Matt Southall meets supporter reps

Along with other supporter groups CAST attended the “meet and greet” with CAFC Chairman Matt Southall on Friday evening at The Valley. He was accompanied by consultants Paul McCarthy and Lee Amis.

Paul McCarthy is a former journalist who runs Macca Media Ltd. ESI are among his current clients.

Lee Amis is a long-term Charlton fan who played a part in brokering the deal and is now advising ESI.

The meeting was attended by about thirty Charlton fans from a number of different regional and specialist supporter groups. CAST representatives felt it was an informative and very encouraging meeting.

We were impressed with the way Matt Southall responded to questions and comments. He did so in a measured way with calmness and humour and there was no evidence of any bluster or bravado. He is very committed to incremental growth, sustainability and stability and he is very aware of the risks of profligacy / boom and bust. As a former football agent he is wise to the market and he is very determined that deals should only be done if they are reasonable and right for the club. Although ESI want to reach the Premier League he is clear that there is much more to success than promotion and he is very conscious that the community, the staff, a vibrant stadium, enhancing young talent, improving skills and increasing sponsorship are all part of the bigger picture of what success looks like. He has a good knowledge of the club’s history and he seems very aware of how much added value supporters can bring.

What follows below is our best attempt to summarise what was said at the meeting. Inevitably, some things will have been missed out and we do not claim this is a comprehensive record.


Training ground

Plans for the development of Sparrows Lane were handed round – showing the planned three storey building which will include thirty “resting quarters”. (It isn’t envisaged that anyone will stay there overnight.) The aim is to start work in the summer and complete in 18-21 months. The aspiration is to achieve Category 1 status within three years

All the pitches will be changed and new drainage installed.

ESI are aware of the number of injuries at the club and want to improve the sports science. There are now three physiotherapists rather than two. When asked about Lee Bowyer’s training methods MS was very clear that he left that entirely to Lee and his team and wouldn’t dream of interfering.

Lee Bowyer’s contract

MS says it wasn’t difficult and that he knew it would be done. It just needed people to be patient. Lee was offered a five year contract but felt that three years would be better for him and the club. Lee’s management team are “very close” to signing.

The Community

MS has met with Jason Morgan (CACT) and wants the club to have a wider reach into the community. He would like to get players out into schools and youth clubs more. He recognises that there was no contact in the community from the previous owner and sees reconnecting as a top priority.

Valley Express

MS will look into the issue of family tickets for Valley Express.


MS is aware of Charlton’s history and understands why there is particular concern about the issue of ownership.

ESI Ltd have purchased Charlton Athletic Football Company Ltd which has a 99 year lease on The Valley granted by Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd. ESI Ltd have a legal obligation to buy Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd and this obligation is personally guaranteed (presumably by Tahnoon Nimer). When ESI Ltd buy Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd they will become the owners of the freehold of both The Valley and of Sparrows Lane training ground.

ESI control the share that Charlton Athletic have in the EFL.

Fans Forum

MS recognises the need to make fan representation more diverse – to include more BAME representatives, women and young people. He finds it strange that the percentage of BAME supporters at games is so low and he is committed to improving this. Partnership with schools will help with this.

Securing young players

MS realises how important this is. Meetings have been held with representatives of Macauley Bonne, Dillon Phillips, Alfie Doughty, Aaron Henry, James Vennings and Albie Morgan to look at 3-4 year deals.

Former Director loans

When ESI Ltd purchase Charlton Athletic Holdings Ltd the charges in respect of the former directors’ loans will remain. ESI have spoken to all former directors and would be interested in reaching settlement but don’t see it as essential. The former directors do not act jointly and severally so individual deals can be made. Former directors’ charges would only be an issue if ESI needed or wished to leverage cash from the freehold but they have no need to.

How can fans help?

ESI need fans feedback and will continue to consult supporters. (Paul McCarthy constantly reads Charlton Life.) MS was interested in the suggestion that a business development group like Target 40k could be reconstituted.

MS very conscious that ESI need to be seen to be able to walk the walk. “I don’t expect you all to just trust everything I say” without seeing evidence.


MS recognises it is vital for the club to show ambition but stressed the importance of managing expectations. For ESI ownership of Charlton is a long-term project.

Having said that, MS said that there is no chance of shortage of ambition with Lee Bowyer at the helm. Lee Amis said that, when Lee Bowyer had signed his contract, the first thing he said as he walked out of the door was that he was still aiming for the play-offs. Lee Bowyer often gets sent off in practice games because his will to win is so strong.

New signings

MS said he and Steve Gallen were working 22 hour days at the moment. There are a lot of players out there and prices are falling. He noted that quoted prices are considerably lower than at the start of the window and that very few deals have been completed anywhere so far this month.

He will not make any deals that are not right for the club (there have been three or four already that he considered not right). He will only sign players “on my terms”.

He is very confident that Charlton will avoid relegation this season and he noted that players returning from injury “feel like new signings”.

Josh Cullen loves playing for us but his ambition is to make it at West Ham.

The Valley capacity

No plans at present to increase capacity. Hoping there will be a good attendance for the Barnsley game when it is hoped that Tahoon Nimer will be present.

What is success for ESI?

ESI have ambition to reach The Premier League (no time scale) but there are many other measures of success – eg community reputation; successful Academy; improving players; full stadium, growth of sponsors.

Brighton, Burnley, Brentford and Sheffield United are role models. MS compared Aston Villa’s expenditure last summer against Sheffield United’s and contrasted their levels of success.

The meeting closed at 8pm as Matt Southall had to leave to go to meet the agent of a prospective new signing. CAST spies were despatched in hot pursuit of his car but we are embarrassed to admit that in the early hours of this morning he shook them off with a daring handbrake turn twenty miles outside Barcelona.