CAST board representatives Heather McKinlay, Richard Wiseman and Lauren Kreamer met with new Charlton Athletic Managing Director and Chairman James Rodwell on Friday to find out more about the structure and strategy of the club’s new ownership.
James is a former professional footballer (appearing for fifteen clubs including 150 games for Rushden & Diamonds). Since 2010 he has been Chief Executive at Notts County, Scunthorpe, Sunderland, Peterborough and Hull City. He has also sat on the boards of both the EFL and the FA.
We are aware that shareholders with more than 5% in Global Football Partners (GFP) comprise:
Gabriel Brener & family
Joshua Friedman & family
Warren Rosenfeld & family
ACA Football Partners
(for full details of the above see https://www.castrust.org/2023/07/meet-the-new-owners/ )
In addition, there is an entity called Global Football Partners Investments which is a group of small investors with fewer than 5% shares each alongside Charlie Methven (totalling c.15% of GFP). They are represented on the GFP board by Charlie Methven.
GFP is registered in The Cayman Islands. James stated that he did not think this should be of concern to Charlton fans – “the American investors see this as natural”. GFP owns 100% of the shares in SE7 Partners Ltd which, because football clubs in the UK must be owned by a company registered in the UK, is the legal owner of the men’s and women’s football companies. James assured us that full details on the ownership has been provided to the EFL and that he completed 18 sets of Owners & Directors’ Tests.
The board of the football club will comprise:
James Rodwell (Chairman)
Ed Warrick (CAFC Finance Director)
Andy Scott (CAFC Technical Director)
Gavin Carter (long term Charlton fan and CEO of TechInsights Inc in Ottawa, Canada)
Paul Elliott (former player and Chairman of The FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board )
(NB - The appointments to the board of Andy Scott, Gavin Carter and Paul Elliott are still awaiting EFL approval.)
The precise percentages of the shareholdings of the various investors have not yet been made public although the EFL are fully informed as is mandatory under the EFL source and sufficiency of funds regulations. James undertook to enquire whether the owners are comfortable for this information to be shared. He did stress, however, that ownership was “pretty evenly spread” with no-one over 50%. “No-one can bigfoot it.”
He acknowledged that the multi-owner ownership model (“diversified ownership”) could bring complications but he stressed that he, Ed Warrick and Charlie Methven saw it as advantageous and had purposefully set out to do things that way. He said that the model whereby a football club has one dominant owner is not uncommon but, in some circumstances, can lead to “epically horrendous decisions” being made. A diverse ownership structure, however, means that arguments have to be presented and won in the boardroom. He pointed to the Arsenal board in the past as an example of good practice.
He emphasised that the investors were not looking for a short-term return and that they understood that any return at all would likely be dependent on achieving Premier League status. He said that if they were looking for a quick return, they would look at other, much safer investments.
He explained why the new owners were attracted to Charlton Athletic. After the “false dawn” of February (when negotiations with Thomas Sandgaard broke down) they had considered a number of other clubs to invest in but Charlton remained the most attractive because of its London location; the reputation of the Academy and the Charlton Athletic Community Trust; the relatively recent Premier League status, and the overall potential of the club and fanbase.
He stressed that the owners had no wish to get involved in the day to day running of the club. They had invested in the management team to run the club within pre-arranged budgets and he was clear that “if we get it wrong, they can get rid of us”. He said that Charlie Methven would be the link between the owners and the management team.
He said that the new owners were “highly credible people” who had satisfied the EFL as to financial sustainability. He said they were under no illusions about the challenges the business faces and that these would likely be increased rather than alleviated should the club be promoted to The Championship. However, he was optimistic that, when the recommendations of the Tracey Crouch Review are eventually enacted, there will be a more equitable distribution of revenue between the Premier League and EFL clubs. Although the redistribution would “probably not be as much as we’d like” he said he hoped that, combined with cost controls, it will help “push football clubs towards sustainability” which in turn would make clubs “more interesting to credible people”.
James said that GFP’s ambition is to reconnect the club with the assets of The Valley and the training ground, though no direct discussions have begun on this with the Duchatelet family. There is recognition that a relationship with Mr Duchatelet needs to be nurtured so that “meaningful dialogue” can take place. In the meantime, while recognising that “security of tenure is vital”, the terms of the lease were acceptable for the club. James had some optimism that compromises or “ventures” to the benefit of both parties could be explored. He was confident that the Royal Borough of Greenwich would not permit residential development at The Valley.
James said he had an open mind about the future shape of fan engagement at Charlton and that he was keen to hear ideas. He was aware of the recommendation from the Tracey Crouch Review that clubs should establish shadow boards. We informed him that we hope that The Football Supporters Association (FSA) will produce some good practice guidelines for shadow boards which would provide a useful starting point for discussions.
We were able to provide James with some background about the current shape of fan engagement – the Fans’ Forum; the Fan Advisers; the Supporter Liaison Officer – and the unique position of CAST as a democratically elected supporter society affiliated to the FSA and monitored by the Financial Conduct Authority. We agreed to share examples of the Memorandum of Understanding that some supporters’ trusts have negotiated with their clubs. We recommended Plymouth Argyle as a good example of a club which had built good trust and transparent communication between ownership and supporters. We also shared with James how supporters at Charlton with relevant skill sets had worked closely in the past with the club on key initiatives such as building attendances. We agreed that the greatest chance of success came about when the owners’ financial investment and the fans’ emotional investment were focussed on the same goal of achievement on the pitch based on a sensible and solid foundation.
James said that the management team were “proud but humble” to be running the club. He was clear they would be judged by their performance and, ultimately, the performance on the pitch. He felt that between them they had a good skill set. He said that his own skills were mainly “operational and tactical.” Ed Warrick was finance and property. Andy Scott was technical performance. He also stressed Charlie Methven’s commercial acumen and strategy skills. He said they were aware that there was “so much to be done to improve the business” particularly in “driving the income”. There were to be no grandiose promises. In fact, he repeated the mantra: “let’s try to get a little bit better every day”.