Friday, 22 August 2008

It's time for some answers

Back in February New York Addick penned a post about the infamous 39th fixture that the Premier League were 'exploring'. His view on the subject, and my own, are irrelevant at this stage. I'm more interested in the excerpt below:

"Luckily as a Charlton fan, we can have few complaints about how we are treated by our current Board. Matchday prices are relatively low, we have a fans director, and you sense his colleagues genuinely make decisions with us in mind, not least because they are fans too. However, for all of us there should be a 'tipping point', whether in terms of cost or other factors, which drive us to consider alternative leisure activities. After all, the cost of a season ticket is not materially less than the cost of a year's membership to golf club, and at least there the pain is self-inflicted."

Following the Bloggers meeting with Richard Murray in June my view, and the subsequent comments I made, were massively in support of the board. Clearly there was a selfish reason behind that. If I slagged them off I might not be invited to the next meeting, if, indeed, there was one. There was no attempt by Richard Murray or Ben Hayes (the current Fans Director) to censor those present, and no suggestion that we need be nice of this would not happen again. However, we all knew that if we went away and caused trouble it would be a short lived project.

The main reason I seemed to support what the board were doing was that I agreed that it was in the club's best interests. Frankly I still believe that the board are steering our fine club well in what can only be described as 'choppy waters'. I suspect that there are few people reading this that have not felt the pinch of the current economic climate (food and petrol prices plus increased mortgage rates) so it should come as no surprise that the club are having to cut costs and raise money. This is made worse when you consider that the club (company) has so much debt and the banks are both calling in loans and increasing the interest rates.

Thus I am not calling for the directors to put more money in, or to seek further outside investment, we are where we are in financial terms. My worry is that, as NYA states, we have had a board, and particularly those that were seen to make the decisions, that we had learned to trust. Perhaps Richard Murray and Peter Varney were lucky to have been in-situ while Alan Curbishley build a team that won us two promotions and kept us in the mega-money Premier League. Perhaps Curbishley was lucky to have been supported by two great visionaries that enabled him to achieve those things. The truth is surely somewhere in between those two statements, but is somewhat irrelevant. All three of the men that the average fan would list as being part of that success have gone, and the new men at the top are all unknown to us.

Alan Pardew is a great communicator. He has the knack of always seeming to know exactly what to say. His statements never sound like they have just been delivered. He always comes across as though he has had a long think about what he is going to say. The man may well be very, very intelligent, and he may be able to think so quickly on his feet that everything he says just sounds like what I would have said if you'd given me half an hour to construct my answer. How clever he is matters little to these purposes. It is clear that Pardew is using the press conferences to his own ends. I would like to think that he is merely trying to use psychology to give his players the best chance/motivation/confidence to win games and ultimately promotion. However, I personally suspect that he is laying the ground work to protect his reputation should the club have another disappointing season. The message that I am getting is that the board have pulled the rug out from under him with no notice at all and have destroyed our chances but Pardew will do what is best for the club and supports the board's decisions. He seems to criticise the board just enough to plant the seed of doubt in the fans mind then covers himself by backing the board publicly. All in all he is making himself out to be the good guy and the directors out to be the bad guys.

Steve Waggott has been the new CEO for a couple of months now, all be it his official start date was 6th May. I'm sure that Mr Waggott will give his all, and I have little doubt that he will do a good job. However he is as of yet an unknown and trust and respect need to be earned.

Derek Chappell is in the same boat as Mr Waggott. Despite the fact that the announcement to cancel the Fans Director being made many weeks ago many fans are starting to put two and two together and are assuming that this decision, along with the lack of news of the 'Fans Forum' suggests that it is a decision of the new management that exclude the fans.

I have little (well none actually) insight into the two men that are going to try to take the club forward, but with the little anecdotal evidence we have seen (most of it from Pardew) it looks like they are intending to sell of many assets (understandable) and refuse to enter any dialogue or provide any access to the fans. This is probably not the case but the one 'public' statement from Mr Chappell tells us very little except that we are going to off load any players that don't want to be here. I don't disagree with that, but it does provide a blueprint for any Agent that wants to make some money moving on one of our players.

So why have I gone to all this trouble to tell you something that you probably already know? Apart from it being what I almost always do I think that we (the fans and the bloggers) need to be raising the issue that the unwavering support that the board have received in recent years needs to be nurtured. If it is not feasible (or just plain desirable) to have a fan on the board then there needs to be something else to give us the impression that we are worth more than the revenue that can be generated from ticket sales, "a £3 matchday programme full of adverts", and "£40 for a piece of nylon tat masquerading as a replica shirt, but costing just 50p to make." New Your Addick We need to feel like we are as much a part of the club as we did when Richard Murray, Peter Varney and Alan Curbishley were at the helm.

I understand that the board members own the club and don't have to answer to us, but they should also remember that the same was true of the Newcastle directors that suffered a backlash in 1998. There is no doubt that the club are stronger with the support of the fans than without it, and no one wants to hear chants of "Sack the board" ringing out around The Valley.

Maybe it's time for more than a few words from Mr Waggott in the program describing his movements in the week leading up to the match. I don't want to be overly critical but it would be a very sad day if Charlton were to add losing the 'special bond with it's fans' to that of Premier League status, the most successful manager the club has had in modern times, Richard Murray and Peter Varney.

I'm not angling for another bloggers meeting (although one would always be welcome) but maybe it's time for a press release that lays out how the fans are going to be kept in the loop, and indeed for that process to commence. The argument put forward that in the Premier League the TV revenue is so high that even with no fans the club would be wealthy (look at Wigan) is just not the case in this division. So we have nine months to convince the fans that they should renew their season ticket again, or, of course, to win promotion. There is already a sense that the free season ticket in the event of promotion was over played bearing in mind any player worth a fee was going to be sold. In fact some (many probably) fans feel as though they were cheated into renewing.

All this animosity will continue to build until it is addressed. Let's hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Oh, and a win tomorrow would be nice.

Up the Addicks!


Anonymous said...

thanks KHA - a very well put together piece.

Sometimes its difficult to see something when you are in the middle of it. It looks like we are in the middle of something substantial now - just not quite sure what!

is it planned; reactionary, in preparation for something? Or the usual - cock up.

In two years our expectation levels have changed so dramatically. A bit of hand holding would be nice.

Pembury Addick

newyorkaddick said...

Good stuff KHA.

It would be a shame if fans were being taken for granted by the new administration.

My suspicion remains that some drastic financial explanation (over and above simple cost-cutting) lies behind the unusual goings-on at The Valley recently.
Perhaps in due course we will be told exactly what.