Actions and Words from on-line fans meeting

Much has already been debated and dissected since Wednesday’s Charlton TV/ YouTube online Q&A with directors Jim Rodwell, Paul Elliott and Gavin Carter. If you missed it and wish to listen/ watch back, it can be followed here:

It’s sometimes hard to find consensus with so many different opinions flying around but the general feeling is that it was good that the event took place, not least against a backdrop of poor on-pitch performance. It was professionally hosted by Charlotte Richardson who remained calm and composed throughout and did not shirk from putting some of the tougher concerns from fans. Heather Alderson, Vice Chair of CAST, and Fan Advisor Lucy Bishop posed pertinent questions around the strategic approach, performance and pricing.

For many it was their first opportunity to hear directly from the club’s CEO and non-executive directors, enabling them to put faces, voices and to some degree personalities to the names. That in itself all helps with transparency.

Key on-field matters covered included a commitment to back Michael Appleton for the foreseeable future (very much not the dreaded vote of confidence according to Jim Rodwell) and a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to the contracts placed before George Dobson and Corey Blackett-Taylor which could see both of them leaving this month. The panellists talked very positively about Andy Scott and his contribution at Sparrows’ Lane as well as the imminent arrival of Dr Will Abbott as Director of Performance Services, stepping up to support our first team squad and more after his experience with Brighton & Hove Albion’s Academy. The concept of an 888 squad structure – eight elite players, eight competent players and eight Academy graduates – will no doubt continue to attract comment and interest from fans going forward in terms of how this is achieved in practice. It will likely provoke regular debate on which players fit into which category.

CAST will be following up with the club on specific off-pitch areas which came into the conversation. We have submitted initial thoughts to the club on the development and principles of a shadow board, or Fan Advisory Board, which is now the preferred terminology. This is likely to become a requirement in terms of the forthcoming legislation on football governance. Our view, reiterated by Jim Rodwell on the night, is that we should not rush to put ‘something’ in place but take time to establish a robust fan engagement structure that will endure for the long term, beyond present ownership and fan personalities. This is an opportunity for Charlton to learn from best practice examples and bodies such as the FSA and Fair Game. There will no doubt be challenges along the way, given we are in the early stages of rebuilding trust between fans and the club’s ownership after many years of fractious relationships. We are looking to the club to respect the culture of fan activism at Charlton which was instrumental in our return to The Valley, in working closely with the club to build the foundations for success during the Premier League years and in calling out some of the poor behaviours and practices of more recent regimes. In return we will strive to focus this activism with positive intent – let’s return to the years when club and supporters openly shared common goals of a winning team and model culture, grounded in the community.

We were encouraged to hear positive talk regarding the future of The Valley – again it is early days on that one and we will be seeking more information. Jim Rodwell referenced looking into safe standing. Some may remember that CAST carried out a survey on this a few years’ back and indeed we raised the topic with Thomas Sandgaard. We are pleased this is back on the agenda. Of more immediate concern, we are due to meet imminently with the club regarding Royal Borough of Greenwich parking restrictions.

All in all, Wednesday did feel like a step forward. It’s easy to be picky regarding specific points and some contradictions. It was fairly clear that it is early days for the SMT and owners in terms of their working relationships too and clarity regarding the strategic direction. They did not try to gloss over the challenges of the club’s present situation. Quite how long it will take us to get out of this League One hole, without sinking further down the EFL, will now depend on successful actions. Basically, it’s a long way back for all of us. We have to hope that events like this show a commitment from the club to bring current Addicks along on the journey.

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