We are very pleased indeed to announce that CAST has succeeded in gaining Asset of Community Value (ACV) status for The Valley for a further five years.
But what does it actually mean?
The 2011 Localism Act gave community organisations the right to nominate an "asset" to be included on a list of assets deemed to be of community value. A building or piece of land is deemed to have community value if its main purpose is to further the social well-being or social interest, including cultural, recreational or sporting interests of the local community.
CAST first won ACV status (for a five year period) for The Valley in October 2013, and we marked the event with a celebration alongside Greg Dyke, local MPs and club representatives on the pitch before the game with Birmingham in February 2014.
The Valley thus joined a number of other buildings in the borough to enjoy the protection of ACV status – Greenwich Theatre, East Greenwich Library, Weigall Road Sports Ground, The Bugle Horn, The White Swan and a dozen other pubs.
There are also about forty football grounds with ACV status. They include Anfield, Old Trafford, Portman Road, The King Power Stadium, Gigg Lane and The Old Spotted Dog Ground (Clapton FC).
What protection does ACV status actually offer us?
It means that any owner of the club who wishes to sell the ground (or any part of the ground including the car park) must inform the Royal Borough who will in turn inform CAST. We would then have six weeks to decide whether we wish to make a bid to buy the ground. If we decide to make a bid there is a further six month moratorium period while a bid is prepared. During this time the ground cannot be sold.
Let’s suppose that CAST did elect to make a bid and were able to raise sufficient funds during the six month moratorium. That does not that mean that the owner is obliged to sell the ground to us. The owner could sell to whosoever they wished and for whatever price they chose. They could also change their mind and not sell the ground at all.
The Valley is currently owned by Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd which is itself owned by Baton UK and ultimately by Roland Duchatelet’s company Staprix NV. If Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd itself is sold this would only amount to a change of shareholders of that company and would not amount to a disposal of The Valley. In that case there would be no obligation on the owner to inform the Royal Borough and no opportunity for any community bid to be made. We would only have this opportunity in the event of a planned disposal to a third party not connected to the club.
So is it really worth it?
The main advantage of ACV status is that it stops disposal of the asset on the quiet. It means that you can’t turn up for a drink at The White Swan or The Bugle Horn one evening to discover that it has been sold to a developer and is now closed pending conversion into a nail bar. You have the opportunity to gain publicity and galvanise local opinion against the sale. Sure, the owner can ignore the publicity and dispose of the property anyway but at least you have had a chance to try to exert some influence.
It would be the same with The Valley and it isn’t hard to imagine the outcry that would be raised locally and nationally if it was revealed that the ground was being disposed of against the wishes of supporters. There would be vigorous opposition and loud public protest. There would be a lot of bad publicity for the owner. He could, of course, simply ignore it all and proceed with the disposal once the moratorium was over but who knows what might transpire during that six months? It certainly beats turning up for a game and being handed a piece of paper and a map of South Norwood.
To my mind there is a second advantage to ACV status for our ground. It is a symbol.
It is a statement on behalf of local people and their representatives in the Town Hall that The Valley matters. That it is seen as a site which delivers social benefit and community value both through the staging of Charlton games and the club’s associated community work. That it strengthens community cohesion and provides employment opportunities. That it drives income towards local businesses. That it is a source of civic pride for Greenwich residents.