This article was updated on Friday, September 23rd to include the full notes, which can be found below.
Thomas Sandgaard spoke to supporter representatives on Thursday about recent comments on Twitter, his ambition for the club and the summer transfer window.
The Charlton Owner and CEO was talking at the club’s Fans’ Forum. Other topics discussed on the night included ticket prices, staff roles and catering queries.
Sandgaard began by apologising on behalf of the club to supporters offended by the tweets from a non-Executive Director earlier this week.
When questioned about the Tweets, he began by saying: “Let me apologise for the Tweets on behalf of the club. They were his personal views on his personal account, independent of the club, but we appreciate that our fans may have found them offensive nonetheless. Again I apologise on behalf of the club for that – and I know this was not his intention.
“The Tweets were not discussed with me prior to them being Tweeted. We will be dealing with the matter internally with the intent to improve and avoid mis-steps like this in the future.”
Heather Alderson from Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust (CAST) referenced the CAST survey, which has been sent to the club. She said it was disappointing that he was conducting his own research on Twitter when some scientific research had already been done.
John Whitfield of Fans4Fans said: “You cannot begin to understand - someone Tweeting that who is a representative of the club - how hurtful that is to supporters of the club that bent over backwards historically to preserve the club going forwards.” He added that the Tweets were “disappointing” and “offensive”.
Alderson asked about the club’s ambitions for this season and the next couple of seasons. She asked if the pathway to the Premier League was still a major ambition or if that had changed.
Sandgaard explained that after spending nearly £20m on the club already, he remains ambitious. He said the men’s first-team player budget increased this season and is around the fourth highest in League One. He added that there are a couple of clubs, like Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday, who are spending a lot more than the other clubs in the league.
He said the squad building process for this season started in spring and added: “We had some early signings which was a clear improvement over several transfer windows before and a sign we are more proactive and in control of the recruiting compared to earlier periods.”
He said there is still a lot of work to do for the manager with the team on the training pitch but that the squad is in a better place than last season and the recruitment has been aligned with the club’s playing style.
He added: “My long-term goal is still to play in the best division, but I expect to take two seasons to get to financial sustainability as a significant tool to have stability in the club. Cutting the losses into half is a goal this season and to be cash flow neutral next season. Several other clubs have been able to do so; for example Portsmouth who, after several years of break-even, are now investing more aggressively in getting promoted.”
Richard Wiseman asked if, given the adjustment in aim to focus on breaking even, Sandgaard was still committed to the club.
Sandgaard replied: “Very much so, or else I wouldn’t go through all this pain – it’s a lot of work on the football side and the business side. That’s why I’ve spent so much time in London. I spend 10-14 hours every day on Charlton and I wouldn’t be doing that if I wasn’t here for the long haul.”
Peter Smith from the East Kent Addicks asked about the transfer strategy and why elements of the business were left very late in the transfer window.
Sandgaard explained that in a perfect world the club’s business is completed well before transfer deadline day. He said the club had two of the potential deals lined up well before deadline day, yet various parties were pushing it out to the very last minute but as everyone knows they didn’t happen. He said looking back on the window, he also looks at the long-term building of the club – the club are signing players on multi-year contracts that allow for squad building over a period of transfer windows and bringing in high quality loan players to supplement that.
He added: “There is a window coming up in January where we will continue to strengthen and try to take advantage of what is available.” He said he agreed with Smith’s suggestion that the summer transfer window wasn’t perfect but added that if you look at the group of players that are at the club it is a stronger squad than last season.
Wiseman said that breaking even in League One means staying in League One and that you have to accept a loss in League One because when you get into the Championship there is more central income. He said it is very unlikely the club will be able to marry up breaking even and getting out of League One. Sandgaard agreed that looking to break even makes it more challenging to get out of the division but growing the club was still very much part of his long-term aim.
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