Charlton Athletic have a Championship match of monstrous significance at Hull City tomorrow. The build-up has been overshadowed by a staggering public show of internal boardroom infighting.Life after Roland Duchatelet was supposed to be better, brighter and full of ambition.Addicks fans have been wide-eyed and refreshing social media for the latest update on the spat between Tahnoon Nimer and Matt Southall.
The rift between the pair became public on Monday evening as Nimer, who owns 65 per cent of the shares in Charlton Athletic Football Company, used his Instagram account to make a number of allegations aimed at Southall.
It seemed at that stage that Nimer had walked away from the Championship club.
A statement appeared on the Addicks website on Tuesday morning saying that his resignation from the board had been accepted.
But then Nimer posted again on Instagram stating he had not quit as a director but that he would suspend putting in any capital until Southall had gone.
Nimer’s lawyer Chris Farnell has questioned whether spending on a central London flat costing £150,000 a year, four £98,000 Range Rovers and consultancy fees for Southall and Lee Amis had been sanctioned.
Two of the vehicles were for Jacco Van Seventer and John Hirst, who work for Panorama Magic General Contracting LLC, which is the company Nimer used to buy the Championship club in January.
Southall says that the apartment, which is rented under the football club’s name, is for club employees and not just for his own personal use.
He says the consultancy fees – £90,000 for himself and £20,000 for Amis – were payments made for acting as key intermediaries for brokering the approach and completion of a deal with Roland Duchatelet.
Syrian businessman Nimer owns 65 per cent of the shares in Panorama.
Nimer has instructed lawyers to investigate alleged “financial irregularities” at the club.
The South London Press has seen a letter from Nimer in which he states that he wants Claudiu Florica to take on the role of chief executive officer and run the club.
Farnell said: “We have written to Mr Southall today [Wednesday] to request his resignation.
“If not, we will go through the procedure, we will remove him as a director and we will pursue him personally.
“Due to the desire of Mr Nimer to get this matter resolved as soon as possible, for the benefit of the fans and the club, we have begun that process today [Wednesday].”
Asked if Southall was powerless to prevent his removal due to Nimer being the majority shareholder, Farnell said: “As far as my opinion is, that is the case. I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest otherwise.
“Nor has Mr Southall suggested otherwise as well.”
A statement was released on Charlton Athletic’s website on Thursday morning. It said: “In line with the EFL’s statement earlier this week, the club had no intention of making any further public comment.
“However, given the high level of interest in the media, we feel it only right for Charlton’s staff, players and supporters to be made aware of the club’s position in a clear and concise manner.
“The club wish to make it clear that Matt Southall has their full support in his role as chairman and are looking forward to working with him into the future towards a positive end to this current season and beyond.
“All the public allegations levelled at Mr Southall by either Mr Nimer or his advisors are denied in their entirety and Mr Southall retains the full backing of the club and its board.
“Mr Tahnoon Nimer, in his capacity as majority shareholder of ESI, has made various funding guarantees to the club but as of yet the EFL remain unsatisfied regarding the source and sufficiency of any funds proffered.
“The club is grateful for the EFL’s statement of March 10 clarifying this position and would like it made clear that, as a result of Mr Nimer’s failure to provide the information sought by the EFL, the club was subject to a transfer embargo during the January window.
“If the information the EFL require is not forthcoming the club is at risk of further sanction by the EFL and it is taking advice in this regard.
“In the meantime, and until further notice, no statements made by either Mr Nimer or his advisors should be understood to represent the club’s position.
“The board are hopeful that this matter is resolved soon to allow all parties to concentrate on the remainder of the 2019-2020 season.”
Southall had a meeting with Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust on Wednesday and told them that there was enough funding in place for the club to operate until December – he had told the players and training ground staff the same a day earlier.
Southall has claimed that there are investors ready to step in and invest if Nimer is no longer involved. But Duchatelet had the club on the market for a number of years without a viable buyer before.
And ESI’s deal means they only own the football club. They have said before that there is a “legal obligation” to buy the freeholds of both The Valley and the Sparrows Lane training ground by this summer.
The football, which has largely been forgotten this week, is vitally important to all this too.
Relegation from the Championship would see income plummet by more than £8million.
When Charlton made the drop to League One in 2016, they had significant assets to sell.
Ademola Lookman was snapped up by Everton, Burnley moved for winger Johann Berg Gudmunsson and goalkeeper Nick Pope and QPR landed Jordan Cousins. The income from those departures easily exceeds £10m.
This time around there is not the same value in the squad.
Ten of the playing squad – including star striker Lyle Taylor – are out of contract.
When you include the six loan signings heading back to parent clubs in May, the squad size is likely to be down to single digits.
The contracted players who have a value are Dillon Phillips, Alfie Doughty and Tom Lockyer – and even then they only have 12 months to run on their deals, lowering any asking price.
CAST have issued a statement following their sitdown with Southall.
“We remain extremely concerned that Southall and Nimer are at loggerheads over the future of the club and we fear this will lead to a messy and potentially protracted legal dispute.
“The meeting, although lengthy, has done nothing to change our view that the club is in crisis.”
CAST chairman Richard Wiseman said: “We thought it was all over once Roland was gone but it is very clear that that is far from the case.”
Manager Lee Bowyer has questioned the EFL’s procedures.
The governing body issued a statement on Tuesday in which they confirmed that the source of ESI’s funding had not been provided to their satisfaction.
Bowyer said: “The EFL have obviously got regulations – they need to be changed.
“I can’t understand how this club is in this situation, so soon after the Bury scenario. How can that happen?
“I get there are rules and regulations and a way of doing things, but for me as manager of this football club I think they need to be changed, because this shouldn’t be happening now.
“The people who are here have only been here since January, and in no time at all we’re talking about people maybe not getting paid in the future.
“How can that happen? It’s wrong.
“The fans are paying their money every week and don’t understand what is going on with their football club.
“All they have to do is if you own a football club you have to put x amount of money into a separate account and it can’t be touched by anybody.
“If people have the money – and I’m not just talking about our football club I mean every football club – if they have that money then they put it across there.
“So then if it does go pear-shaped it’s a case of ‘here you go, there’s money to keep you going in the longer term.
“If there is no money to pay the bills then people shouldn’t be in charge. Bury is a prime example.”
Bowyer has revealed that the EFL’s restriction on transfers also prevented Charlton from adding to their squad outside of the January window.
“There has been a couple now that we’ve tried to bring in,” said the Addicks boss.
“One for us and one of the U23s, a goalkeeper, who was one for the future.”
Long-serving secretary Chris Parkes was suspended on Monday but reinstated to his role on Wednesday following a club investigation.
Bowyer said: “I spoke to the chairman on Tuesday and told him we need to have Chris around – he’s part of the woodwork.
“He is a big part of the club.
“They had an investigation and thankfully came to the right conclusion. He’s back in the building.”