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.
Fans of Charlton Athletic are planning to step up protests against absentee owner Roland Duchâtelet after revealing the first of series of billboard posters ridiculing his ownership of the club, which has fallen to the bottom of the Championship.
It’s also emerged that Duchâtelet’s management team at The Valley are exploring the possibility of building flats inside the football club’s stadium.
The billboard, which appeared on Anchor & Hope Lane at the weekend, features a photo of a young boy at The Valley, taken in 1992, while it was being rebuilt in anticipation of the club’s return from its seven-year exile away from the area. The slogan reads: “Here before you and long after you’ve gone”.
It echoes a similar poster used by the Valley Party, which fought the 1990 local elections after Greenwich Council refused a planning application from the club to return to The Valley. That featured a young fan with the slogan: “If you don’t support us, who will he suppprt?”
“We’re bottom of the league at the moment, but it’s not about results,” Phil Reeks, from Greenhithe, Kent, says.
“It’s about the mistreatment of staff, the abject player recruitment policy, the constant mistruths, the same mistakes being repeated again and again, the list goes on.
“Over the years, I’ve had roughly 12 season tickets in various places around the Covered End, but I don’t currently have a season ticket. Even the club has admitted that 3,000 of its season-ticket holders aren’t currently attending games at the moment, and it’s doing nothing to win those fans back.”
After 2,000 fans attended a protest following the match against Blackburn Rovers at the end of January, CARD says it is planning another protest, “with a twist” for this Saturday’s game against Cardiff City.
Meanwhile, the club is considering the possibility of building flats inside The Valley, fanzine Voice of The Valley has reported.
Duchâtelet is said to have ordered his management team to find ways of making more money out of the stadium site. His first club, Belgian side Sint-Truiden, has had its Stayen stadium redeveloped to include shops, bars and a hotel. With The Valley being in a residential area – a plan to include a bowling alley met fierce opposition in the 1990s – his options are likely to be restricted to a hotel or flats.
Rumoured plans to build flats on the site of the current club shop appear to have faded for now after the club went back on an earlier scheme to close the Valley Central community space on Floyd Road. It is believed the club wanted to move the shop into the space. This website understands staff at the Charlton Athletic Community Trust were told Valley Central – which hosts youth services on behalf of Greenwich Council – would close in May, but the club later announced it would stay open.
The 36-year-old Jimmy Seed Stand – the stand furthest away from Harvey Gardens – has been identified as a candidate for redevelopment. The stand, used to accommodate away supporters, is the only significant structure to survive from the days before the club temporarily switched to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park in 1985.
Club executives are said to have visited Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road – which has flats built in each corner, with balconies overlooking the pitch – to see how it could be done.
However, such a move is unlikely to be popular with fans, who fear it will restrict the possibility of increasing The Valley’s 27,000 capacity should the club return to the Premier League. Greenwich Council gave outline approval – since lapsed – to a plan to expand to 40,000 a decade ago, a capacity that would be unlikely if there were flats in the stadium.
There are also some practical difficulties – while the current stand is rather old, it allows the police to segregate away supporters easily. There’s also the question of how residents of any flats inside The Valley would access their homes, as the south stand does not sit on public roads.
Charlton’s defeat to relegation rivals Bristol City on Saturday leaves them at the foot of the Championship table, and leaves recently-reinstated head coach José Riga with a far harder task than his last stint in charge two years ago.
The club faced further ridicule this week when a prankster faked chief executive Katrien Meire’s signature on a document sent to Companies House, apparently resigning her role at the club.
Instead of playing down the hoax, the club – which has recently appointed a new head of communications after months of bad publicity – responded with a terse statement saying it was “investigating the matter as it is something we take seriously”, leading to press coverage of the joke in both the UK and Belgium.
In a possible indication of the mood inside the club, a security guard was posted at the entrance to the stadium on Tuesday when Duchâtelet – who has not attended a match since October 2014 – arrived for meetings.
Local MPs Matt Pennycook and Clive Efford met Meire last month to discuss fans’ concerns about the running of the club. However, Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland told a council meeting two weeks ago that there would be no similar approach from the town hall, saying she was sure the club’s management were aware of fans’ views.
Charlton Champion exclusive: Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has asked Charlton Athletic chief executive Katrien Meire for a meeting as the crisis surrounding the club intensified following its 5-0 defeat at Huddersfield Town last night.
Fans have been alarmed by the handling of events both on and off the field this season under the ownership of Belgian electronics tycoon Roland Duchâtelet. A group – Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet – was formed today to force the businessman out of the club.
2,000 fans held a noisy protest at The Valley earlier this month, following revelations in the Voice of The Valley fanzine that Duchâtelet and Meire had rebuffed attempts by former club boss Peter Varney – who ran the side in its Premier League era – to introduce them to investors who were interested in buying the Addicks from them.
Pennycook has written to Meire – who has not made any public statements since a video emerged of her implying the clubs fans were “weird” – to seek her side of the story. He is also talking to Eltham MP and shadow sports minister Clive Efford, whose constituency includes the club’s training ground in New Eltham.
The Addicks – second from bottom of the Championship, English football’s second tier – have haemorrhaged experienced staff both on and off the pitch, with cost-saving measures including leasing out the space formerly occupied by its ticket office as an NHS call centre.
The ticket office windows are closed Wednesdays and Thursdays – making it impossible to physically buy a ticket from The Valley on those days – while it is heavily rumoured that Duchâtelet plans to demolish the club shop on Floyd Road to build flats. When asked by this website late last year, Greenwich Council said there had been no correspondence about such a proposal.
An indication of what may be planned for The Valley can be found at the electronics magnate’s first club, Belgian first division side Sint-Truiden, whose Stayen ground has been redeveloped to include high street retail units, bars and a hotel.
Duchâtelet appears determined to run the Addicks at a profit – despite the fact that most Championship sides of Charlton’s size run at a loss – by relying heavily on cut-price transfers of players from other European sides he owns and stepping up the use of Charlton’s academy players, as well as slashing the numbers of administrative staff. Meire told a conference in Dublin last November that the club would sustain itself by selling younger players to Premier League sides.
Fans – who have taken to wearing black and white scarves as a display of their unhappiness – fear that Duchâtelet’s cost-cutting has sent the club into an irreversible spiral of decline which will be made worse by relegation to League One, where revenues are tiny. The man himself has not spoken to fans or the media about the situation. (Read more about the situation at The Valley.)
One function that appears to have been badly hit has been the club’s marketing department. Banners placed in streets near The Valley boast “KIDS GO FREE” at Charlton – except children have always been charged admission fees there.
Charlton’s last spell in League One saw the team maintain healthy season ticket sales – but disgruntled fans are threatening not to renew this summer, meaning big drops in revenue not just for the club, but for other local businesses too.
Tuesday’s 5-0 hammering at Huddersfield saw “interim head coach” Karel Fraeye – a long-time associate of Duchâtelet – refuse to speak to the press, leaving clearly distraught goalkeeper Stephen Henderson to field questions.
It is reported that Nebojša Vignjević, manager of Duchâtelet’s Hungarian side Újpest, is lined up to replace Fraeye, who has lost most of his matches in charge since being appointed in October. (6pm update: Fraeye was sacked this evening without replacement, after an aborted attempt to persuade Vignjević to come to Charlton.)
Further protests are planned for Charlton’s next home match, against Blackburn on 23 January, although it is not yet clear what form they will take.