Two contrasting values were displayed by Charlton Athletic Football Club this week. One value that highlights once again the incompetence of Roland Duchatelet’s regime and the damage that it continues to cause to the club. Another that shows the strength of this football club lies beyond this failed ownership, and there’s a spirit and identity they will never truly tarnish.
The first value a financial one. A staggering £13.5m loss for the 2015/16 season, which amounts to more than 100% of turnover. An extra £5m spent when compared to the 2014/15 season, and emphatic failure despite that.
Those figures leaving the club in £61.7m of debt, the majority of which is payable to Duchatelet at 3% interest per year. The notion that he invests in the club is a myth, and the money he loans to the club evidently isn’t being spent wisely. Financial stability often offered as the saving grace of this regime, but they are failing even on that front.
Disastrous financial values to go along with their misguided values of the club and lack of value towards committed supporters. Financially, emotionally and morally they continue to instil an unbreakable brand of failure upon this club.
But the reason supporters are so committed in their fight against the regime, in their fight to win back their club and move it into safer hands, is because there remains a strong belief that the true values of Charlton sit underneath the layer of mist that currently covers the club.
Opposition to the regime expressed in the knowledge that there is most certainly a better alternative to this. That the club we were once proud of, that had such a positive name throughout football and built the strongest of relationships with its supporters, has not died. It merely hidden while this regime continues to oversee failure.
And that has been reaffirmed by the other value that Charlton Athletic Football Club have expressed this week. That a community football club, that does value its supporters highly, still exists.
It through extreme sadness that the club have expressed this value. The match against MK Dons on Tuesday night dedicated to supporter PC Keith Palmer, who was a victim of the terror attack in Westminster last week. Dedicated to the extent that Tuesday is no longer a game of football, but an event held to honour both a committed supporter and a man who has rightfully earned hero status.
There would have been no complaints had the club merely instigated a minute’s silence and the players worn black armbands. The traditional show of respect after someone with connection to the club has lost their life. That in itself, given that nature of PC Palmer’s death, would have brought emotion around The Valley and no doubt meant a great deal to his family.
But to take this dedication to PC Palmer above and beyond the usual practices feels like an expression of the true values of this football club that have often been shunned under the current regime. There is immense pride being felt towards Charlton Athletic for the first time in quite some time.
A 50% donation from ticket sales to his family, Johnnie Jackson seemingly and unsurprisingly the figure to instigate the players donating their match fee, and shirts with PC Palmer’s warrant number on them all adding to this incredible show of support and memorial. A permanent memorial next to the Sam Bartram statue the finishing touch of this incredible gesture by the club.
The club haven’t simply got this spot on, but they’ve gone beyond what would have been asked for. This a simply incredible display to honour a hero, and one that supporters have reacted positively to.
Many of those that, for justifiable reasons, have not visited The Valley in some time will be in attendance on Tuesday night. For above Duchatelet’s failings sits an act by the club that reflects the genuine Charlton Athletic they once had a strong connection with, and the opportunity to pay respect to PC Palmer.
For those uncertain about whether to end their periods away from SE7, I would ask that you consider two things. The first is obvious, and that there is much more to life than football, and that the opportunity to come together to pay respects to PC Palmer should sit above any grievances with those that run the club. The second is that, from a football perspective, this will be a night of emotion and pride that will resemble the Charlton of old.
It comforting that as the horrific financial values are being analysed, they take nothing away from the most important value being displayed this week. That Duchatelet’s failings might have damaged the club to the point where it’s merely a shell of what it once was, but cannot strip away its identity. An identity formed around these acts which hold such high status in the community, and to the club’s supporters.