usually recipes for success” in the game, as one former football executive, speaking anonymously to The Athletic, observed.

Staff describe Sandgaard as stubborn and unwilling to accept his own failures. After initially humouring his image as the ‘rockstar CEO’ — Sandgaard is in a rock band of the same name — the feeling around the club is that too much emphasis is placed on his own image and putting himself, rather than the club, at the centre of things.

Charlton remain an appealing club for investment due to their London location, the size of their fanbase and a stadium that’s Premier League-ready, but sustainability remains a hot topic.

Sources familiar with the situation have indicated to The Athletic that a takeover could happen within the month, with the possibility of US-based investors looking to take a significant shareholding in the club while Sandgaard retains some level of ownership.

After another turbulent few weeks of boardroom speculation, Charlton fans are once again left pondering who the newest cast of characters looking to invest in their club might be and, more importantly, what their intentions are.'

Monday 2 January 2023

Uncertainties surround takeover deal

Rick Everitt reviews the latest evidence on takeover moves at Charlton following the presence of Charlie Methven and former Oxford United director Simon Lenagan at yesterday's game.   His conclusion is that 'something doesn't add up':

It appears that just £3.3m of the £11m takeover price would be working capital which, given that the club can expect to lose around £6m a year, 'doesn't touch the sides'.   Prospective investors have told that there is the prospect of draconian savings, including on the football side.   But how would that help the club to get out of League One or even stay there?   

There is also uncertainty about the £12m of loans provided by Sandgaard.  Roland, of course, still owns The Valley and the training ground and wants £50m for them.

To me this all smells like the Thames did in the 1950s.