Friday, 17 July 2009

The tide is turning....

After the turmoil of the Selhurst years and the struggle to return to the Valley, militancy amongst Charlton fans died off as Roger Alwen and then Richard Murray proved themselves trustworthy leaders of the Club as Chairmen. They were quick to embrace the idea of the fan on the Board and were pioneers in Community schemes, one of the first clubs to properly embrace it and prove it could work. All of that is a virtuous circle when your club is on the up and you enjoy seven unbroken seasons in the Premier League. Peter Varney's role here, too, should not be overlooked. He was probably the driving the force behind the transparency of the Club's management as well as it's development away from pure footballing matters.

Things have taken a massive turn for the worse this year as we all know and we can point to the subtle changes that have played their parts to a greater or lesser extent. It's almost impossible not to see Derek Chapple's arrival as PLC Chairman as a huge negative, even if there's little direct evidence in the public domain to support it. Peter Varney's resignation clearly had an impact and that decision now looks more contentious than has ever been credited before. The decision to drop the fan on the Board can't have helped although there were, arguably, justifiable reasons for this due to the tightening of Company Law and the new personal responsibilities for Directors, although I have never subscribed to the idea that there wasn't a way around that.

Finally, the last three months have seen the Club's fans completely ignored as communication from the Board has collapsed. Yes there may have been delicate negotiations going on in the background but there is so much more the Board and Club's management could have done to keep Supporters briefed on the parlous state of the business. Indeed, Richard Murray's explanation when cancelling the 9th July Q & A was all that was needed much earlier but it had to be forced out of them. Why no direct contact on other matters? Presumably they will tell us downstream that everything was takeover related i.e. decisions about the manager, player transfers etc. We haven't even had an update on season ticket numbers. It's not as if the fans aren't kicking up a fuss - the Club's own Website carries the hue and cry in the form of Fans Views, even if the ratio of complaint is carefully managed.

Finally then, there are now the stirrings of a Supporter's Trust. Ironically, former-fan-on-the-Board, Ben Hayes has mooted the idea on Charlton Life. I think this may prove to be a case of "light the blue touchpaper and stand-back." Fans will now meet in the Conservative Club in Charlton Church Lane on 4th August at 7pm to discuss taking the idea further.

I will go along to learn more but I believe the main idea is to pool the tiny shareholdings that fans have in order to carry more weight and try to influence decisions in the Boardroom. Other Supporter's Trusts have successfully increased the stake in their respective Clubs and, whilst unlikely to ever be able to control affairs, at least they don't feel like they are being completely ignored.

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