Greenwich Council’s leader has stepped into the crisis engulfing Charlton Athletic, writing to the football club’s owner Roland Duchâtelet urging him to pay staff the bonuses they have earned.
Backroom staff at The Valley and at the club’s training ground in Sparrows Lane, Eltham – many of whom are poorly-paid and work long hours on matchdays – have been told by the Belgian electronics magnate that they will not be receiving promised performance bonus payments because the club is in financial trouble.
Staff are considering legal action against Duchâtelet, whose four-year tenure at the club has seen the team relegated to League One amid a backdrop of instability, with a huge drop in income with the loss of TV rights money and fans staying away from The Valley.
Fan group CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet) has organised a protest in The Valley’s car park at 2.15pm on Saturday ahead of the match against Fleetwood Town – past protests have resulted in matches being disrupted. In 2016, a match against Coventry City was halted after plastic pigs were thrown onto the pitch.
Danny Thorpe has written to Duchâtelet today to urge him to “do the right thing” and cough up.
“There is a huge groundswell of concern over this issue and is is a testament to the strong feelings… that so many fans are set to take part in a protest which could disrupt the match on Saturday,” he said.
He added that the club was “a source of great pride” in Greenwich borough.
A promised takeover of the club has, after many months, still not materialised, and Duchâtelet has instigated a cost-cutting regime, including denying academy players bottled water, cutting the use of electricity and taping up paper dispensers in toilets.
Today’s Evening Standard reports that a staff member was even told to ask permission to eat crisps while at work because Duchâtelet wanted to save money on cleaning costs.
Thorpe’s intervention is the first time the council has got involved in the long-running saga at Charlton, although local MP Matt Pennycook has written to Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and the English Football League about the issue.
Two years ago, Thorpe’s predecessor Denise Hyland refused a request from a fan to talk to Duchâtelet about fans’ worries about the club’s future. The following year she even took part in a photocall with Eltham MP Clive Efford and Duchâtelet’s former chief executive to promote the redevelopment of the club’s training ground.
18 months on, work has halted at the training ground.
The council has close relations with the Charlton Athletic Community Trust, a separate body from the football club.
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