ROLAND OUT: Charlton fans celebrate as hated owner Duchâtelet finally sells up

Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Charlton fans held a protest march with Coventry City fans in October 2016 (photo: Neil Clasper)

An Abu Dhabi-based consortium has bought Charlton Athletic, ending five years off calamitous ownership by the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet.

East Street Investments – named after the street (now Eastmoor Street) near the Thames Barrier where the Addicks were founded in 1905 – have bought out Duchâtelet, who alienated fans by interfering in team selection, sacking much-loved manager Chris Powell, drafting in unsuitable players from other clubs he owned, and mocking unhappy supporters as “vinegar pissers”.

Fans threw plastic pigs onto the pitch and travelled to Duchâtelet’s home town of Sint-Truiden to protest at a regime which saw the club relegated to League One in 2016. While the Addicks regained their Championship status this spring after winning a play-off final at Wembley, the future of the club – and especially manager Lee Bowyer – remained uncertain with key players and the manager himself only retained on short-term contracts. Now many fans are ending lengthy boycotts of the club.

The new chairman, Matt Stratford, said in a statement: “While we may be the club owners, truly we are only the custodians. The true spirit of this football club rests with the fans, it is nothing without them. Their support throughout some difficult times both recently and in the past has been inspirational and we intend to build on that loyalty. Our priority will be immediate contact with fan groups in order that their views play a major role in the club going forward.”

Stratford’s fellow director is Tahnoon Nimer, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Business Development, the private office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of one of the six ruling families of Abu Dhabi. The company oversees the running of more than 60 companies including energy, insurance, broadcasting, shipping and sports businesses.

Charlton fans will be hoping it is third time lucky with new owners – Duchâtelet was preceded by Michael Slater and Tony Jiminez, whose reign foundered when promised financial backing was withdrawn. The new owners’ plans for The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in Eltham will also be closely scrutinised.

The team are next in action tomorrow against Sheffield Wednesday, with tickets on sale from The Valley.


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