By his standards the latest communiqué from our absent, deranged owner is almost coherent. But the bar is of course remarkably low, so the fact that the post on the club site can at least be followed and interpreted, and represents some basic desire to actually communicate actual information to stakeholders (ie fans), should not send us into raptures, especially as the message seems decidedly mixed. At least the obligatory gratuitous insults of fans are limited and can more easily be ignored than with previous attempts.
The comment that post-Wembley a “delay” to concluding a sale is “frustrating” is at face value reassuring, although it is followed by the reminder (as if we needed one) that “I have been trying to sell the club for two years now”. Then we do descend into befuddled territory. “Many English football clubs are for sale and many of those have been for a long time”. OK. But then: “The main reason is that nearly all Championship club owners face huge yearly losses”, and “it has become unaffordable for nearly anyone to own a football club in the Championship, meaning it is not easy to find a suitable buyer”. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that for all but two weeks of those two years we were a League One club. So not exactly a reason for failure to conclude a sale, let’s just say a smokescreen for an enduring inability to find a buyer for the club willing to meet Roland’s price.
There is some more stupidity. “A specific issue in relation to the sale of Charlton is that while a club in London is very attractive, the value of land and buildings is high because the stadium and the training ground are located in London. This wouldn’t be a problem for rich enough acquirers ...”. Well, it wouldn’t be a problem either if the current owner – who on the basis of that argument could be said to have bought our club on the cheap – didn’t value the asset on the basis of land prices that can never be applied. Value the asset correctly and this isn’t a problem. Just another smokescreen for Duchatelet demanding too high a price.
And as if to make sure his ‘argument’ is circular, the statement says that “the fact Charlton are now back in the Championship should increase our chances of being sold”. Why exactly? After all, he says that the losses in the Championship make it “not easy” to find a suitable buyer (exactly why an owner who has proven so unsuitable should think he might have a worthwhile opinion on who might be a suitable successor we can gloss over for now). On that basis victory at Wembley, in his own words, makes it more difficult to sell our club. The reason given is that we are now one step closer to the Premiership. Now please don’t tell me that Duchatelet is asking the same price for the club that he would have been had we not won promotion. So, here too, it is just price, nothing else.
The practical obstacle to a sale in the form of ex-directors loans is cited and clearly is material. Just that it us utterly incompetent that a solution to that problem was not agreed at least in principle shortly after Duchatelet said he wanted to sell. After all, nobody in their right mind would say ‘I want to sell but there’s this problem’ – and be saying exactly the same thing two years later.
So we take comfort from the fact that something is going on, that there are interested potential buyers, and wait. How long for, anyone’s guess (days, weeks, months). Rather less encouraging is what was said about Lee Bowyer’s situation. I had been hoping that the absence to date of agreement on a new contract for him might reflect that a sale of the club was imminent, that in such a situation a responsible owner might not be entering into new contracts, might even be prevented from doing so by due diligence. Not so. And to that extent reading between the lines is not positive for the chances of a sale in the near future – unless of course Roland is bluffing. Only the other parties can make a call on that one.
Apparently Bowyer “has done a fantastic job” and therefore talks about improving his contract “are scheduled for next week”. Let’s not forget that Sir Chris was described in positive terms when offered a new ‘contract’ by Duchatelet before he rejected it and found himself sacked at the first available opportunity (the FA Cup defeat at Sheffield Utd). On this front too we can only wait to see what will happen. Bowyer agreeing a new contract would obviously be a real positive and the assumption is that he would like to stay if the contract is fair and he has a reasonable stab at building a competitive squad for next season.
And on that front, after pointing out that “I want to bring the yearly losses to a more reasonable level”, Roland gets confused again. “Operating on a small budget will limit our chances of promotion to the Premier League”. Indeed. “Does it mean we have no chance? No.” Indeed. Not a ball has been kicked, everything is possible. “Does it mean we will be relegated? Not at all”. If he is saying does this mean relegation is a certainty, it doesn’t take a mathematician to point out that if you have a chance of promotion, however small, you cannot have a 100% chance of being relegated.
If Duchatelet means can we avoid relegation, for sure it’s possible. Will we is another question. And nobody can put a figure on our chances at this stage with any confidence. The mood should be good on the back of a great day at Wembley and if we keep Bowyer (and Jackson) we have a good chance of retaining the spirit in the dressing room that made the difference. But there were 18 players in the squad for that game and only half of them are still with the club. If we are to be competitive on a small budget, as things stand Bowyer and his people are going to have their work cut out to get some bargains and good loan signings (as well as getting them approved by a kid with a laptop).
“In the meantime owner and fans are stuck together. Please make the best of it”. The statement in a fashion marks the end of our Wembley celebration time as attention turns to what happens next. We have been trying to make the best of it for some years now. Please sell our club.