North American Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Club chair, Clare Rathbone, is encouraging Addicks fans worldwide to officially affiliate with the club by joining an international supporters’ group.
A lifelong Charlton fan, Clare grew up in Dulwich before moving to the United States in the late 1980s and has followed the Addicks ever since, recently forming the club’s North American supporters’ group.
“Last November, there were some emails that went round,” she explains. “I sent a reply and said: ‘Are there any other Charlton supporters in the North American region?’ Richard Wiseman [vice chair of the Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust] said: ‘No, but would you be willing to be a contact for the North American region?’ I said: ‘Absolutely!’ It was amazing!
“Within two to three hours of that email exchange, messages started flooding in: ‘Clare, I’m a Charlton supporter in Toronto! Clare, I’m a Charlton supporter in Boston!’ We had Houston, California, Vancouver, Oregon! To get that sense of how many supporters and fans there were was surprising and really encouraging. Now we’re five months into it and we’re an official supporters’ club with over 70 members!”
Among the group’s 70-plus members is Denver-based Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard.
“There was sort of whispering among the group because we knew Mr Sandgaard was in Denver, ‘Should we ask him?’ One of our members said: ‘I’m just going to send him an email!’ The response was great - he was just all in.
“For us it was great because it showed not only did the club support what we were doing but it reflected the fact that he’s not just an owner, he’s a fan. He’s interested in what fans are doing and supportive of what fans are doing, he’s not just a member by name. We have this score prediction competition that we run amongst ourselves and he’s a part of that. He doesn’t know this yet, but we’ve all decided our first annual general meeting is at his house!”
Like all Addicks fans, the group have been watching this season from afar via Charlton TV but Clare admits they still have that sense of community, gained through the regular interaction between its members, albeit virtually.
“Our region is actually four million square miles with three time zones and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic so it’s a little bit challenging. When you get to go to The Valley every week you have the crowd around you, you have the group that you know and that you sit by. As an international fan you don’t have that; our goal is to try and recreate that.
“Obviously when travel restrictions lift we’d love to get some regional, meet-to-meet groups going so those are the things we’re thinking about. We want to support the club so we’re thinking about how we can help support the community trust - we’ve got a member who’s really interested in that. We’re just looking to promote Charlton here in the US.”
Clare strongly urges international Charlton fans to set up a group of their own or join one of the club’s official supporters’ groups to expand the Addicks’ global fanbase.
“If you’re in the North American region get in contact, we’d love to have you join us! If you’re not, I would definitely reach out to the club and ask: ‘Is there a group in my area?’ There are many other groups - I know there is a group in Sweden and Germany, and there’s an umbrella international supporters’ club.
“If not, and you’re willing to take it on, just throw your name in the hat. Put your name out there as a contact and you might be surprised at how many other supporters there are in your area so give it a go.”
Supporters looking more more information on the club's supporters groups can click here.
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