On Wednesday 26th October, members of the CAST board held a meeting with Thomas Sandgaard via Teams to raise with him the issues and concerns that we had outlined in our letter of October 13th
We provided minutes of the meeting here on Friday: thomas-sandgaard-break-even-scenario-would-not-be-achieved-by-cost-cutting. They are reported as happened.
Since the meeting, we have reflected on the answers. What is clear now is that the owner has recalibrated. The Premier League may still be his ambition, but we are certainly not getting there any time soon. It seemed to us that there were two reasons for this. Firstly, Thomas Sandgaard has seen the evidence that making progress on the squad and playing side is not quite as easy as he first thought with no direct correlation between the amount of money pumped into the team and likelihood of promotion. Secondly, the owner is motivated to focus on fixing what he identifies as problems on the business side of the club. As it stands, we should be expecting League One football for a while yet, at best a shot at the play-offs. There is also likely to be more change on the non-playing side of the club as the owner is determined to shape the internal culture to his preferred style.
We were left with the feeling that the owner is focusing first on what he sees as wrong with the club, rather than identifying what is right and building on from there. Sure, things can and should be improved, but let’s make sure the doctor doesn’t accidently kill the patient through a too aggressive use of the knife.
We are also concerned that his approach and statements run the risk of negating the goodwill that needs to be nurtured in order to build momentum and fill The Valley.
For many, the Back to The Valley 30 events bring into focus a time when Charlton over, not under, performed. Then the task was a great deal more daunting than getting out of League One. We achieved by pulling together. We were one club, directors, staff, supporters, players, and community. The energy of the whole was much greater than the individual parts. We are worried that the pivot of the Fan Adviser role to one in which the advisers are expected to advise the fans of what is going on in the club and of the owner’s plans rather than the other way round, could seriously compromise our chances of acting as one club.
It is clear that the owner sees the role of fans and CAST itself as simply one of cheerleading for the team. In our opinion this is contrary to the one club ambition, the history of our club and the zeitgeist in English football. The role of football clubs as important community assets, not just businesses, is increasingly recognised. We will continue to urge for the adoption of the Fan Led Review in its entirety and to strive for more formal recognition of the role of supporters in the steering of clubs in tandem with greater transparency and sustainability around club finances.
In the spirit of building on the positive, we did leave the meeting with a strong mutual understanding of the value of the Academy, the hope that we’ll be watching Miles Leaburn in an Addicks’ shirt for a good while yet and an expectation that we will be able to put Charlton items in our Christmas stockings that cost less than £50.
We will follow-up regarding a date for a Q&A with Thomas Sandgaard - before the turn of the year - and urge members and indeed all fans to attend and take the opportunity to put your own questions to the owner.
If you are not already among the 2,700 members of CAST, do join today - it only costs £5 annually and helps to strengthen the voice of the Addicks.