Game Over?

The football season might be over, but the pantomime season certainly isn’t. So what now?

First the things that haven’t changed.
1. CAST continues to call for Thomas Sandgaard to sell our club. The man for whom football is so easy has kept us in League One, reduced attendances, created a toxic atmosphere for staff, kept interfering on the pitch, put family members into positions for which they are not qualified, tried to change our song, tried to force our women to play as ladies and thought generous robots were good words to put on shorts. He has failed despite arriving as saviour.
2. The club is still not sold.
3. Every day of ongoing uncertainty diminishes the chance of success next season.
4. Fans are being asked by the club to renew / buy season tickets. As the situation stands, that money goes to Thomas Sandgaard.

Yesterday and today we have been in contact with both Peter Varney & James Rodwell for updates on the sale or otherwise. Rodwell was COO at Charlton from late December to early February and is one of the faces of the Methven/Friedman group.

Supporters will remember that former Charlton CEO, Peter Varney, had interested buyers in 2020. He reiterated what he has already said publicly that his buyers are only interested in a deal that includes The Valley & the training ground and that the price is way too high at the moment. He has seen the disillusion felt by fans and sponsors. Now, as a fan himself, he has to accept with sadness that his working relationship with Charlton is at an end. Peter acknowledged that there is probably only one interested party left; the group generally referred to as the Methven/Friedman group.

Like incumbent CEO Peter Storrie, Jim Rodwell has a long career as an English football executive and comes across as someone who knows his way around the game. In this regard, he is also someone who most likely knows what fans want or need to hear. If the Methven/Friedman group are successful, he would be installed as Chair of our football club, so, ahead of any potential action, here is what we learned from his words.

Jim Rodwell explained that a further formal offer had been made to Thomas Sandgaard on Wednesday this week. Overall, the group have ended up in a position where they are bidding against themselves, but Sandgaard, maybe via his ‘attorney’ Leo Rifkind keeps asking for more and that has once again been his response to the bid made on Wednesday night.

Jim Rodwell does not believe there are any other credible bids. He warned that it is too easy for chancers in the football world to promise to pay fortunes that further investigation eventually reveals they do not have. Don’t we know it!

He stressed the urgency of the present situation and left us feeling that there must become a point at which people will just walk away. In which case the club is on a knife edge.

What else did we learn?

As far as the composition of the Methven/ Friedman bid itself is concerned:

The structure of this deal excludes Sandgaard, whose 10% stake is shared between the other parties.

The main players are Gabriel Brener, Joshua Friedman and his son Spencer plus Global Football Partners made up of Charlie Methven and several smaller investors. It is deliberately structured to avoid one person having overall control and being able to act on a whim.

Rodwell talked about transparency so we challenged on Cayman Islands registration. He described it as ‘fiscally responsible’ [no doubt a euphemism for paying less tax]. He said: “We need to tell the EFL who these people are. It will be a matter of public record.” which of course CAST would scrutinize.

He said there may be one member of the executive team with a 75k investment (“skin in the game”) but generally individual investment needs to be “significantly higher than that”.

He went on to describe how the football club board would make decisions within budgets pre-agreed with funders on the holding company board. Charlie Methven, he says, would probably only be on the holding company board. “Very few” would be on both boards.

Rodwell went through the Addicks Charter point by point and saw nothing contentious in it. “Why would you not do those things?” (Well, Sandgaard won’t.) He noted that there is always executive “input” from the board/ ownership to football managers but “interference” is always damaging. We didn’t have enough time to fully push re a costed plan to bring The Valley and Sparrows Lane back into club ownership. We will follow-up in more detail on this should the group become owners of the football club.

He spoke of the need for a shadow board as a result of the white paper on the reform of football governance. Rodwell sees it as a “formal way of ensuring that fan engagement is taken seriously” and that the remit and structure will need to be worked out in consultation with CAST and others.

Some fans will be aware that individuals or groups have been fed updates and points of view. We were keen to send a shot across the bows on divide-and-rule tactics. This was the most uncomfortable part of the meeting.
Despite reports on some message boards, Rodwell says there is no 100 day plan document, although if the sale is successful there is of course an overall strategy and plan ready to roll out and this will be shared with fans.

We are pleased to add that CAST member Richard Hunt, curator of the Charlton Dossier, has got Charlie Methven on record. So, watch this space.

So where does this leave us?

Is Sandgaard really wanting to sell or is he just playing games? This is the critical and urgent question.

Fans have been assured by Peter Storrie that a budget is in place for summer recruitment regardless of ownership but who is leading that strategy? Every passing day delays crucial decisions about retention and recruitment. Poor recruitment has been the source of failure. Is there any reason to think that recruitment will improve without a radical overhaul? At present Martin Sandgaard remains a key player and we’ve seen where that has brought us to.

Maybe Sky journalist and Charlton supporter Ben Ransom was right when he said on MODMag podcast that there was pretty much no such thing as a good football club owner. We don’t know whether the Methven/Friedman group would be any good, but we do know that we and the fan base are done with the current one.