Tasmin Fatodu | Content Writer
Charlton Athletic fans piled out of Wembley stadium cheering, singing, and shaking hands with Sunderland fans after their promotion to the Championship in 2019. Fast-forward just one year later and the club has been relegated to League One. Relegation is the least of Charlton supporters’ concerns, as the club could face being expelled from the Football League altogether.
Since Charlton’s relegation from the Premier League in 2007, the club has endured a tough decade. Belgian billionaire Roland Duchatelet’s six-year reign in charge has taken its toll, with the club having previously displayed half-empty stands and monthly protests and boycotts. Therefore, Charlton fans were ecstatic when the club announced its new owners.
However, it took a turn for the worse when Duchatelet sold Charlton for no more than £1 to East Street Investments (ESI). This deal included a plan for ESI to eventually buy the stadium, The Valley, and the training ground for £50 million, in 18 months’ time.
Their ownership of the club since then has left a legacy more sombre than the last five years under the Belgium billionaire. Since January, Charlton have been relegated, placed under a transfer embargo and have been linked with an ongoing investigation into corruption.
A similar situation happened with Bury football club last August, who were barred from the league after failure to prove that the club could fulfil its financial commitments. Many Addicks worry that Charlton could follow suit.
Heading ESI were businessman Tahoon Nimer, alongside Matt Southall. ESI had passed EFL’s ‘Fit and Proper Test’, but Nimer later accused Southall of using the club’s money for his own expenses. Southall denied these allegations and retaliated by accusing Nimer of not investing into the club. Southall was then fired.
During this time Charlton faced an unenviable combination of a transfer embargo, only taking players on loan, and were not allowed to go beyond the subsisted spending, due to Nimer failing to prove to the EFL the existence of these funds. At the start of June, Nimer made a deal with businessmen Paul Elliott, to keep the club running.
Expulsion from the league will be devastating, not only for supporters and those working at the club, but for the South East London community. Back in March, the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) was recognised in Parliament for its “outstanding community work”, and was named ‘London Community Club of the Year’, according to CACT. Blind Eltham resident, Eileen Glover, described CACT as a “lifesaver”, as they supported her during the coronavirus and many others through the lockdown. From homophobia to knife crime, the club appears heavily committed to supporting its community, of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
Fans have been committed to tweeting #Savecafc every day at 6PM on Twitter, to share and campaign for the Valley, home to fans for over a century.
While the future of Charlton may appear alike to Bury, Charlton fans’ influence on the club has gotten results. In 1985, Charlton was forced to leave their ground, as the new club’s board were unable to maintain the freehold of the ground from former chairman Michael Gliksten. But the Addicks did not back away. They campaigned continuously to get “Back to the Valley” until, in 1992, they returned home again.