Like many Charlton fans waking up on Wednesday after a wet and disappointing evening at The Valley, we at CAST were astonished to read the Tweets below from club non-executive director Leo Rifkind.
We have since been in touch with owner Thomas Sandgaard in order to understand the official club position and we have added the matter as an urgent agenda item at tonight’s Fans’ Forum.
"Financial sustainability in football means money going out = money going in. This means that the club is its own guardian and is ultimately not dependent on ownership funding. We, the fans, as supporting a club in buying tickets effectively own the decision making of a club.
Football is of course much more than a company but a heart of the community. It must balance its own soul of being the family dining table for its fans but also in a way that means it can continue to deliver a fine meal and be consistent in what it delivers. The question I'm asking myself and I'd like to hear from relevant fan communities is: are we , what and how are we prepared to support our clubs?"
The idea that fans not buying tickets is the problem would be laughable if it weren't so insulting. People are lying awake at night wondering how they are going to pay their energy bills this winter. Most tickets are over £30. There is a multitude of factors at play. If fans effectively owned the decision making we would have ensured that ticket prices remained affordable. We would have invested in a striker this summer to show ambition. The proper Charlton people who have been "made redundant" would still be at the club. We wouldn't have tried to change the name of the Women's team and and we wouldn't have entertained sponsorship from shifty purveyors of non-fungible tokens. (Incidentally we have also put forward ‘What has happened to Generous Robots?’ for the Fans’ Forum agenda.)
Anyone who believes that ticket sales alone could ever give financial sustainability for a League One club of Charlton’s size in the current climate is deluded and the idea that fans are to blame for what we're seeing is deeply concerning. It is out of the playbook we thought had been thrown out. If Rifkind can ask us with a straight face "How are we prepared to support our club?” he has clearly learned nothing in his short time at Charlton Athletic. It is 30 years since our fans founded a political party, dug weeds with their bare hands, did everything in their power to get us home. More recently we campaigned imaginatively against the absurdities of Duchatelet's ownership while actively supporting the team on the pitch. Two years ago CAST raised pledges from nearly 5K supporters ready to come to the fore as the club faced administration or even liquidation.
CAST has tried time and time again to share our knowledge about the club and to offer proactive ideas to build income and engagement. These have largely been batted away or simply ignored. We presented an approach akin to the Foundation of Hearts as a fan fund-raising initiative in return for protection of the club’s intangible assets such as the name, the colours and the badge. We have repeatedly offered our input on ticketing strategy and pricing; we have advised on wider marketing and raising the profile of the club locally; we explained why Charlton Ladies would be a retrograde step. We challenged the club as soon as the Generous Robots sponsorship became public and sought reassurances. We shared our input to the Fan Led Review with the club. We carried out a survey on streaming and provided the results to the club. We offered to provide more detailed analysis and interpretation following the recent large scale survey on the very subject of ticket pricing. We always input to the Fans’ Forum.
All of the above has been done purely out of sincere motivation for Charlton Athletic to succeed. If Rifkind genuinely wants to hear our thoughts and learn from our expertise, he knows where we are, as does Thomas Sandgaard.
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