Shifting Sands & No Word From Sandgaard

Never mind deadline day blues, for those of us whose memories stretch back to the 70s – and let’s be honest that’s true for a lot of our fanbase – last night may have stoked up an ear worm of that old Pilot song: “January, sick and tired you’ve been hanging on me. You make me sad with your eyes, you’re telling me lies…” Once again we find ourselves wondering who is orchestrating events behind the scenes at Charlton, while trying to discern truth from rumour.

Late last year, following lack of investment and clarity on the direction of the club, culminating in the sacking of Ben Garner and defeat to Stockport in the FA Cup, fans voted at an open forum to ask Thomas Sandgaard to commit to the way we want our club to be run in the form of the Addicks’ Charter. Otherwise fans could no longer commit to him and we would campaign for him to sell the club.

At the Fans’ Forum on 15th December, CAST delivered this message on behalf of those present. Sandgaard refused to commit. He stated that he was not selling and reiterated that football was easy and as such didn’t require any input from fans or anyone else. So CAST’s position is that we have lost confidence in his desire and ability to run our football club.

Although Sandgaard denied that he was looking to sell, it was patently obvious that something was afoot. On 20th December, Dean Holden arrived, along with three other senior appointments – Jim Rodwell as Chief Operating Officer, Ed Warrick as Finance Director and Andy Scott as Technical Director. The latter was soon reassuring fans that he wouldn’t be here unless there were funds to spend in the January window. Meanwhile, fans uncovered the recent registration of a new company, SE7 Partners, with directors Charlie Methven and Ed Warrick.

Other figures from the “football family” have been spotted. Simon Lenagan, formerly of Oxford United and son of the owner of Wigan Warriors, popped up in the directors’ box. Tim Fisher, who stepped down as CEO of Coventry in mid-January, was noticed in the company of Rodwell and Warrick post the Bolton match. Voice of The Valley’s Rick Everitt has seen a prospectus that has purportedly been used to solicit small investment amounts from high net worth individuals in Texas. It entails Sandgaard retaining a minority stake. There has been talk of more substantially wealthy interest from the States. It's certainly true that English football clubs in general are catching the eye of sports club owners across the Atlantic.

Individual fans and forums have been fed unsubstantiated information over the last few weeks and days. Given the amount of rumour and speculation we have been keeping our counsel. CAST has fully investigated parties that have been spoken of and we have liaised where relevant with other Supporters’ Trusts.

So where are we now regarding the club’s future?

According to journalist Richard Cawley, some paperwork - though maybe not all of it – has been submitted to the EFL. Since the shenanigans that resulted in Bury being expelled from the league and our own embroilment with ESI, the clubs of the EFL have voted to tighten up their processes around a change of ownership. The regulations now mean that anyone incoming needs not only to pass the Owners & Directors Test but also to provide proof of funds. This quite rightly prevents the catch 21 we found ourselves in three years ago when Southall and Nimer strolled in without even paying £1 for the football club. We now realise that this change could unwittingly add to confusion and lack of transparency when a deal is in progress. We do know this time around that we are NOT under an EFL transfer embargo as those are now publicly listed.

In the last couple of days, IPS Law (Chris Farnell) has Tweeted that “Charlton Athletic FC have now settled the fees that were owing and have made payments in full and final settlement.” So it seems another hangover from the ESI chaos has been resolved. That would suggest tidying up loose ends, an important part of any due diligence process. But why did Farnell feel the need to announce it to the world?

The major clue to what happens next will be the fate of three of the four newcomers - Andy Scott, Jim Rodwell and Ed Warrick. According to Cawley, all had contracts which expired on 31 January. If they leave en masse, then we can almost certainly read that as meaning the end of one bid for the club.

But will we even be told? Approaching 6pm on 1 February the headline news on the official website was still the signing of Michael Hector, more recent stories of outgoing players relegated behind it. There’s not even a sign of the traditional video from a senior figure bemoaning our late failure to get the one we really wanted over the line. And certainly no update from the present owner. CAST have today tried to contact Sandgaard but so far no response. What must the mood and morale be like within the club, we wonder? Does Holden feel as let down as the rest of us or was he aware of this plan all along?

CAST’s position remains Sandgaard out. Anyone coming in must recognise that a football club is far more than a commercial asset, uphold Charlton’s community and family values, ensure all are welcome and respected and that it is affordable for fans to watch and attend matches. Moreover they must ensure that the club is run from The Valley by a competent and experienced CEO with a board of directors which follows legal and best practice governance principles; engage with the community, partners, sponsors and businesses enabling all to thrive; recognise that fan engagement is integral – involving, listening, learning, feeding back. They must uphold our core traditions – red & white home colours, playing at The Valley, running out to The Red, Red, Robin – and require definitive consent of fans to change; give men’s & women’s team managers the freedom to build squads and play to win without day-to-day ownership interference in on-the-field matters; support and develop The Academy; lay out a clear, considered and costed plan to reunite ownership of The Valley & training ground with the football club.

As a result, Addicks will be proud to say they support Charlton Athletic.

If we leave the frying pan, we will be regarding the next place as the fire until or unless proven otherwise.


If you are not already among the 2,700 Charlton supporters who are members of CAST, do join today - it only costs £5 annually.