Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who'd Be a Chairman?

With the weekend game against Cardiff cancelled due to the weather, thoughts have turned to how the club are doing in these poor economic times, and also the demise of an ex-Charlton Chairman.

There does seem to have been plenty of rumour going around that one of the second division clubs threatened with relegation are about to go into administration. Bookies favourites are Southampton, but there has also been lots of speculation that it could be Charlton who suffer the ten-point drop that receivership brings.

Personally, I doubt very much that Charlton are about to take any further plunge to finances, mainly as the £21m debt the Company has is made up of two big chunks:

1. £15m is owed to current Board members as part of the bond issue that allowed a cash injection into the club last year, and

2. I believe that most of the other £6m is simply outstanding mortgage payments for the building of the North Stand that are not due to be paid off very soon.

If the above is correct, and I think it pretty much is, then why would the current Board, who have each invested huge chunks of money into the club wave goodbye to these sums, which is surely what would happen if the club did go into administration? If the Company did go down this route, there is absolutely no guarantee that they can do what Ken Bates did at Leeds and buy the club back for a pittance; it would be a very dangerous game to play with their own money but leave little in the way of benefit!

Sure, HSBC - the club's bank - have withdrawn any overdraft facility, but I would suspect that they have done that to many Company's in similar circumstances over recent months and weeks. This merely prevents them being a creditor of the club in future, and bearing in mind the mess that most banks have made in investments recently, that is no surprise.

The dreaded "A" word was mentioned at the recent AGM, but Richard Murray said that there were no plans for the club to do so, although he hoped some of our competitors might!

I do think that the rumours going around relate to another club, and that the fact that Murray has come out and told the media that Charlton are doing OK merely compounds this fact and points the journo's in another direction for their speculating.

The other Chairman news is that Michael Gliksten died last week. Gliksten was Charlton chairman between 1962 (when he became the youngest chairman in the Football League) and 1982, when he sold the football club to Mark Hulyer. The rights and wrongs of what happened after that are well documented, but this action was the start of a slippery slope that nearly saw the club die.

I only met Gliksten twice - once on the train coming back from Carlisle following promotion in May 1981, where he seemed very happy and content to share the champagne with the rest of the team and staff. I also then met him soon afterwards at what I think was the first club open day at The Valley, probably in August 1981. By then, Mike Bailey had left for Brighton and Alan Mullery had passed him on the A23 to become Charlton manager.

The open day was a quite strange affair, with no real comparison to those that take place today I think - it was very disorganised. We did have the training session on the pitch, conducted by Mullery, and with the injured Phil Warman providing witty commentary I seem to remember. I also toured the treatment room (where Charlie Hall had to go to great lengths to explain the benefits to one fan of the ultra-violet lamp on show - Q: "...so does it cure the players injury?" A: "Er, no, they just feel better and get a tan!"), and I went into the wooden-walled board room, where Mr Gliksten was entertaining. Gliksten seemed shy, but proud of the club he was in charge of, and he answered any questions posed. He seemed a little surprised at how many fans took time to come into the room to speak with him, and how much affection these fans had for "his" club. It may have been this open day which proved to him that the club was valued very highly by the supporters, and that may have led to him selling to Hulyer a year later in a belief that he could take the club onwards and upwards in a way that Gliksten never could for whatever reason (Hulyer certainly had big ideas!).

The problem was that Hulyer couldn't afford to buy the ground as well as the club but did buy Allan Simonsen, and then he went bust, and everything went pear-shaped. Maybe if Gliksten had stayed on, we would have a very different club to support?

The Gliksten family are a major part of Charlton history, having provided three Chairman over fifty-odd years. As we well know today, there are good Chairman and bad Chairman - I think Michael Gliksten was somewhere in the middle.

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Shame about our former Chairman. I grew up thinking his name was Glikstenout. The thinking at the time was that he was a reluctant chairman, with no real interest in Football who inherited the club and carried on through a sense of family loyalty. The club and ground cerainly suffered under his leadership, but his family deserves our gratitiude.
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