Former Charlton player and boyhood supporter Paul Elliott CBE MBE, recently appointed as a Non-Executive Director, and Interim Commercial Director Steve Sutherland were both recently guests of Bromley Addicks, where a wide variety of club-related topics were discussed.
Elliott, who is also the Board of Directors' lead for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), said he was delighted to become involved with the club to which he has always had an emotional attachment. Having been a young supporter, lived very close to The Valley and then played for Charlton, his journey has now gone full circle. He said he is fully confident the new ownership are the right group to provide the strategic investment needed to stabilise the club, take it forward and restore its identity.
He told supporters at the meeting that, on his return, he was shocked at how the culture, stability and values of the club seemed to have been eroded and there is a lot of scepticism amongst supporters as a result of how the club has been run by recent owners, which he understands. Elliott said he would not have got involved if he did not believe in the Senior Management Team (SMT) and their strategic vision. He said: “I know the club and its culture. People invest in people, which is what I have done, and I am very comfortable with the situation and enthusiastic about the future.”
Elliott emphasised that we need to live in the real world, however. Charlton are a League One club, with a Premier League structure, and currently it needs a reality check. The club is losing £7-8m a year and we have to acknowledge where we currently are. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. It needs steady phased investment as the right approach. Elliott accepts that supporters judge the club by results on the field and lost fans who have been staying away from games need to be given a reason to return. The support is out there. The fanbase has never gone away and he said it was incumbent on himself and the SMT to give supporters new hope. “There is a long-term plan to move the club forward, but it will take time and patience and there will be lots of bumps and disappointments on the way, but the journey is a marathon not a sprint. Supporters who have stopped coming to matches need an incentive and to be welcomed back. We will be judged on our actions on and off the field.”
Sutherland, who was previously involved on the commercial side of the club for many years - including when the club were banished from The Valley to play at Selhurst Park - said he had been asked to come back on a short-term basis initially and wanted to help restore the ethos and culture of the club which had disappeared under recent regimes. He said he was angry at the way the club had been run. Stakeholders and long-term sponsors had been ignored, withdrawn their support and just disappeared.
He said his main task was to get these people back on board, back into the Charlton family again and he was reaching out to them. Thankfully, some had returned, though there were more out there that he needed to engage with again, but the club needed to restore trust and show there is a project that will bring and ultimate success back to encourage sponsors and supporters to rejoin the fold.
Sutherland also heaped praise on the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) for the great success it has had in the community over many years. It is rightly regarded as the best in the country and highly respected throughout football. It is a leader in so many aspects of its work. It has been the vanguard for everything that has been good and successful about Charlton, amidst the difficulties of recent seasons. He said the Trust had been sidelined in any influence under recent ownerships, but was now working very closely again with the club.
The pair also highlighted the amazing success of the club’s envied academy, which continues to produce quality young players, through its talent pathway, and on to the first team, ensuring a bright future ahead, and was one of the factors that attracted the new owners to invest in the club.
Managing Director and Chairman of the Board James Rodwell and Technical Director Andy Scott will be the guests of Bromley Addicks for their next meeting on Thursday, December 7th.
(Article by Peter Burrowes)