CAS Trust attended the Fans Forum (FF) meeting at The Valley last Thursday 16th February. The FF has been in existence for a number of years and is attended by representatives of the various supporter groups in existence. At the October 2016 meeting of the FF the club confirmed that they see the forum as their vehicle to comply with the EFL rule that all clubs must hold at least two meetings per year with supporters to discuss "significant issues relating to the club"
The following is the CAS Trust view of the meeting. Full minutes of the meeting are available on the CAFC website.
1. The club floated the idea of expanding the FF to include supporters who do not represent particular supporter groups. This might, for example, include someone elected by season ticket holders. They proposed that meetings should be held more often (every two months) and could be held on match days before the game. They said that they intended to consult supporters about this format over the forthcoming weeks with a view to hosting the new format in May.
CAS Trust opposed this suggestion on the grounds that (1) a larger group would not be conducive to effective discussion of strategic matters and (2) there would be no democratic accountability of people attending unless they were in some meaningful way representative. We also cautioned against introducing general votes for positions on the group as this is notoriously difficult to manage. We also suggested that the implementation timetable was far too tight.
There did seem to be agreement from the club that a larger group (up to 25) meeting on match days would not be effective for strategic debate even though it might provide a platform for operational issues to be aired. CAS Trust proposed a smaller representative group for "strategic dialogue" in line with EFL expectations and the club agreed to consider this.
2. There was a long and lively discussion about the timing and format of The Player of the Year (POTY) dinner. The club argued that they had proposed changes in order to make the event more accessible but thy were reminded that this is a supporter organised event and the meeting voted 8-1 in favour of a motion deploring their attempt to transform the dinner into a different event. It was left that further discussions would be held internally and with POTY organisers over the next few weeks.
3. CAS Trust asked for an update on progress at the training ground and the club confirmed that work on phase 2 (The Charlton Athletic Community Trust part) had still not started due to legal issues still needing to be resolved. The date for the completion of the whole development (including the new hub facility) is still hoped to be November 2018.
Because of time constraints it was not feasible to pursue this matter in more detail at the meeting and CAS Trust requested an interview in the near future with senior staff so that a more expansive report could be supplied to supporters.
4. We raised the issue of the £2.50 admin fee charged on tickets for the Millwall game when tickets were not available on line. We suggested that this was not good PR for the club at a time when they needed to win supporters over.
The club said that the fee had always existed (which we question). They did note, however, that in future tickets for restricted matches (eg Millwall) would be available for purchase on line so that supporters would be able to avoid the admin fee.
5. In response to a question from CAS Trust the club confirmed that, with the assistance of lawyers, they are conducting an internal enquiry into allegations made last year about abuse at the club in previous decades. The club stressed that their first priority had been to ensure that current procedures were adequate and the meeting supported this approach.
6. In answer to direct questions the club confirmed that:
a) there were no current plans to recruit additional board members with football experience.
b) the club still harbours ambition to compete at the highest level.
c) the medical budget had been increased and that there are now extra physios and medical staff plus an extra strength and conditioning coach
d) that no selling price had been recently been quoted to an interested purchaser
7. The CEO was asked to make the owner very aware that performance and results are the priority for English football supporters rather than socialising. She was also asked to stress to him that those protesting against his ownership were not a small minority but a large number of long-standing supporters.
8. There was brief discussion about train and coach travel and ticket availability. The club agreed to look into specific issues raised.