Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Sands of Time…

So, how do you feel this morning? Sleepless night?

There are plenty of questions that Charlton fans, and other clubs fans, are asking this morning after the indicative offer to buy the Addicks from Zabeel Investments, a Dubai based company purportedly owned by the Maktoum family, and here, Pedro45 gives his opinion on the answers.

Why Charlton?
Negotiations between Liverpool and the Dubai Investment Company, a consortium of groups from the Emirates of which Zabeel were probably one, did not go well; similarly, internal wranglings at Newcastle have quickly dispelled the idea that this Arab money is heading in that direction. With Charlton, a club well founded, solid club, with potential (both on and off the pitch), with great community links, with a London base, all this adds up to a good club/company to buy into. It may also be that Zabeel want to build a club, rather than just buy a ready-made version? Sure, we are not at the front of the grid, but we have a reliable engine, great mechanics, and a pretty good chassis!

What about free season ticket offers if we go up?
Let’s not jump any guns here – none of us get a season ticket for free next year unless we get promoted this season. I would expect that the offer will be part of the due diligence discussions over the next few days/weeks, and it will not be possible for the club to back-track on that promise. Legally, I think they would be on dodgy ground if they wanted to do that, so Pedro45 thinks we should buckle up! Why would Zabeel want to allienate the fans by withdrawing something that, at last, may become a reality? No, they will honour the offer.

What is the £20m debt mentioned?
The club does have debts, but they would be wiped out by the selling of the club to Zabeel. The debts look large, but in my opinion, some of them are simply the bond issue rights that the directors paid into last year which could account for up to £15m (as £5m worth of bonds failed to find buyers); then there is undoubtedly still costs to pay for the building of the North stand, and possibly the West and East stands too. I do know that these charges were due to be paid off over a number of years; the accounts will show how much is outstanding, but monies to pay for this would have come out of general turnover each year.

Will we still sell beer?
When an overseas company buys a UK company, it does not give the new owners any rights to make that piece of land (The Valley in this case) an overseas dependency of their homeland. The new owners will want to maximise revenue, and if selling beer on the concourses generates profit, then I’m sure it will continue. Mind you, I thought most people drank outside the ground on match days due to the lack of decent ale, the slowness of service, and the higher cost per pint? If we get real, of course the club will still sell beer!

When might this change of owner happen?
This is the great unknown – it could happen really quickly, or it could take a few weeks or even a couple of months, if it goes through at all! If we look at the Manchester City situation, which appears to be similar; their new owners “bought” the club off Shinawatra and immediately committed money for new players as a gesture of good intent (£30+ for Robinho…). The actual deal/sale only went through about three weeks later, once all the legal people had seen the accounts (due diligence), bounced the contract for the sale back a few times (no doubt), that sort of thing. In SE7, the announcement last night could suggest that we are further down the road than Citeh were, but we simply do not know. I do not know if Citeh were set up in the same manner as Charlton – PLC and Football Club; so that could also slow things a little?

Will we stay at The Valley?
This is the key question, and simply cannot be answered by anyone at this time. Having been in love with this club since the sixties, Pedro45 has had to think about a move to Milton Keynes in the 70’s, that statement in September 1985, playing at Upton Park in the early nineties, and firm interest from the board about playing on the Dome site, and at Kings Hill, in this new century. There will always be talks about moving to bigger and better grounds; that’s the nature of football. What Pedro45 hopes is for the new owners to continue to build the stadium at The Valley in line with the planning consent that we have; a second tier on the East stand, followed by a new South stand completing the ground, and bringing capacity up over 40,000. If Zabeel paid for that, and then buggered off, Pedro45 would be happy (not that I think they will…)! But with land available on the Greenwich Peninsula, any problems with building capacity in line with above might mean we have to consider other options – yes we love The Valley, but is there a problem if we move a few hundred yards to a magnificent new stadium just down the road? This is a very contentious area, and we really are getting ahead of ourselves if even start to think this far ahead…

Will we lose the heart of the club?
Zabeel are known to want to own companies that play a big part in community activities, whether that is in the UK or the Middle East, or elsewhere in the World. I would expect them to continue to support the magnificent work done by the Charlton Trust (which is run separately from the club) , and all the other local initiatives that CAFC is involved in. This is one of the reasons why they want to buy Charlton. We are not a short-term cash-cow; we have a heart, and they need to ensure that it keeps beating!

Will current board members remain?
The Sun (spit!) says that Richard Murray will remain on the board in an advisory capacity; this may or may not be so, we will just have to see what comes out in the wash. However, it would be remiss of Zabeel to dispense with the vast experience that is available from current board members; Richard Murray is not getting any younger, and an advisory position may just suit him down to the ground before he can settle into a well-earned retirement with best wishes for a job well done from us all.

Will we sign new players at exorbitant sums, and if so, when?
Let’s get the deal done first, but the initial signings will (or should) give an idea of intent. At Loftus Road, all they have seen are a few Italian stallions coming in on loan, without any major players being signed. It may well be that Charlton need to be patient prior to Xmas, then show intent. If we see £5m plus players arriving in January, they have still got to bed in and try to get us promoted. If, and it is a big if in this league, we go up this year, I’m sure the £50m TV money will get thrown about immediately, and then some. If we don’t go up this year, I would expect to see a steady stream of decent players who are capable of beating any team in this division arrive. However, we still need a manager to build that team into one that wins every week.

What about the fans forum election?
I guess this is either very good or very bad timing for the new forum to be inaugurated. As they merely report in to the board, and do no longer sit on the board, then there is no reason why the club cannot continue with the plans for this group as expected. How much they new owners listen is open to question, though that could also have been the case with the incumbent directors. Today is the last day for applications by the way!

Will Alan Pardew remain as manager?
Paper talk that his job is safe is just that. Pards needs to do the business; if he doesn’t, he will be out – no question. Pedro45 is of the opinion that Pardew is not the man to be in charge of our club, whether we have Arab dollars, or not. Join the revolution!

What return on investments will Zabeel expect?
We can all surmise on how much the cost of supporting Charlton may rise; beer may go up 50p a pint; the programme may cost a fiver; a ticket could cost £40 rather than £20. But that is not going to give Zabeel much of a return on the £50m that they are allegedly spending on the club (simply because less people would attend games, and revenue could drop). Charlton were the cheapest club where you could watch Premiership football in London. If Zabeel build the new stands; if Zabeel buy good players; if Zabeel back the clubs with millions of pounds and make us great once more, will we really be worried about the increase in the cost of going to a game by a few quid? Is it better to watch Darren Ambrose in a Charlton shirt for twenty quid or (dare I say) Theo Walcott (in that same Addicks shirt) for forty? The return that the potential owners will want is not so much financial as exposure; if they can be seen on TV each week around the World as the owners of a Premiership team full of great players, they will be happy. If they can be seen as the owners of the Premiership team that is the World’s leader in working with the community, then they will be happy; if they can be held up as people who run a company the right way, looking after staff and stakeholders (i.e. us fans) alike, then they will be happy, I’m sure.

Ultimately, Charlton has been changed overnight. Once the paperwork is signed, we are no longer little old Charlton, we will have grown up. It’s something that happens to all of us (except Millwall supporters I guess?!?). We may not like growing up - sometimes some of the fun goes out of life when you get that bit older - but it is necessary. As an adult in football terms, Charlton will be able to grow, to fulfil the wonderful potential that was built initially in the thirties and forties; that withered in the fifties, sixties, and seventies; that almost died in the eighties; that grew again in the nineties; and that can now can come of age in the new millennium.

Up the Addicks!

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First rate overview. You may recall that Richard Murray said at the bloggers' meeting that if there ever was a move of the ground it would be within the borough of Greenwich. Your recall of the move to MK plan reminded me of an earlier scheme to move the club to Romford (!) and call it Athletic.
agree with wyn - super blog - let's see what happens next

Great couple of posts Pedro.
I hope that Pedro's assumption that the takeover will involve buying 'top' players and the doubling of ticket prices does not transpire. Here is my dream:

I am optimistically hoping that the new owners believe in another dimension that could see Charlton becoming a cult club - where their investment focuses on extending and packing the stadium by subsidising ticket prices - something that no other billionaire owners have done. Imagine paying 10 quid with 40,000 other Charlton fans, even if we didn't have the 'top' players - we'd have the pick of the next rung - players would want to come and be a part of Charlton. Investment in youth and scouting. Zabeel getting huge publicity for creating a movement in football that even the 'top four' would be jealous of. Think of a mix of the essence of Charlton, the intelligence of Arsenal, the intensity of Dortmund, or the old kop, and the passion and quirkiness of Saint Pauli - that is what Zabeel could create and become world famous for it. Now that would be fun!
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