After two and a half years as chair of Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust (CAS Trust) Barnie Razzell has announced that he is standing down from the Trust board.
His achievement of setting up and developing CAS Trust into a thriving and effective organisation of 1150 members is quite phenomenal.
I have always been rather in awe of people who create something out of nothing, as it is something I have never done. It takes initiative, motivation, courage and perseverance – all qualities which Barnie demonstrated in abundance in those early days in the Summer of 2012.
There had been previous attempts to start a Supporters’ Trust at Charlton but they had never quite got off the ground. Barnie sensed in 2012 that the time was right and called a public meeting to gauge the level of interest. A handful of people turned up. He used message boards and local supporters’ branches to further publicise the idea. He gathered a small group around him to work both on the big ideas and the crucial details. He had the vision to recognise that a launch combined with a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the return to The Valley would be appropriate and well received. One hundred members were signed up on December 5th 2012 at a party in Bartrams attended by Mark Kinsella, Steve Gritt, Garry Nelson, Brian Kinsey and Keith Peacock.
There followed at least six months of hard graft publicising the Trust. Standing outside The Valley talking to supporters arriving for games. Attending supporters’ branch meetings and explaining how a supporters’ trust was different to a supporters’ club or The Fans Forum. Raising the profile of CAS Trust on message boards and patiently explaining why it was all worthwhile. I well remember when the Trust gained its 500th member. I recall Barnie’s infectious optimism that we could double that number, despite my doubts.
At the same time he was beginning to make inroads talking to club staff and explaining that CAS Trust saw its role as one of a critical friend who wished to work in partnership with the club. On May 4th 2013 this came to fruition when chief executive Steve Bradshaw announced in the programme that “the club intends to work collaboratively with CAS Trust in a bid to promote fan engagement”
On November 19th 2013 The London Borough of Greenwich declared, after a long campaign led by CAS Trust, that The Valley was to be listed as an Asset of Community Value. This safeguarding of our ground was a notable feather in Barnie’s cap.
He was always keen to ensure that CAS Trust did not become too inward looking. He made good links with Supporters Direct and was a panel member at their annual conference at Wembley Stadium last year. He also worked with Clive Efford MP to help him formulate his policy for legislation to ensure supporter representation at all football clubs.
He was always mindful to promote inclusivity – seeking to ensure that CAS Trust presented the views of all Charlton fans, not just Trust members. He also tried to work as collaboratively as possible despite the inevitable inter-supporter rivalry.
It is often the case that entrepreneurs and innovators are people with vision and creativity in abundance but with little time or energy for day- to- day details. Barnie confounds that stereotype. He has always been prepared to do his share of what he calls the “boots on the ground” work. Setting up opinion surveys; attending to the website; replying to members’ queries; handing out copies of Trust News. He has high standards and a keen eye for detail – one of my fiercest arguments with him was about the choice of tablecloth for the Trust stall.
Like many Charlton supporters Barnie has observed the events of the last twelve months with concern and some dismay. The departures of Chris Powell and Yann Kermorgant undoubtedly made a dent in his enthusiastic support for the club. He has also been disappointed and frustrated that the spirit of partnership forged with the previous regime has been lost under the new ownership.
Although Barnie was working full-time during his tenure he managed to devote endless hours of his leisure and family time on CAS Trust business. Last autumn, when he embarked on his MA at Reading University, he began to encounter the pressure of essay deadlines and found it increasingly difficult to accommodate the demands of chairing the Trust at the same time. He gave notice to the board that he intended to step down in the new year, and he stayed on until this weekend to oversee the publication of the well-received ninth edition of Trust News.
I know that Barnie has found his stewardship of CAS Trust enriching and stimulating but also exhausting and infuriating. I hope that the former has on balance outweighed the latter. He would be the first to acknowledge that he and the Trust made some mistakes, but there is also no doubt that we got a lot things right under his leadership. We certainly learned that you can’t please everyone - at least not all the time.
What I also know is that the principle of supporter involvement at Charlton Athletic has been immeasurably advanced by his vision, his drive and by the amount he cares. As he returns to his seat (and maybe a nice cup of Bovril) in The East Stand, we all owe him a big thank you.