Tuesday 31 March 2020

Lull before the storm?

Given the fast-moving and at times scarcely believable events of recent weeks in the life of Charlton Athletic, a few days with no drama suddenly feels eerily quiet. In what looks like an attempt to 'keep the kettle boiling,' Nimer has today released a short statement from the Club's website.

It tells us little and doesn't move us forward. The club is not for sale (apparently), he remains 100% behind the Club, the EFL are considering Florica and Mihail under the Owners and Directors Test and they continue to deal with the paperwork already submitted by Nimer to show "source and sufficiency of funds." It goes on to say that the EFL have "informed us what remains outstanding" and that Nimer is working at "providing the information required by the League as soon as possible." In other words, they aren't yet satisfied and more is required. 

In the background, the SLP's Rich Cawley revealed a document purporting to be an invoice to Charlton Athletic from Laurence Bassini as part of £450,000 'consultancy' in relation to the takeover by ESI. Cawley told us that Bassini was planning to sue Southall and CAFC for payment. These costs were not identified as part of Nimer's 'audit' and presumably he would have been screaming blue murder if there was any substance to them. It's also hard to fathom what value Bassini could possibly have added above and beyond the fees already paid to Southall, Heller, Amis and all the other hangers-on. 

However, Cawley was quick to follow this up with a story that Bassini was planning to buy Charlton and had submitted proof of funds to Nimer's lawyer (Chris Farrell) of £40m he had to invest in the Club and the freeholds of the Valley and Sparrows Lane. To football fans, this is akin to hearing Robert Maxwell had applied to manage your Pension Fund. 

Matt Southall angrily Tweeted "I'm telling you now Nimer, there's no way you're selling the club and flipping it for your personal gain" although he qualified this helpfully making it clear he would need to be settled financially as a part owner. He also told us that Nimer's plan has always been to move the club from the Valley so he could redevelop it by building 1000 flats. How he thinks revealing this sort of thing can somehow make him appear any better in the eyes of Charlton supporters is astonishing but we have quickly seen Southall for what he really is - a greedy opportunist with a conviction for theft who will say whatever he has to in order to try to stay close to the power and the money. At least he has kept away from Twitter since his last outburst.

Laurence Bassini left Watford owing them £1.4m and having been rubbished by the EFL following his disastrous involvement there, it was no surprise that his subsequent attempt to take control at impoverished Bolton did not pass muster. It would be hard to see a situation in which he could be approved to buy Charlton, but as we know to our cost, the fit and proper person's test doesn't yet prevent you buying a club, only from operating at the EFL's pleasure in their League. It's also difficult to see where he could get the money from to support a purchase and fund an operation needed to drive a return downstream, given his inglorious past and his appalling reputation.

Given what we have seen so far from Nimer, it would appear he doesn't have the money to buy the freehold of the club or even run it competitively. It does look like he is planning his exit, whether that be a sudden U-turn blaming the EFL or a dodgy sale that might yet net him a profit and get him out. All of that, of course, could be derailed by the action of the former Directors which could put a legal challenge on Nimer's position and a force a settlement of their debts which could equally spell the end for Nimer. With the case due to be heard this week, it's fingers-crossed we get some protection from the courts or at least a decision that brings some clarity to events and maybe some hope.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Taynoon Nimer tries to cash in on Charlton Athletic as Southall's hole deepens.

It looks like Taynoon Nimer has finally shown his true colours. The Standard today reports that he has been hawking the club for a quick sale for several million pounds. They report two interested buyers although one may already have dropped out. We have to hope that no-one is stupid enough to give Nimer more than the £1 he reportedly paid to gain control of the football club. 

It would appear to bring to an end any remaining credibility that the 'fake Sheikh' may have had and reveals his most recent outpourings and promises of unending support for the club to be completely bogus. Yet another shark in the tank whose initial anger at Matt Southall for taking personal advantage of Charlton's bank account begins to look like jealously because Southall got there first. 

The urgency of the sale must also be linked with the imminent court hearing being brought by the former Directors, Derek Chappell, Bob Whitehand and David Sumners who are challenging their right to first call on their debts which may invalidate the takeover by Nimer's East Street Investments. The easy out for Nimer would be to settle the debts but at up to £7m he clearly looks unable or unwilling to stay in the game. In that case the idea of him funding a £50m takeover is fantasy-land. Long-suffering Charlton fans must now hope and pray that the ex-Directors get their day in court and an injunction which might avoid any further theft of club monies and mark the start of the exit of ESI conmen.

In the circumstances, Nimer's connections with the controversial Claudiu Florica looks to be pretty transparent. A court pronouncement today in Romania makes Florica liable to repay over £10m he took from the government for Microsoft Licences which he marked up illegally. We can only hope Florica hasn't been able to do any further damage to the Charlton P&L this week since his hasty appointment as a Director, replacing the dodgy Matt Southall.

Mr Southall continues to plead his innocence and yesterday spent a couple of fevered hours responding to fans on Twitter. Having initially told us that his largesse with club money was only as bad as Nimer's, he now seems to think revealing that Nimer never had the funds in the first place and that there was somehow a plan to relocate the club and develop the Valley, somehow makes him look better. A few hours later he must have realised he had said too much and angered too many people. In a naive attempt at covering his tracks, he tried to tell us all that his Twitter account had been hacked by showing us a screenshot of a password change (not a link to reset the password from Twitter). We might have laughed it off as more incompetence, only it's the second time he has tried this. We have also had the unhelpful input previously of his Wife on Twitter, who just dug a bigger hole for him before deleting her account and we have also had an ill-informed 'mate' of his attempting to help sell his hopeless case and antagonising fans in the process.

The growing list of accusations of misuse of Charlton funds for his personal gain continues to grow. He has yet to respond to the accusation that his Wife was a Director of a business called 17 Media that invoiced the club for £80,000 which Southall authorised. He did tell us yesterday that the design bill for a home in Cheshire was not for his personal home as that work was done months ago!  

In the background, having already established that Southall was guilty of theft in his earlier career from Woolworths, Charlton fans' digging is revealing more and more suspect business dealings from his other failed business ventures. the recurring theme also seems to include very unhappy business partners who all claim he ripped them off. You would hope that the wrongdoing at Charlton eventually catches up with him in court that he is exposed on a wider stage but whatever happens, Matt Southall has succeeded in making himself a hate figure for tens of thousands of Charlton supporters. At least Taynoon Nimer can disappear back to the anonymity of the Middle east....

Sunday 22 March 2020

Jury out on Nimer

As expected, majority ESI shareholder, Taynoon Nimer used the club's website and his own Instagram account to present his version of events from last week's Board Meeting. He reiterated that Southall and Heller had been removed from the Board of Directors and that he was appointing two replacements. He also reconfirmed his commitment to getting the 'source of funds' issue resolved with the EFL and following through on the original plan to invest money in the club and make it successful. Charlton fans are clinging to Nimer's words and the promise that everything will be alright.

He told us that all the necessary paperwork covering funding was submitted with the EFL on Thursday 12th March, so we should hopefully see some movement on that this week, if indeed, everything is now in order. However, given the tale of woe since the takeover was 'completed' there has to remain serious doubts that Nimer will be able to follow-through. Either because his paperwork doesn't provide a strong enough case in terms of satisfying the EFL in respect of the source of funds or indeed the commitment of what's needed to run the club for a minimum of two years. There is also the issue of the huge sum needed to buy the Valley and Sparrows Lane from Roland Duchatelet which is what Duchatelet is obviously expecting, as it effectively completes the sale and gets him out of Charlton without taking serious losses. On balance, it looks to me like Nimer may struggle here, particularly if he was relying on new investors to come on board to allow him to complete the deal. 

As if things haven't been complicated enough, two former Directors (of a small group of former Directors) who have an historic first call on a collective £7m debt on the club in the event of a sale, have also now made their move and have a court hearing this week seeking an injunction to uphold their claim and force either payment of their debts or, if that's not forthcoming, to get the takeover ruled illegal. These Directors served the club faithfully in the past and the debts they were owed were only ever intended to be repaid if the club regained it's Premier League status in future. The logic in that clause was to make the debt 'friendly' in the sense that it would only be payable if the club won the PL lottery and could do so easily. There was never any interest or other growth attached to this debt, so the former Directors could be considered to be acting to protect the club's interest in the event the money isn't forthcoming from Taynoon Nimer. 

The burning irony in all this is that we could very well find ourselves rejoicing that we have been saved from inadequate or unscrupulous new owners and see the club land back in the lap of Roland Duchatelet. If that were to happen, you would have to hope that he would finally see that his determination to recoup all of his losses whilst running the club have always been unrealistic and that Southall and Nimer have proven that their offer had a huge hole in it because they were extremely unlikely to have ever been able to have raised the funds. 

In the meantime, Nimer has confirmed that Claudiu Florica and Marian Mihail have joined the Board. The Romanian pair have been working with Nimer for a number of months supporting his bid to acquire Dinamo Bucharest. Mihail spoke with CAST on Friday and told us that he and Florica were keen to help "sorting out the situation at Charlton." Mihail was open to all of the questions asked and displayed a good knowledge of the issues and the recent history. He is confident the money is there, that EFL will be satisfied and that the current Transfer Embargo will be lifted. He also addressed "the elephant in the room" relating to criminal charges pending against Claudiu Florica concerning fraud allegations involving Microsoft. He believes progress has been made in the case and that a not guilty verdict will be delivered soon. 

Mihail's words were encouraging but I am reminded very much that we heard very similar reassurances from Matt Southall only a couple of months ago. I also feel decidedly uncomfortable in trusting Florica at this moment given Southall's behaviour as soon as he got his hands on Charlton's money.

The jury is well and truly out and we have to hope that we get some answers this week because the club's funds will be running low and, even with the EFL bringing forward central payments to help clubs with cash-flow in the current financial emergency, the Administrator can't be too far off given where we are. 

Thursday 19 March 2020

Southall and Heller dig-in for their pay-off

Mastt Southall has this afternoon published an open letter on Charlton Athletic headed paper on his Twitter account. It is signed off by him and Jonathan Heller in their erstwhile guises of "Executive Chairman" and "Director" respectively. You will note that this wasn't via the Club's website which he no longer has access to.

It purports to tell us that there has been a Board Meeting of ESI today attended by three shareholder (them and Nimer) and their respective lawyers. Nimer apparently brought two others to the meeting (assume a conference call) who Nimer is now saying are on the Board. Southall claims there are "serious legal questions over the standing of one of these men" an suggest the EFL's Owners & Directors Test may be tough for them.

He goes on to say that he and Heller were disappointed that "resolutions have been passed" which they believe are invalid and unlawful. He doesn't say what these were but I am sure Taynoon Nimer will be telling us shortly via Instagram. 

Southall also says that Nimer shut down any discussion about the "pressing matter" of the "Charlton secured creditors" and instead "chose to pursue his personal vendetta against myself." He digs at Nimer for still not having satisfied the EFL of his source of "alleged funds." 

The killer paragraph is the last one, where he tells us that until Nimer "fulfils then obligations that he promised when purchasing the club, there shall be no discussions about me stepping away from Charlton Athletic Football Club, in my day-to-day capacity or as an owner through my shareholding in East Street Investments." Presumably by 'obligations' he means more than the penthouse flat on the river, the Range Rover, £200k annual salary and bonuses for completing the 'takeover' which I would think may be approaching a legal challenge if the Charlton secured creditors get their way.

It looks, therefore, very much like Southall and Heller are clinging on to their positions in ESI until they are forced or encouraged to go. If Nimer can't force them off - and he may have tried that today through the "resolutions...passed" - then the hard-pressed duo may well be rubbing their hands for encouragement to leave.

Southall had received 171 replies to his Tweet from Charlton supporters who were less than supportive of what he had to say and whose advice seemed to be fairly unanimous that he should head off very quickly. Looks like he may have taken the Tweet down now to save any further embarrassment.

Nimer's response should be the highlight of the evening. I'd love to see it posted on the Official Site too, just to make a point. Nimer does have to get the EFL onside quickly, especially if the former Director's are close to getting their case heard. If he could do that he might be able to reach an accommodation with the Directors but if not he could find he has no deal with Duchatelet, which might also suit him if it gets him out of a hole he has fallen into.

Sunday 15 March 2020

Welling United 2 v Billericay 0

First Wings match in months. First game I have seen under new manager Bradley Quinton and half the players have changed. That's probably just the rate of player turnover at Welling as opposed to Quinton-lead changes although he's no doubt had an input.

I wasn't sure to what to expect in terms of the gate in these Covid-obsessed times but the verdict was unanimous - local fans weren't being denied their fix and the gate was 80% up on normal with just under a thousand present. It was clear from the Charlton, Millwall and even Palace emblems on display just where many of the additional fans came from.

The game itself was good to watch. Welling took it to the visitors in the first-half and it was evident that there was a shoot-on-sight policy. Billericay's big and mobile defence played very well but Welling had more movement and their quicker passing created opportunities, albeit most were snapshots from distance. Alan Julian in the visitors goal made six or seven good saves beating out and parrying everything Welling could throw at him. Just before the break Welling got in close. Captain Rob Swaine rose highest at the back post from a free-kick and directed a header back across goal which Coombes (I think) got to but his header flashed agonisingly wide.

After the break, with Welling kicking towards their favoured Park View Road, we hoped for the winner but I suspected Billericay might hold out and probably snatch a winner - just like we are used to at the Valley. The chances weren't coming and the game slowed in midfield until the around the 70th minute when Welling once again tested Julian. In front of the vocal home fans, he was impressing and having a bit of banter. It all turned abruptly though with a quick Wings move down the right and curling back-post cross which was met 12 yards out eight feet up by Adam Coombes. The contact was perfect and there was absolutely nothing Julian could do to stop it. It screamed across the goal and into the top right hand corner. Coombes is the stand-out talent at Welling and possibly in this division. When he wants to know he can be imperious but he simply doesn't want to know often enough. That header was a thing of beauty and would have beaten any keeper in the world. 

Billericay tried to force an equaliser but with nothing coming, manager Jamie O'Hara, brought himself into the action. I was looking forward to seeing O'Hara at the ground but didn't imagine he'd play. After his assumed dig at Matt Southall on Twitter in the week I was ready to congratulate him but would have been drowned out by the cacophony of abuse. Wikipedia tells me O'Hara is only 33 years old but he was carrying the weight of a 43 year old former player and he was sporting a pair of shorts which would have clothed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink comfortably. The grief was merciless and even had Julian laughing in the Billericay goal. He can still splay passes but the pace has gone and it's clear he couldn't do more than fifteen minutes as he tired quickly. 

Bradley Goldberg came on as a sub and within a few minutes he was tripped in the box for a disputed penalty that Cook despatched low and hard to Julian's right. That was game over and it sent the fans home happy. Welling are up to 13th and with a game in hand could be within two wins of the play-offs. If Covid doesn't halt the National League, Welling could be a rare club to prosper in these troubled times. 

Thursday 12 March 2020

Fans turn on Southall - and now he's gone!

It's been hard to keep up this week with the unfolding drama of Southall v Nimer. The tit-for-tat continues as does the leaking of documentation and emails as well as move and counter-move. 

The heat on Southall has ratcheted up following the leaking of extremely damaging expense details that show ESI employees taking advantage of Charlton funds for their own benefit. Southall's immediate defence was to say Nimer was at it as well, which probably wasn't the smartest approach as it was akin to throwing chum into shark-invested waters. What Nimer may have done isn't yet clear but we do know he has gone ballistic having discovered what Matt Southall and Lee Amiss have taken, although two of Taynoon's own 'consultants' have also been well rewarded thus far. 

Indeed, Naynoon responded with a statement of his own accusing Southall even more directly of using Club money to further his own lifestyle and making it clear he was now taking legal steps to remove Southall from the club and appoint someone else to run things. We then had the spectacle of Chris Farnell, a lawyer representing Nimer, speaking to Jim White on Talk Sport and saying action would be forthcoming. Interestingly, Farnell previously represented Southall and was the person who Southall was ordered to pay £10,000 costs to last year after Farnell took him to court for failure to pay his legal bill! To round things off, Nimer also appeared on a separate Talk Sport show and repeated all of his previous assertions and reiterated his determination to regain control and oust Southall. 

We then got a terse statement from the Club saying that Chris Parkes, who had been summarily dismissed by Southall the day before, had been reinstated after a "thorough investigation" deemed there was no case to answer for in terms of his suspension. The statement did not include Matt Southall's name and neither was any apology or explanation given. Chris might well be feeling peeved but his wife didn't hold back by making it very clear on social media who his accuser had been. Irrespective, it was a major climbdown from the day before and almost certainly a direct reaction to the story of support for Parkes from the club's supporters. Hopefully a valuable lesson.

Southall then met CAST yesterday afternoon in a bid to justify things and he wasn't convincing. He claimed the £144,000 a year luxury riverside apartment he is now living in with his family was actually a "corporate flat" for use by the club whenever he's not there which hasn't really thrown anyone off the scent. To make matters worse, Taynoon Nimer then released a copy of the rental agreement which matched perfectly with the leaked expenses and gave us all the address of the humble abode at Sugar Quay. That was enough for one loon to turn up live-streaming his arrival and calling for Mr Southall to come down and see him at Reception. CAST have since issued a statement calling for Southall's resignation.

Southall also confirmed that the EFL had placed a transfer embargo on the club on 8th January following failure to show proof of funds for the takeover. The surprise news here has lead to obvious questions about the charade of the interest in signing Maddison and Toney as well as the guff Southall spun on his "super duper deal phone" during the rest of the window. It does, of course, fully explain the three lame loan signings we did eventually make at the eleventh hour.

Southall main defence was to rubbish Nimer and say that he has not provided any funds yet and that was what has lead to the transfer embargo and the falling out. Nimer's position on this is that he has provided this to Southall but that, for some reason, Southall had chosen not to pass it on to the EFL. Nimer has said he is rectifying this now but that he won't be providing any funds until Southall is removed from the club to avoid any further misuse of club money.

Today has seen yet more documentation and emails, some of which may well be fake, but the mess and pressure is building. There was also time for a bizarre letter posted by the club which was addressed to former professional Jamie O'Hara claiming defamation of character against Matt Southall and demanding apologies and financial recompense for a Tweet from O'Hara allegedly about Southall. I can't see the Tweet but others who have said it was generic and did not mention Southall or Charlton. O'Hara has history with Southall - his Wife is the mother of Southall's daughter. Real Footballer's Wives stuff.

Throughout all of this, the mood of Charlton fans has hardened against Southall. He has been caught out being economical with the truth once too often and the greed and arrogance shown through the expenses scandal has made him persona non grata. For most there is no way back and he has to go. The simple facts are that without Nimer's money (whether he invests or not), Charlton are broke without serious investment which Southall doesn't have and shows little hope of being able to attract. Southall reckons the club has funds to continue until December but certainly not at the rate of his and his cronies expenses thus far and almost certainly not if we are relegated. If the deal with Roland is a £50m commitment for the assets, it's almost impossible to imagine anyone being sold on a slice of that when no-one was prepared to pay anywhere close to it despite two years of trying to flog us and the club currently facing a financially disastrous relegation. The chances of anyone giving Southall their money following this week's revelations must be non-existent. Southall's 'vice-Chairman' former local Estate Agent, Lee Amis, tried to defend his and Southall's expenses on a call with a prominent Charlton fan but only ended up digging an even bigger hole. 

The only obvious hope of the club moving forward is if Nimer removes Southall and is true to his word over investment. It must be said that the jury is still out on this given the unexplainable failure to show source of funds so far and intimations from Southall that Nimer never intended to be footing the entire bill for the purchase and that the agreed plan was always to recruit additional investors. The CARD group have also 'reformed' and a statement from them this afternoon supports the CAST call for Southall to resigns and calls on all Charlton fans to protest before and after next Tuesday's home game against QPR.

There's plenty of room for more twists and turns before the R's visit which promises to be a super-charged atmosphere where Matt Southall is very likely to find out precisely what Charlton fans currently think of him. As I type this I am hearing that there may have been a legal attempt to expel Southall this evening. Louis Mendez has just tweeted footage of Southall walking out and getting into his £100,000 club Range Rover. Subsequent Tweets would suggest that club stalwarts, Tracey Leaburn, Micke Everett and Olly Groom have all been fired after an attempt of some kind to remove Southall. Taynoon Nimer has also Tweeted something to this effect. It really is a circus. If Southall made a mistake suspending Parkes earlier in the week, he has just made a massive judgement of error and an unbelievable own-goal that will have major repercussions and quickly. It simply can't go on.

22.00 hrs - reliable Tweet from former Fan Director, Ben Hayes, who was there this evening supporting Tracey Leaburn along with Mick Everett and Olly Groom. Southall was served papers and has been removed from the club. The footage of him leaving wasn't just him finishing work. It was him exiting stage left, never to be seen again. This is fantastic news. We now need to see the colour of Taynoon's money and hope that we are free of greedy self-serving Directors once and for all.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Advantage Tahnoon Nimer

Following the late drama of yesterday, today has been an even more astonishing day of developments and revelations which surely signal more significant change at Charlton Athletic Football Club. If Matt Southall thought he had won on points last night with his statement on the club website at the end of play, Nimer would appear to be close to a victory this afternoon.

In an assumed close by Southall this morning, the club posted an acceptance of Nimer's resignation from ESI in a short statement. Nimer responded with a three page document on Instagram which clearly benefited from someone with better English and at least a pseudo-legal understanding. The statement was a much more detailed fill-in of the previous night's accusations and it was a damning view on Matt Southall which claims that Nimer has just discovered that filings from his holding company (Panorama Magic General Contracting) in the UAE that the EFL have been requesting have not been made by Matt Southall and his team which had lead to a transfer embargo on the club and possibly a failure to complete Source of Funds necessary for completion of the take-over. With this news fresh in our minds, he went on to say that this was just the "tip of the iceberg" and that Southall had been misusing the clubs' funds on "leasing expensive flats, buying expensive cars, promising large fees to agents and personal expenses instead of fulfilling squad and Manager's urgent needs." Nimer also said he had instructed lawyers to take steps to remove "the persons responsible from the Club and appoint a new chairman to lead the Club."

Since that statement there has been an avalanche of supporter comment on social media which has swung decidedly in Nimer's favour. It was boosted by news that the club's long-serving Secretary, Chris Parkes, had been suspended by Southall for reportedly having been in communication with Nimer about the EFL. One can only speculate here but a decent assumption is that Parkes could see what was happening in terms of the building EFL issues and decided to go above Southall's head and alert Nimer directly. 

The icing on the cake today in terms of the case against Southall was a damning leak of recent expenses purportedly for Matt Southall, Lee Amiss, Jacco van Seventeer and John Hirst. The sums and items all look excessive and very much in line with what Nimer has already been complaining about. The lease payments on the £100k Range Rovers are there as well as wapping Consultancy fess for each as well as large hotel bills, general expenses and well as rent for what looks like Southall's riverside apartment across from the Shard. If the leak is verified, Southall looks to have been paid £90,000 in Consultancy fees between 7th January and 7th February (this may have included a one-off £50,000 bonus for completion of the takeover as previously rumoured/reported - a takeover that doesn't look complete). His Range Rover lease payment of £2,409 and for some reason, a service bill of £2,195, although I am unsure why you would be servicing a new vehicle. Rent is £12,567 and hotel/expenses total just shy of £8,000. 

So, not a good day for Matt Southall and unless he can somehow spin this, he is going to have to perform a miracle to recover from here. The mood amongst the fans is one of growing anger and he will be pleased the game on Saturday is at Hull although he will be wise to avoid visiting Addick fans if possible. He may well walk before then but I really can't see him being at The Valley next Tuesday for the QPR game.

Charlton's 'billionaire' Arab takeover collapses....

In an extraordinary sequence of Tweets and a hastily put together statement on the Charlton Athletic website this evening, we have seen the majority shareholder and proposed financial backer, Sheik Tahnoon Nimer, pull out of East Street Investments and effectively end his brief association with the club.

Nimer, who has been in Romania negotiating the purchase of Dinamo Bucharest on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Business Development group, posted a poorly worded message on his Instagram page which prompted Charlton supporters to seek clarification. He then gave that in a verbal recording which said he was pulling out because of improper behaviour by Matt Southall who was wasting the club's/Nimer's money. He referenced "Range Rovers" and "Bitches" and said we should ask Matt Southall about "all the money I put in the club and it has been done for his lifestyle." It has been rumoured in the last week that four of the club's top executives, included Southall, now had new Range Rovers and there was a brand new white one in prime position outside the West Stand on Saturday. Unclear who else has similarly received one of the expensive new cars but Southall's mate Lee Amis is suspected to be one of the lucky winners - hard to understand what he has done to merit this but no doubt we will be told in due course.

Matt Southall has now signed-off on a statement on the club website that Tahnoon Nimer wrote "an incredibly damaging letter" to members of the Club's Senior Management Team earlier today in which he made allegations about Southall's conduct. He goes on to say that Nimer was unhappy with "disadvantageous contracts" that had been signed and Southall believes that must reference Bowyer's extension as it is the only contract he has authorised (presumably other than Jackson's, the loan signings and the Range Rovers?). The bombshell that follows in Southall's statement is that Nimer has yet to satisfy the EFL over proof of funds despite repeated requests to do so which Southall says limited his ability to deal in the January transfer window. Southall claims that Nimer has yet to invest "a single penny." The lawyers are now involved looking at "defamation" so it doesn't look like this is going to blow over.

In the meantime, therefore, Charlton Athletic Football Club look to be in a very difficult position. Clearly, there is no money behind ESI at this point and the club is effectively operating on incoming revenues which may enable it to see the season out. However, relegation would mean unsustainable losses without further investment, something we are far less likely to see if we go down. 

The EFL will have some explaining to do as well. After weeks and weeks of waiting whilst the completed their thorough checks relating to the purchase, ensuring that these were fit and proper people to be buying one of their precious football clubs and ensuring the funds were in place to secure the operation of the club for two seasons at least, it appears they might not have actually done all that and have yet another looming disaster on their hands. Given the recent shambles involving Coventry, Blackpool and Bury, it's hard to believe this is remotely possible.

Matt Southall also comes out of this very badly. As the mouthpiece for ESI we have heard a lot from him officially and even more on social media. Perhaps we shouldn't be critical of his ambition or his positivity but that has proven short-lived and he has already been forced to acknowledge that the takeover was nowhere near as complete or clean as had been intimated when they broke the news. When it later became clear they hadn't bought the Valley or Sparrows Lane, questions immediately arose as to the actual scale of the investment given that Duchatelet was on record saying that he would sell the loss-making football club for £1. That has yet to be qualified although it doesn't look to be significant if Nimer is simply walking away.

The subsequent failure to invest as anticipated in January to strengthen the playing side was a further disappointment but at no time was a shortage of funds given as an explanation, only that they did not want to pay over the odds given the inflated January window and the fact that selling clubs were trying to profiteer knowing we had Arab backers. Indeed, Southall played up the three loans we did do and told us he was satisfied with the business he had done. I can understand why the club wouldn't want to wash their dirty linen in public but the team have struggled through February and we are now in a serious battle to avoid a relegation that has looked increasingly likely since January and our failure to improve our squad is a major factor.

Southall looks like he is going to press on running the club but it's very difficult to see where the money we need medium term is going to come from. Also, as supporters we can't simply ignore what Nimer has said. He has accused Southall of wasting the club's (at some point Nimer's) money and whilst we don't know the details of Bowyer's deal (or Jackson's or the loanees) it would appear that money may have been spent on four new Range Rovers which might be hard to justify given our finances. If money is be spent unwisely, you also have to wonder if that might accelerate as the club heads towards what would effectively be Administration?

Given the history of this club over the last forty years, our supporters have been through pretty much everything. We consider ourselves uniquely unfortunate, incredibly hard-done-by and always expectant of worse. In spite of all that, how many of us could really have foreseen this though and so quickly?

Saturday 7 March 2020

Charlton Athletic 0 v Middlesbrough 1

The relegation siren continues to wail in SE7 after we lost this 'must-win' match against relegation rivals Middlesbrough. Three defeats in eight days against three sides short on confidence and we have failed to score a single goal. 

Boro rolled into SE7 with six draws and six defeats in their last dozen games and didn't even need to call on Brit Assombalonga from the bench. They scored after 17 minutes having taken the game to us and they never really looked in any trouble after that. They moved better than us, supported the man on the ball better than us and avoiding any unnecessary gamesmanship which could not be said for us. 

We missed Tom Lockyer again and whilst Oshilaja battled manfully, he and Pearce were wobbling throughout. Purrington and Matthews battled to keep us in it. The real trouble was that our midfield was all over the shop. Cullen didn't see enough of the ball and Pratley did plenty of scrapping but was second-best too often. Lapslie struggling to get a touch and Williams was isolated behind the front two for too long.

Taylor was guilty today of spending too much effort trying to win free-kicks rather than beating his man. It earned him a booking for simulation. It's hugely frustrating watching a player of his ability reduced to trying to win free-kicks because he doesn't have the support or quality around him to be focusing all his efforts on creating and scoring. In saying this, he had little to feed on, so perhaps it was the best way he could try to get us level?

Andre Green had a better game than most but again he was isolated too often when he received the ball. If he wasn't on his own when he picked the ball up, he was by the time he had run 15 yards into the opposition.

Bonne, Doughty and Hemed (again) came on for Lapslie, Purrington and Williams but with little effect. I really can't see why Bowyer perseveres with Hemed. He has played a dozen games or so and he hasn't even come close to scoring and I can't remember him doing anything of note or even creating a goal. If McGeady doesn't deserve another chance, I can't see why we keep calling on Hemed.

There are some absolutely embarrassing comments and statements on social media once again tonight about how we are now relegated and how hopeless Bowyer is. It really is cringeworthy and reflects very badly on all those who were  crowing earlier in the season when we were riding high. The simple truth is that this division is about money. Even clueless Roland Duchatelet knew that and the facts are that the clubs with the smallest budgets invariably finish in the bottom six. No surprise then this evening that it's Barnsley, Luton and us occupying the drop zone. The three relative paupers who came up last season.

We have a right to be asking questions this evening but most of them need directing at East Street Investments and the Chairman, Matt Southall. So far we have been conned. The grand acquisition was soon revealed to be the football club only, which Duchatelet was willing to sell for £1. We were told that ESI have an option and an obligation to buy the Valley and Sparrows Lane within six months because we couldn't await Due Diligence because they wanted to maximise the January transfer window. We then flattered to deceive in the window with a farcical interest in signing Maddison and Toney before completing three loan signings on the last day. Of those, one is clearly not ready, one is a journeyman and the other a faded flash-in-the-pan who hasn't even been bothered to really try since he was signed. Zero news on Due Diligence and I will wager that there won't be any for months and then there will be an excuse not to commit. 

In summary then, we are in trouble on the field and maybe a larger problem off it. If ESI have not invested anything significant so far in acquiring the club (happy to be proven wrong), there has to be a real risk that they are winging it and hoping to bring in investment to carry on. You have to wonder who would invest significantly in just the football club (no assets beyond the squad) which could quickly be losing millions a season in League One? You also have to question Matt Southall's credibility here too. His CV doesn't shriek 'raging success' to would-be investors and who are these shadowy Arab owners who need third party investment in a club they don't appear to have made any big commitment in themselves?

If we go down without investment, there has to be a real risk ESI will look to get out and we really are in hot water at that point. Duchatelet's assets are largely worthless all the time the football club exists but they would appreciate in value rapidly if we went out-of-business or were materially downgraded, relegated or relocated. Hard to imagine things could get worse from Duchatelet but it looks entirely possible. ESI really need to stand up and show some commitment now before things get away from them.