Friday 26 June 2009

Beyond A Bloody Joke

As others have outlined eloquently over recent weeks, this has gone well beyond a bloody joke. Just on two months after the end of the season and not a word from the board about the prospective Varney takeover, if such exists/is imminent/has failed/never existed (and consequently nothing about whether Parkinson stays or goes, whether Kinsella is to be retained etc). We have to adjust to the lower media profile of the club while ploughing our trade in the third tier, but surely it’s some kind of record when the BBC’s sports site has the piece ‘Charlton Boss Uncertain Of Future’ as the only news item from 4 May (finally replaced by the long-awaited news of who we have drawn in the Carling Cup and the league fixtures).

I don’t pretend for a minute that the few shares in the club that I have entitle me to anything more than a copy of the annual report and a seat at the AGM. It’s not me putting my hand in my pocket to keep the club afloat. I also realise that since delisting the company has no formal obligation to make disclosures. Nevertheless, even at a basic level the Companies Act 2006 specifies (I believe) that directors must give 'equal consideration to all shareholders'. Of course, the overriding principle is directors acting in the best interests of the company and that may well include saying nothing during negotiations (if there are negotiations going on). For a period of time. That time is well passed and each passing day feels like an insult to fans who really want to get ‘up’ for the coming campaign. The club made the right noises about the greater importance now of the backing of the core support base, but the silence is at the least eroding hard-earned goodwill.

Yes, there is the meeting at The Valley with Richard Murray and Derek Chappell (and I’m not with the cynics over the Fans’ Forum, or even the decision to scrap the fans’ director – although the current silence only serves to encourage the feeling that the move has worked against the dissemination of information of interest to all fans). A year ago there was the bloggers’ meeting with Murray. Both are welcome, neither are substitutes for what might be considered normal, ongoing provision of information to a community (ie all supporters) which for right or wrong feels a part of the club.

In the interim, each well-intentioned new post on the official site comes across as at best farcical. I’m fascinated that Youga has shaved off his locks, mystified as to how club officials can be “encouraged” by the start of swap week (let’s face it we can choose to sit where we want for most games next season; and irrespective of swap week I was able to move seats during last season with no trouble at all), and slightly offended by the notion that the season ticket renewal rate is “very pleasing and extremely encouraging”. Times are hard and many have not renewed for financial reasons (after all, another bloody home game for the first fixture already means that the economic value of purchasing a season ticket has been lowered for me – and anyone else still on holiday; there are many merits in having a French partner, but flexibility over summer holiday times is not one of them). I’d rather hear some realism: something like ‘we will do our utmost to justify the backing of those who have renewed and to attract back those who have not’. But that’s not exactly compatible with silence over what really matters. Bottom line is until there is clarification over any takeover/investment and what follows I don’t give a monkeys about trivia, especially trivia which attempts to be upbeat.

Are we supposed to be encouraged by comparisons with the number of season ticket holders we had the last time we were in the third division? This only invites further comparisons: Shelvey being sold to the highest bidder and Lennie Lawrence offloading Paul Elliott to Luton for whatever they were prepared to pay. Things are different now. We do have a great stadium etc and selling Shelvey may well be the sensible move, given our finances. Just please don’t invite the comparisons with times we thought had gone for good – or rather if you do don’t try to put a positive spin on it. We need realism – and information.