Wednesday, January 28, 2009

AGM Has Some Answers

Like Blackheath Addict and Kings Hill Addict, I attended the AGM earlier today. I noted each question asked after the formal business had been carried out, and here’s a brief synopsis (not word perfect I might add…) of what was asked and answered –

Martyn Simons pre-empted the questions by wondering what might have been the mood if we had lost 3-1 the previous night, but judging by the happy smiles, the board seemed happy to answer pretty much anything that was fired at them when given the chance.

Question: Why can’t the accounts be released earlier? The Board aim to have them ready by October and then they are audited, and released in December; next year, the AGM will have to be in either November or December (due to company law), so accounts will be earlier than this year.

Q: What is the likely TV revenue in the next season and will negative equity value be returned if this revenue drops by the expected £10m? Richard Murray said that the bonds were not shown as equity, so really, the equity was about £24m. The TV revenue is expected to drop £10m once parachute payments stop at the end of this season. The board is paying attention to the losses, and anticipate a £1.5m loss next year (2009). There have been two ways to reduce costs – squad cost reductions and reducing staff and fixed costs (the club is already in consultation with staff…).

Q: The accounts are approved as a going concern based on what assumptions? The auditors view is that the club will be trading a year from when they signed off the 2008 accounts; this is based on the assumed cost cuts, player sales, etc, being met. RM said 80% of the company equity was from the board (£45m), so the company has the support of the directors. The stadium is bought and paid for, unlike our opponents last night. RM as disappointed with the clubs position but added that for £45m, for seven years we competed closely with Fulham (where Al Fayed had put in £186m) and Middlesboro (where Steve Gibson has input over £100m..), so we punched well above our weight both on and off the pitch. RM said we were a working class club, and must live within our means; banks had withdrawn the overdraft, and the board would consider stepping aside for the right investors.

Q: Did Alan Pardew have a free hand with transfers as was rumoured? Not true but he did have a big influence. It was noted that the board should be able to pick and back a manager employed, and they did that with Pards.

Q: Have we now got the right manager? The board was unanimous in saying yes. It was easy in hindsight to see where mistakes had been made in the past. The club has not settled with Iain Dowie (spit!) and there may yet be a court case to resolve this (the reasons for his dismissal are not public knowledge yet…). Shareholders were asked to note that revenue (barring TV) is just £5m.

Q: How long was Phil Parkinson’s contract and does he have full backing? Parky (and the other coaches) have not had increased contracts, and have 18 months to go. Parky was chosen as he had a better attitude; there are more signings to come. He has different ideas to Pardew regarding players – he wants battlers on the pitch. Parky has a good record as a manager with regard buying players (Iwelumo, Cureton, Marney, Turner were mentioned…along with Spring and Murty) and is very different to Pardew, who had a massive ego. The board agree with Parkinson’s philosophy in this regard (i.e. Burton does more than Gray…).

Q: Are the proposed signings permanent or loans? RM said it was difficult to get permanent signings, as none would take a drop in salary on relegation, although it was recognised that the attitude of permanent signings was better. The issue was that it may be better for loans in the short term unless they could buy on lower wages.

Q: Why have we had so many loans? RM said loan signings have to be for a month, and can then be extended. Charlton only have two loanees currently (though that may change this week) but they will take them if they have to.

Q: What is happening with Nicky Weaver and Darren Ambrose with regard being in the team? Weaver is trying to be moved on, as his contract ends this summer; Ambrose has a hip injury.

Q: Does the club finance the Community Trust? Steve Waggott said “No, finance comes from sponsorship and grants”.

Q: What cut backs will there be if the club is relegated? The club is looking to save at least £3m on top of the cut backs already planned, which should see the club break even.

Q: What is the cost of the links with overseas clubs? Two of the links cost money - Herfolge Boldklub in Denmark (I think, or it may have been Germinal Beerschot in Belgium?) have been told that they will need to renegotiate any finance, and ASEC Mimosa of Ivory Coast are also financed. Ivorian Bi Cyriac Gohi was mentioned by name as being a very good prospect, and a bid has been made for him so he may be sold, as work permit issues abound.

Q: Does the club still have planning permission for the stadium if they want to develop? The club has two open permissions – an office block for the south west quadrant that will not be proceeding, and the east stand development which is valid for 5 years, but there are no plans to go ahead at present. It is hoped that should that situation change, then a further application would also be granted.

Q: After a long rant where a shareholder merely expressed (poor) opinion, Derek Chappell had to ask if there was a question from this attendee; it came as – What basis can we get out of this mess? DC said that there were still enough games left to do so. The board are frustrated, and agree mistakes have been made, but always with the best interests at heart. The club had no money for a “top” class manager so went for the best man (note – Billy Davies was offered £800k a year and a three year contract, and that type of money is not available from Charlton any longer).

Q: Was there a sell on clause for Darren Bent? The answer is yes, but as he was sold for £15.5m (which is a million less than some claim…) and is only expected to raise £10-12m if sold now, the club do not expect to get anything. The original fee was payable over 4 years, but the club paid £1.6m to have payment of this money accelerated (and Luke Young's) when they needed it last summer.

Q: Can the club communicate better that Parkinson is not merely Pardew mark 2? This was recognised as a good point. It was also noted that Warnock’s comments from the previous night were pertinent (where he said that the team hadn’t played like that under Pardew…). The board feel he has been transforming the players.

Q: What investment is needed? The board will respond to any question of the clubs purchase, and think that the buyer would/should have community views and the same values as the club has currently and in line with the current board. It was expected that any potential investors would wish to involve some current board members (as Zabeel intimated with RM).

Q: Can we keep our best youth academy players? The board were confident that JonJo Shelvey will sign a professional contract with the club once he is 17 on 27th February, but cannot be sure as some Premiership clubs do want him too. It is a noted danger… Josh Wright will probably go out on loan until the end of the season as Parky is not sure he can give him games ahead of Spring, Bailey, Zheng Zhi, Racon, Semedo, etc. Josh’s dad thinks he should be playing in the first team every week!

Q: Who will be sold this transfer window? The board noted that they will accept any over the top offer, but don’t think any players will go. No bids have been received for Chris Dickson, nor has any club offered to take him on loan and cover (all) his wages (and he isn’t on much…). They are actively seeking a centre half (especially after Fortune’s injury) and possibly a striker. Parky’s career will be judged on the next few months, so he will only pick players he can rely on…

Q: Where has the money gone – Pardew was noted as spending £12m but the list of bought players in the Annual Report comes up short of this? Some of the transfer payments are staggered, so they are not always aligned.

Q: Was it wise to show the accelerated payment and the revaluation of the ground at the same level? This was noted as a surprise to the board as the two are not linked, and it is probably just a coincidence that the monies are the same amounts.

Q: Is there a prospect of going into administration? No plans to do so, and quite the opposite in fact! RM added that the board would welcome any of our competitors doing so!!!

And that was it; the board went off to their own meeting, relatively happy it seemed to me. 22 questions from the floor, and honest answers to each from RM, DC, Bob Whitehand, SW, and others. Only one rant from the floor, and that was brushed aside – the guy should have included a question rather than just expressing an opinion! Till next year…


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