Wembley triumph brings Charlton fans a season ticket dilemma

Charlton Athletic at Wembley
The Charlton team pick up the trophy (not the big one on the pitch)

Charlton Athletic’s play-off triumph at Wembley on Sunday will have landed thousands across south-east London with hangovers yesterday morning. Now the many fans who have been boycotting home matches in protest at Roland Duchâtelet’s disastrous ownership of the side now face a dilemma – to buy a season ticket for Championship football next season or not?

The Addicks’ run to promotion back to the Championship – three years after a relegation caused directly by the instability caused by Duchâtelet’s calamitous running of the club – brought crowds flocking back to The Valley, with 25,428 seeing the semi-final win on penalties over Doncaster Rovers.

More than 38,000 filled the Charlton end at Wembley on Sunday to see the side come back from a disastrous early own goal, when goalkeeper Dillon Phillips misjudged a backpass from defender Naby Sarr and was help running helplessly as the ball dribbled into his own net, giving Sunderland an early advantage.

Ben Purrington equalised for the Addicks towards the end of the first half, setting up a tense second half. Just as it looked to be going to extra time, Patrick Bauer’s late, late winner saw scenes of pandemonium.

Why not watch it again?

Now season tickets are back on sale for two weeks at last season’s prices. Crowds have slumped under Duchâtelet’s reign, with an average of just 11,846 through the turnstiles last season, compared with 17,402 seven years ago, when the Addicks were last in League One.

Being in the second-tier Championship should make the club more attractive to potential buyers, but Duchâtelet is still reported to be insisting that new owners repay the money he has lost while trying – and failing – to run the club as part of a European “network” of teams. Even now, manager Lee Bowyer, credited with transforming the team on a small budget, does not have a contract for next season, and nor do many of his squad – risking the first season back up being a disaster.

Thousands of Charlton fans will be watching the news carefully in the coming days before deciding whether to commit their hard-earned cash to watch the team next season.


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Addicks on their way to Wembley after play-off thriller at sold-out Valley

Valley pitch invasion
A night to remember at The Valley

The first sell-out crowd at The Valley in seven years saw Charlton Athletic beat Doncaster Rovers after extra time and penalties to make it to the League One play-off final at Wembley.

Charlton will play Sunderland on Sunday 26 May – 21 years after the two clubs met at Wembley in a play-off final to reach the Premier League. Back then, the Addicks won 7-6 on penalties after drawing 4-4 after extra time in one of the greatest games the national stadium has seen.

The 25,428 crowd was the biggest since eccentric Belgian electronic magnate Roland Duchâtelet took over the club in 2014, precipitating a decline which has seen the Addicks marooned in the third tier of English football, with attendances slumping as longstanding fans boycotted the club.

It was an even more dramatic day for Charlton captain Patrick Bauer, who became a father in the afternoon before leading his side to victory in the evening.

Many fans set aside their boycott to come to The Valley last night as promotion back to the second-tier Championship should make the club more attractive to potential buyers – although Duchâtelet is still reported to be insisting that new owners repay the money he has lost in his disastrous spell in charge of the club.

Charlton took an early lead when Krystian Bielik’s second-minute header made it 3-1 on aggregate, after the Addicks won Sunday’s first leg in South Yorkshire by two goals to one. But Rovers fought back amid a hesitant second-half performance from Charlton to lead 2-1 after 90 minutes – 3-3 on aggregate.

Former Millwall striker John Marquis scored for Doncaster after 100 minutes, but Darren Pratley capitalised on an error by Rovers keeper Marko Marosi just a minute later to make it 2-3 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.

After the match went to penalties, Charlton sealed the win when Doncaster captain Tommy Rowe missed the fifth spot-kick of the shoot-out, sparking a joyous pitch invasion at The Valley. The last pitch invasion was three years ago, when Charlton were relegated, in protest at Duchâtelet’s ownership.

The Addicks now have over 36,000 tickets for Wembley – sale details are available on cafc.co.uk.


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Addicks fans get The Valley declared an Asset of Community Value again

The Valley
ACV status gives limited protection over The Valley

Charlton Athletic fans have succeeded in having The Valley declared an Asset of Community Value – meaning they can bid to buy the stadium if it is ever put up for sale.

The Valley was first made an ACV in 2013, and now Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust has successfully renewed the designation on the ground, which was first used for football 100 years ago. Charlton have played there ever since, apart from two near-disastrous spells away at The Mount in Catford (1923) and at Selhurst Park and Upton Park (1985-92).

With the club’s future up currently up in the air, the renewal of ACV status with Greenwich Council goes some way to asserting the importance of the Addicks to the wider community. Charlton’s absentee owner, eccentric Belgian electronic magnate Roland Duchatelet, oversaw the side’s relegation to League One in 2016 and a calamitous drop in attendances. His representatives have been in on-off talks about selling the club for well over a year.

Trust chair Richard Wiseman said: “Although ACV status might be viewed as largely symbolic it is nevertheless very important because it recognises the role of our historic ground and club in the community and offers some limited protection against worst case scenarios of asset stripping.

“I would like to thank the club, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and CAST volunteers who worked on this successful application. There is scope for strengthening the legislation to offer even more protection for historic football grounds, and we will continue to argue for this.”

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook said: “I’m delighted that the council has re-listed The Valley as an Asset of Community Value. The ground and the club are an integral part of the local community and this decision reaffirms the right of the fans to be part of any discussion about their future.”

Charlton play Blackpool tomorrow in the annual Football For A Fiver match, with striker Lyle Taylor strongly criticising Duchatelet for authorising the signing of a new striker to add to the the team, who currently lie fifth in League One.

“I don’t know if he [Duchatelet] is even going to sell the club. He doesn’t seem to be that interested in anything Charlton, or anything helping Charlton at the moment,” he told the South London Press.


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Can you help Charlton fans support Greenwich Foodbank this Saturday?

Charlton Athletic players helping at Greenwich Foodbank with Fans Supporting Foodbanks organiser Samuel Spong.

Charlton Athletic has joined forces with Fans Supporting Foodbanks to help locals in need over Christmas. Supporters will again be able to donate non-perishable food at The Valley before Charlton’s home game against Gillingham this Saturday, after a successful collection event before the game against AFC Wimbledon last weekend.

The items collected by Fans Supporting Foodbanks will be given to Greenwich Foodbank, which operates eight foodbanks in the borough, and is in desperate need during the busy Christmas period.

Last year, Greenwich Foodbank fed 7,505 people. This year it looks like numbers could be as much as 20 per cent higher, meaning a constant supply of food is crucial.

Charlton fan Samuel Spong created Fans Supporting Foodbanks after being inspired by a similar initiative in Liverpool. He said: “The aim is to utilise the collective power of football fans to help vulnerable local residents get through Christmas. This is the first time we have done something like this and Charlton, given its long-standing commitment to community work, seemed like a natural partner.”

Alan Robinson of Greenwich Foodbank said: “We are very excited by this initiative. We know that Charlton Athletic and their fans care deeply about our community and to partner with them to explore a new source of food at a time when demand is increasing gives us confidence for the future.”

Fans Supporting Foodbanks will be collecting outside The Valley before the game against Gillingham on Saturday 22nd December.

What is a non-perishable food? 

Non-perishable foods have a long shelf life and don’t require refrigeration. Examples include cereals, rice, long life milk or canned meat or fish. The current urgent needs are shown on the website https://greenwich.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/.

If you are unable to make it to the game or would like to donate away from the matchday, you can find more information here.

 


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In pictures: Charlton and Coventry fans march together and launch pig protest

Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016

Saturday saw fans of Charlton Athletic and Coventry City march together to protest about the running of their clubs.

Charlton fans are angry at the stewardship of Roland Duchâtelet, who has not attended a match at The Valley in two years, and his chief executive Katrien Meire, which has seen the club go through seven managers, an exodus of experienced backroom staff and the team relegated to League One. Coventry fans face losing their ground for a second time under the ownership of a mysterious hedge fund, Sisu.

These fans were packing a surprise – thousands of plastic pigs rained upon the pitch at kick-off, delaying the match by seven minutes and getting worldwide media attention.

Plastic Pig Protest at the Valley October 2016

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook is writing to the Football League following a post-match incident where a fan was grabbed by the throat by a plain-clothes security guard after having protested with a North Korean flag during the match – a reference to Meire’s comments about not caring about the club’s history.

“Antagonism between supporters and club owners is [is] at worrying levels,” he tweeted.

The Charlton Champion‘s own Neil Clasper took these photos of the march. You can see more here.

Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016
Fans United Protest - The Valley - October 2016

You can find out more about the protests at the Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet.

Addicks fans’ protest shirts raise £3,500 for Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled

CARD protest, 17 September 2016
Pest control: Charlton fans gather in their protest shirts before last week’s match against AFC Wimbledon

Charlton Athletic fans protesting against the club’s controversial owner have raised £3,500 for Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled Association after selling nearly 1,000 protest t-shirts.

The black and white shirts – loosely based on the kit the Addicks won the 1947 FA Cup in – have been sold as an alternative to the club’s official shirts for fans who are boycotting official merchandise while Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet remains in charge.

Duchâtelet and his chief executive, Katrien Meire, have overseen the club’s collapse into League One and a 40% drop in season ticket sales since taking over in January 2014. They are now on their seventh team manager, Russell Slade, and are 14th in League One.

Fans clubbed together on the Charlton Life forum to get the shirts made – even getting them sponsored by technology company Data Techniques, which pulled its own backing from the club in protest at its mismanagement.

They have now made enough money from sales to donate cash to local good causes. A further £3,500 is going to the Demelza children’s charity, which operates a hospice in Eltham.

Other proceeds from sales will help fund further protests against Duchâtelet, which have included disrupting matches with black and white beach balls and protesting in the tycoon’s home town of Sint-Truiden.

John Furlonger, chair of the trustees of Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled Association, said: “The group is run entirely by a happy, dedicated team of volunteers getting disabled children on horseback, so it’s very dependent on its community. The same volunteers also work astonishingly hard at everything else in between, from mucking out the horses to fundraising. No charges are made for riding.

“This wonderful donation will go a very long way indeed in making a real difference helping local disabled children to reach their true life potential. Heartfelt thanks are sent from everyone at Charlton Group to each and every Charlton fan who contributed for your kindness.”

Bob Jacobs, who runs Data Techniques, said: “Over the past 20 years we have spent in the region of £200,000 with Charlton as match sponsors, executive box holders and on corporate events at The Valley.

“For us it’s always been about ‘our’ team, not the owners of the club. By sponsoring the protest shirt, we took the opportunity to publicly express our opinion on what is happening to the club and support such a good cause as Demelza.”

CARD protest, September 2016
Charlton fans gather outside The Valley on 17 September

Although Duchâtelet has finally appointed a manager with British experience after trying a succession of failed “head coaches” from Belgium, fans and the club’s owners remain bitterly divided. Recent developments include:

  • The disclosure that much of Charlton’s transfer policy was being run by an inexperienced Belgian, Thomas Driesen, over the heads of the club’s coaches and scouts. Driesen remains involved in Duchâtelet’s set-up.
  • The grandson of Jimmy Seed, the manager that won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947, has disassociated his family from plans to renew the faded “Jimmy Seed Stand” sign that adorns The Valley’s south stand. “He would be horrified to hear about the scouting ‘system’ imposed on the club by Roland Duchâtelet over the last four years”, Jim Dutton said.
  • Katrien Meire applied to join the Football League’s board – but did not turn up to the meeting to make her pitch to other clubs.
  • Season ticket sales are down to 6,297, compared with 10,278 at the same stage last season – the lowest figure in nearly two decades – as long-term fans stay away.

A rare visit to London by Duchâtelet saw the club boast he had met a “fan group” set up by the owners, Target 20,000 – but even that stage-managed show of harmony ended in disarray after one of its members was told to resign after discussing the meeting on Twitter.

Duchâtelet told the group he rarely visits the club as it only accounts for 1.5% of his investments, and that he wished rival football fans would mingle together, as they do at rugby. Ironically, Charlton fans have been joined by rivals in their protests – including those of AFC Wimbledon, who beat the Addicks 2-1 at The Valley last Saturday.

The Addicks’ decline doesn’t just affect the club, it affects the area too, which is why this website will continue to cover the protests. Locally-based fan Dave Thomson and The Valley Cafe’s Mehmat Mantery discuss the impact of decline and Duchâtelet on the club and the community in this short video.

Tickets have been cut to £5 for next Saturday’s match against Rochdale. The Football for a Fiver match has traditionally attracted crowds of well over 20,000 – but with fans having withdrawn goodwill from the club, this season’s match is likely to see renewed protests as well as a fall in sales.

A limited number of protest shirts are still available for £25 adults and £19.05 for children – visit coveredendchoir.co.uk for more.

Charlton Athletic fans to be charged for using club’s own ticket office

Ransom Walk

Update: The club has removed the £2.50 charge following “fan feedback”, but the £3 surcharge for buying in the two hours before kick-off remains.

Football fans who buy their match tickets from Charlton Athletic’s ticket office at The Valley face having to pay an extra £2.50, it has emerged.

The club – run by unpopular Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet – has slapped the extra sum onto the cost of each transaction to encourage fans to buy their tickets online instead.

Duchâtelet’s management, led by chief executive Katrien Meire, is also levying a £3 charge on each ticket bought in the two hours before kick-off.

They say supporters can escape the charges by buying in advance and printing their tickets at home, or using a smartphone. Fans can order online and have tickets posted to them for £1, while telephone orders now also cost £2.50.

But fans, who invaded the Valley pitch at the end of last season to protest at the way Duchâtelet and Meire run the Addicks, have complained that the club’s ticketing website is unreliable and does not offer a full range of ticketing options.

The charge also affects casual supporters, such as people who live close to the club who may decide at the last minute to watch a match, or opt to buy in person because it is more convenient than using online methods.

Arrangements for away matches – which are supplied by the host club and cannot be printed at home – are also unclear. The club’s ticket office implied on Twitter this afternoon that the charge would apply for away tickets, but fans could escape the charge by ordering online and then collecting from The Valley. When asked to confirm this, the club did not respond.

It has long been believed that Duchâtelet and Meire are running down the club’s ticket office to persuade fans to switch to online ticketing, saving money and creating a potentially lucrative marketing database. It is already only open to personal callers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

The club could be in breach of consumer law if it does not offer a way of buying tickets that does not result in an additional booking fee.

Fans uncovered the fiasco today as tickets for the first away match of the club’s League One season, against Bury, went on sale. Many may now just simply bypass Charlton and buy their tickets directly from the Greater Manchester club on 6 August, the day of the match, if they are available there.

Following the club’s relegation to League One, life at The Valley had appeared to be more stable since the appointment of new manager Russell Slade, a reversal of Duchâtelet’s past policy of employing “head coaches” who he was already familiar with.

But season ticket sales are widely believed to be well down on last season as fans boycott the club. Duchâtelet and Meire’s decision to levy extra charges on individual match tickets is expected to further hit attendances at The Valley, which were already set to drop to their smallest level for two decades.

The Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet campaign group – whose eye-catching stunts included a funeral cortege down Charlton Church Lane to The Valley – is promising more protests in the new season. It is holding a fundraising party at the White Swan in Charlton Village on 23 July, featuring the launch of a specially-brewed ale, Roland’s Ruin.