At Midday today, approximately 500 Charlton diehards congregated in the car park behind the West Stand at the Valley. It was a scene we are all too familiar with. Dedicated supporters left with no alternative but to come together to protest about the ownership shambles at their beloved club.
The driver today was the would-be stooge owner Paul Elliott whose attempted takeover scam of holding company, East Street Investments, for the laughable sum of £1 threatens to delay the serious takeover of the club by proper businessman and multi-millionaire, Thomas Sangaard. Elliott's sham deal was subject to him passing the EFL's Owners & Directors Test but he failed that spectacularly along with 'lawyer' Chris Farnell. Farnell has since been removed by ESI as the club's 'lawyer' but the Manchester Duo are fighting to get their pound of flesh. Hopefully the coffin-lid will slam shut on them shortly and we can all move on.
In the meantime, the bigger issue is that professional football clubs are too important within their local communities have such historic ties, that regulation must be brought in to prevent conmen and chancers from being able to get control, siphon off money and then ransom them off, or worse, leave them to go out of business.
Duchatelet sold CAFC for £1 because it was loss-making but retained the valuable Valley and Sparrows Lane training ground which he has leased to ESI. Nimer, as the controlling interest in ESI looks to have sold it for £1 to Elliott in order to ensure his partner, Southall, with whom he is now at war, got his 35p investment back but who knows what other side-deals there may have been? Whatever the case, Elliott clearly feels he has something worth fighting for because he has taken a court injunction to fight the loss of his deal. He hasn't the money or the interest to managing CAFC going forward but if he could get control, he could reap the rewards for selling on to one of the bigger and more serious interested parties. On the high seas possession is key.
The fact that under-funded people with selfish motivations are able to do this is a national scandal. Bury FC have gone out-of-business and a number of other north-west clubs are in trouble or have had close shaves. Is it a pure coincidence that Southall, Farnell and Elliot are from the Manchester area? The EFL's laughable 'fit and proper persons test' or the Owners & Directors Test to give it it's proper title doesn't appear to be nearly robust enough and the fact that the test cannot prevent a sale of a club in any event under the law allows a massive loophole which people with criminal intentions are exploiting. The test takes time because it requires a lot of information which must be necessarily corroborated before a decision can be arrived at. Typically the process doesn't start until you have seriously interested parties and too often they want to do a quick buy-out either because it's opportune or needed to avoid the clubs going into Administration.
It looks like the EFL alone may not be able to sort this situation and it may need government intervention to make changes to the law to align takeovers.
Far too often clubs also overspend and put themselves in precarious positions. Owners have to show sufficient proof and source of funds initially and that should show that they can run their clubs for at least two years. However, if they go and blow the budget on players, they can quickly be in trouble and risk Administration and all the damage that does to the supply-chain who inevitably all lose out. The EFL must find a way to risk manage this. Whether it be via a bond or some form of insurance policy, they need to keep a controlling interest over a club's abilities to meet it's committed liabilities. If they were able to do this, it would remove the opportunity for schemers to enter clubs for next to nothing, and then bleed them dry before ransoming them off or allowing them to crash into Administration.
Whatever happens, Charlton fans landed another blow for their club today as well as one for other clubs. I doff my cap to all who participated and to the determined individuals still camping out in the club's Boardroom and refusing to budge. #CAFCquid.