The Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust (CAS Trust or CAST) was formally launched on the 5th of December 2012. This date was chosen because it marked the 20th anniversary of the club's return to The Valley from the exile years.
Background - Supporters Trusts
The Supporters Trust movement took off after the report of the UK Government's 1999 Football Task Force, 'Investing in the Community'. The report recognized the increasing frequency of football clubs getting into financial difficulties which threatened their continuing existence, and the detrimental effect this could have on a local community. The umbrella organization Supporters Direct (now Football Supporters Association or FSA) was set up in 1990 with government funding with the aim "to secure a greater level of accountability and deliver democratic representation within football clubs".
Supporters Trusts are Industrial and Provident Societies (legal entities registered in England and Wales under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act 1965) and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They operate democratically and under rules set out by Supporters Direct in compliance with the 1965 Act.
There are over 30 football clubs fully owned by their Supporters Trust in the UK - the best known being Portsmouth, AFC Wimbledon and Exeter City.
CAS Trust working in partnership with CAFC
The formal aims of CAS Trust ( as set out in the constitution) are:
- to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between CAFC and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed
- being the democratic and representative voice of the supporters of CAFC and strengthening the bonds between CAFC and the communities it serves
- achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of CAFC
In November 2013 CAS Trust successfully achieved the granting by The Royal Borough of Greenwich of Asset of Community Value status for The Valley. This status means that CAS Trust has the right to be informed about any proposed sale of the ground and the right to make a bid to purchase within six months of notice of sale being issued.
CAS Trust also led the campaign to obtain greater transparency about the contract between West Ham United and the LLDC for The Olympic Stadium - in particular, because the favourable terms of the deal posed a threat to CAFC
CAS Trust under the ownership of Roland Duchâtelet
When the Belgian tookover in early 2014, discrete collaboration between CAS Trust and the club was lost with the CEO Katrien Meire deciding that all supporter groups should be afforded the same status.
In February 2015, in response to the dismissal of three managers in less than a year and the circumstances around the appointment of Guy Luzon, CAS Trust called a public meeting at Woolwich Grand Theatre which was attended by nearly 400 supporters- fans gave intelligent, thoughtful and measured responses. There was the occasional expression of extreme views, and similarly a few who saw nothing to be concerned about. However, by far the majority of the group were clearly worried about the immediate and potentially longer-term future, sending the simple message that they wanted the Trust to engage with the Club's senior management to express the strength of feeling and concern and seek assurances".
For the following nine months CAS Trust sought a meeting with Roland Duchâtelet and/or Katrien Meire to pursue dialogue, but this was not forthcoming. Eventually, in December 2015, Katrien Meire agreed that a strategy group should be set up which would include CAS Trust. However, she then appeared to change her mind as nothing more was heard from her on the subject. Representatives of CAS Trust board subsequently met Katrien Meire and Richard Murray and advised them that the majority view of CAS Trust members was that the situation under Duchâtelet's ownership was irretrievable and that the only way for the club to regain the trust and support of fans would be under new ownership.
At its 2016 AGM, the English Football League (EFL) adopted a new rule requiring its member clubs to enter into a process of strategic dialogue with their supporters. This rule was the outcome of negotiation since 2014 between the EFL, The Premier League, the FA, The Dept of Culture, Media and Sport and Supporters Direct and The Football Supporters Federation. The situation of the club at the time worsened - The club was relegated from The Championship, with thousands of season ticket holders did not renew and supporters expressed the extent of their opposition by raising over £50,000 to fund protests.
CAST Going Forward
As ever inline with our constitution, we remain committed to communication and a meaningful seat at the table, when it comes to our club. We aim to ensure that strategic dialogue in accordance with EFL rules is maximised. We are committed to the principle of strategic dialogue and we aim to conduct dialogue in a way which will ensure that the views and aspirations of our members are trenchantly expressed and that the executive is held to account. A key aspect of CAST going forward is the belief that huge importance is put on having a positive, close and mutual relationship with the football club and the clubs board of directors.
The Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust was formed, 20 years to the day that the club returned to The Valley!
CAST application for The Valley to have 'Asset of Community Value' status is successful. This status means that we have the right to be informed about any proposed sale of the ground and the right to make a bid to purchase within six months of notice of sale being issued.
Public Meeting Held at Woolwich Grand Theatre
Under the ownership of Duchâtelet, 3 managers within 1 year (and dubious circumstances around appointments), CAST called a public meeting to debate the next steps and route that should be followed. Around 400 fans attended, worried about the future of the club.
Whilst the end of a doomed Belgian ownership promised excitement and a platform for the clubs revival - The new ownership, East Street Investments, quickly fell apart!
CAST increasingly had serious concerns about the very future of Charlton Athletic, not only given the legal wrangling over control of the club and lack of security about funding, but also against the backdrop of the global pandemic. We openly aired our concerns to the media, stating that we were determined not be another Bury FC!
- January 2020, comes out Duchâtelet retained the property assets within Charlton Athletic Holdings. ESI had bought Charlton Athletic Football Company Limited – for £1.
- March 2020, Twitter fallout between shareholders, Nimer & Southall, EFL state club under registration embargo after failing 'Source and Sufficiency of Funding' requirment and multiple investigations and legal action ensued.
ESI & Its' Various Guises
After evidence of excessive spending of CAFC funds came to light, Nimer had Southall removed from The Valley and as a director of CAFC Limited. However, Southall remained a 35% shareholder in ESI. Nimer then appointed Claudiu Florica and Marian Mihail as directors of the football club.
- May ; we launched the "Our Club" initiative, asking fans to sign-up to be ready should we need to step-in to save the club we love.
- June; Paul Elliott announced as new owner of ESI. We became increasingly alarmed about the involvement of lawyer Chris Farnell and potential conflicts of interest as he had acted for Nimer, was a director of and lawyer to CAFC and also introduced Elliott, not to mention that he had been the lawyer at Bury at the time of their expulsion from the league.
- 7 August; EFL statement that three people had failed their Owners & Directors Test in respect of Charlton Athletic; soon surmised it to be Paul Elliott, Chris Farnell and Andrei Mihail, the brother of Marian.
With the prospect of administration - or worse - now looming large, having taken appropriate professional advice, we were on the point of launching "Our Club" fundraising.
Thomas Sandgaard's Ownership
On 25 September 2020, Thomas Sandgaard acquired the club itself from ESI, and was reported to have passed the EFL's Owners' and Directors' Tests.
Four managers within three years, and multiple squads failing to deliver on the pitch, Addicks fans once again found themselves at their lowest ebb. Running a club on his own without experience, and hiring family members to important roles at the club - Sandgaard found himself quickly unpopular.
CAST quickly took to the Fans Forum to make it clear that Sandgaard needed to employ 'football people' to high importance roles at the club, as well as continued calls for the clubs sale.
CAST involved in Fan Led Review
Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust gave evidence to the FLR committee led by Tracey Crouch in June 2021. We are cited in the Review at 1.41 concerning our evidence of the lack of accountability in leadership at the football authorities: “As an example…failures of the EFL to intervene during a turbulent period for Charlton Athletic, despite supporter pleas, leading to legal action.”
In front of the committee, we told our story and we were clear about what we thought should be in the report.
In celebration of CAST's tenth birthday we launched the CAST Ticketbank to make available free match tickets for people who would like to come to The Valley and support Charlton but cannot afford to do so.
This Launch was ahead of the Carabao Cup game against Brighton on Wednesday 21st December and the Boxing Day game v Peterborough.
The Addicks' Charter is launched
At an open online meeting attended by over 600 Charlton Athletic supporters, 85 per cent of fans voted that they agreed mostly or completely with the idea of a charter and the wording put forward. It has since been finessed and developed to incorporate comments received during and after the meeting, continuing to consult on the document and have invited further comment from fans.
The Addicks’ Charter encapsulates what fans hold dear about the club and is intended to form the basis of the relationship with the owners of the club – present or future.
SE7 Partners Consortium
SE7 Partners, a consortium comprising of several members (including Gabriel Brenner, Joshua Friedman, ACA Football Partners, Charlie Methven and even Addicks fan Gavin Carter to name a few) take over the club from Thomas Sandgaard.
CAST had previous contact and meetings with Jim Rodwell, who was interim COO at The Valley for several weeks in December/ January when SE7 Partners had a first period of exclusivity to negotiate with Sandgaard.
CAST continue to have positive dialogue with the clubs board, and an ever growing relationship.