Sandgaard wants “20,000 watching every game”

On Thursday evening the CAST board met over Zoom with Thomas Sandgaard. This was our first full meeting since he officially became owner, following on from an introductory session back in late August. We are very grateful to Thomas for finding the time in between his many other commitments, most of them Charlton-related at present.

The Situation at CAFC

Thomas began with an update on how he assessed the situation at CAFC. He said he was surprised that the club wasn’t “in more of a mess” both on and off the field.  He was fulsome in his praise for Lee Bowyer, commenting that all the good things he’d heard were true, saying he must be given “all credit” because last season’s squad had been decimated from the spring onwards to pay the bills or to cover “other expenses”. There has been a major turnaround already. Lee now feels that everyone is “much more motivated and there is more cohesion”. Winning with ten men on Tuesday showed how the players were prepared to “make sacrifices”.

Steve Gallen also came in for significant commendation: “He has been amazing, He had two weeks to do something that other clubs had months for.” In fact, Thomas admitted that Gallen’s negotiating skills even surpassed his own: “I thought I was good but I think I’ve met my match.” Thomas said he had been directly involved in some of the deals and recognised that Gallen was particularly excellent at the “horse trading” that goes on in football.

The plan this season is to aim to be around about the play-offs by the turn of the year – “maybe 6th or 8th” then if necessary we can “add a bit of depth” to the squad in January. The ambition is definitely to achieve at least the play-offs by season end.

In the longer term he reiterated that we are looking at maximum eight years to become an established Premier League club. “Therefore I have appointed Ged Roddy as technical director to work with the other pieces so we become a modern European football club.” Roddy is already liaising closely with Steve Avory at the Academy and is at the training ground every day.

While much focus is on the long-term plan, Thomas also acknowledged the importance of the right small investments: “I bought some fancy - expensive - new lawnmowers and this has totally changed the mood at the training ground.”

The “back office” is good. “The infrastructure is in place and everyone knows what to do. It is extremely encouraging how the changes I have made have been accepted.” He explained that he felt we needed “more Premier League experience on the commercial side and to develop other revenue streams.” That is why he has appointed Wayne Mumford, whom he described as “already making some moves”.

While Thomas warmly welcomed the stability and experience of the current staff, he also acknowledged that there are some significant legacy issues to be addressed on the financial side. “Things continue to pop up.” He implied that some invoices were not club-related but more likely to “settle old personal debts.” He reassured us that “we are putting a lid on it” and “now using normal common sense business practices about paying (or not paying) invoices.” He stated that appropriate settlements were being reached over claims from various parties, including JMW Solicitors (ESI’s original law firm). Regarding money allegedly put into the club by Elliott/ Farnell, he stated: “It is with the lawyers. We are working through that.” He also told us that “the Range Rovers are being repossessed as we speak”. Throughout this part of the discussion it was clear from Thomas’s demeanour that he was quite horrified by what had gone on: “It is amazing how much this club has been abused.”

He stressed that he had decided not to appoint a “huge board of directors or a CEO”. He recognised that this placed a huge burden of work on him but he said that he was determined to “rebuild in the right way” and doing it hands-on “minimises the risk of derailing”.

The Valley

Given the stated Premier League – and even European ambitions, we asked Thomas how he felt about the potential to expand capacity at The Valley and any barriers to this given he does not own the stadium. He felt that the capacity was fine for now “and probably even for The Premier League to begin with”. He is not going to make major investments without owning the ground so a purchase deal with Duchâtelet is still high on his list and he maintains regular contact with him and Lieven de Turck: “In fact I might start pursuing a deal early next year.” He said he was very aware how important The Valley is to supporters, but was frank enough to admit that he would look at options for a bigger stadium if the ownership could not be sorted in the longer term, adding that he wouldn’t consider moving elsewhere “unless fans were on board”.

The Academy

He is also acutely aware of the importance of The Academy. On the financial side, it has been a “huge revenue source” for the club, but equally he recognised the fact that fans “can identify” with young players as they come through. Being equal with Barcelona for producing Premier League players shows “how much talent and good coaching there is”. (This was in reference to a report published recently showing that both Barcelona and Charlton’s Academies have produced six current Premier League players.) Thomas acknowledged that the Academy had suffered a bit from lack of care and investment in recent times but also that there was a good underlying structure and that “it had not been totally decimated”. Part of Ged Roddy’s role is to look at “streamlining the way Charlton play” so that young players “fit into the system” when they come through.

The new owner had quickly identified that improvements were needed on the medical /physio side and these are already in-hand so that later in the season we can have a stronger squad. Zynex has a part to play here: “I’ve delivered ten of my best-selling recovery devices!”

The Women’s Team

Thomas was due to have a meeting recently with Stephen King and Steve Adamson regarding the future of the women’s team but it was postponed when his flight was cancelled at the last minute. He thinks it would be “a smart move to bring everything together” and also sees it as an opportunity to broaden the club’s outreach.


Thomas is not aware of any ongoing investigations about Charlton’s previous ownership. He thinks the EFL will be very pleased that everything has now gone quiet at CAFC again. He is conscious of their workload and priorities. He would be prepared to assist with “tightening up who gets involved with clubs and who shouldn’t”.

Fan Engagement

Regarding structured fan engagement and the idea of an advisory board, Thomas is still considering how best to proceed and will be discussing it with Wayne Mumford. He wants to try to make sure that “everyone is heard”. CAST agreed to send him and Wayne Mumford some thoughts on the matter. We drew his attention to the Fan Engagement Index in which Charlton are rated 57th out of the 91 clubs. We all agreed that there was significant scope to improve dialogue between fans and Charlton’s ownership from now on.

The pandemic and safe return of fans

Thomas acknowledged that the present situation “is pretty bleak”, with clubs losing “tens of millions of pounds” but “I knew that when I came in.”

He is frustrated by the empty stadium from a financial perspective: “If we could fill two thirds of the stadium we could break even or better.” He was full of praise for the efforts of club staff and the amount of work that went on for the Doncaster match when 1,000 fans safely attended. As a result he is “pretty sure” that we will be one of the first grounds allowed to welcome back fans. He thinks that Tony Keohane and Chris Parkes “have their finger on the pulse about this”. A CAST representative attends the Safety Advisory Group so we will continue to liaise closely with the club on this matter.

Thomas is disappointed by the numbers (about 4,000) viewing games on Valley Pass. He understands that families will watch it together but would like to see “20,000 watching every game.” He is keen to market the Valley Pass streams to new people who might not usually attend live games. He is also considering what more can be done by Charlton to improve the overall experience beyond the basic i-Follow product, so watch this space.

Ticketing and marketing

We highlighted the importance of fan consultation regarding ticket pricing and priorities. Our new owner agrees wholeheartedly because “fans have a lot of experience of what works”. Although on the back burner at the moment, this will be a big item for Wayne Mumford. Thomas wants to ensure that pricing is “fair and fan-friendly.”

Unprompted, he promised there might soon “be a review of the mascot situation”.

We didn’t need to remind him how important “The Red Red Robin” is, but we did.

We shared a brief overview of the work CAST had undertaken with the OUR CLUB initiative, resulting in a database of nearly 4300 fans who were highly motivated to step up and support the club in some way. We described how Hearts fans (through the Foundation of Hearts) had pledged and contributed significant money to the club over recent years, in their case with a view to fan ownership. In return fans received emotional benefits and a say in the protection of core parts of the club’s DNA and heritage eg name, colours, stadium.

Thomas agreed that this sort of initiative would be something he and Wayne Mumford would like to know more about. We have provided a link to the film of Dave Lockwood interviewing the Foundation of Hearts spokesman and will follow up on this subject.

Sandgaard said he was overwhelmed by the many offers he had received of help from fans. He said he was aware of the dynamics between different individuals and groups and would like to see a “united effort”.

Thomas welcomed the fact that CAST conducts regular surveys of fan opinion. We agreed to run the questions for our forthcoming autumn survey past him and Wayne Mumford in case the club wishes to add anything to the survey.

Growth and diversity of the fanbase

Thomas was fully in agreement with initiatives to grow the fan base and expand its diversity. He saw the value of much stronger links with local schools and greater efforts to attract back supporters who had drifted away. He recognised that the current shape of the fanbase does not reflect the diversity of the population in the local area. He liked the idea of providing a space for “isolated” fans who would attend games if they had someone to accompany them. He said he would like to see CAFC and Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) more integrated and that Jason Morgan (CEO of CACT) will soon have a desk within the club.


The meeting reinforced our already positive views regarding the future for Charlton under Thomas Sandgaard’s ownership. He didn’t just tell us what we wanted to hear. He was honest about both current and potential future challenges and is particularly keen to ensure all fans are pulling in the same direction, as are we. What a refreshing change to have proper dialogue with the owner of our football club at long last!