BY RICHARD CAWLEY
There was finally an EFL statement this week – just not the one that Charlton Athletic fans have been waiting to be issued.
The governing body placed the Addicks under a transfer embargo at the start of January when East Street Investments – announced as the club’s new owners – failed to satisfy source and sufficiency of funding.
Nearly 10 months later and we’re still in the same place. In fact the EFL have tightened the restrictions under which the SE7 outfit are operating, to the point where they have only been able to make three signings since relegation from the Championship.
In an ideal world for many Charlton supporters, Thomas Sandgaard’s attempts to take control of the football club would be approved and the embargo lifted.
And the indications are that manager Lee Bowyer has four players lined up to come in straight away on permanent deals if the EFL’s red light turns to green.
But, as it has been for months, it is a waiting game for significant updates.
Sandgaard was at Saturday’s match against Doncaster Rovers and got the tiniest of tastes of what The Valley could be like when it is packed out – with the fixture selected as one of several pilot fixtures allowing 1,000 punters in.
But now the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, coupled with the virus spreading more effectively in winter months, has seen the government abruptly shut the turnstiles again.
It seems the next six months of sport will be played behind closed doors, and quite possibly the entire football season.
All of this puts a strain on clubs, particularly those below the Premier League. The lower you go, the more dependent they are on gate receipts. And in the case of Charlton, there are so many unknown factors.
If Sandgaard can pick his way through what is becoming a legal minefield in regards to the ownership of the Addicks – with Paul Elliott obtaining an injunction in the Court of Appeal last week preventing the club being sold – then the financial strain will be eased.
But if not, then it could drag out until the case brought by Elliott is heard in a Manchester court on November 23.
Sandgaard also took to Twitter on Wednesday night to say the “property piece remains an obstacle”- and confirmed that related to The Valley and the club’s Sparrows Lane training ground, which are still owned by Roland Duchatelet.
Charlton director Marian Mihail told our paper in August that there was money to cover that month’s outgoings.
“We’re working on securing September and October as well – without outside money,” said the Romanian lawyer.
We asked Mihail for an update on paying salaries – along with how the club would cope with the loss of revenue from no supporters – but he had not responded at time of our publication going to press.
The matchday revenue when Charlton were last in League One was £4.2million, slightly higher than previous seasons due to reaching the play-off final. They also had an operating loss of £12m in that 2018-19 campaign, not including player trading and interest.
You can make an argument that the Addicks will lose £10m this season, partly due to the devastating effect of the pandemic.
And that is what has made the EFL stir and address the public.
“With extended measures introduced, it is imperative that the financial issues facing our clubs are addressed quickly,” said EFL chairman Rick Parry.
“EFL clubs lost £50m last season as a result of playing matches behind closed doors or curtailing the season and stand to lose a further £200m in 2020-21 should we be required to play the whole season without supporters in grounds.
“I am encouraged that the government has recognised the need for urgent financial assistance for sport and discussions will continue with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and the Premier League.
“We remain optimistic that a solution will be found but we should also be very clear that if it is not, then the outlook for many clubs in the period ahead will be very challenging.”
Charlton – up until now – have not acted like a club that desperately needs money.
It’s true that other teams, thinking they are vulnerable and have tried their luck with offers. Luton came in very low for Alfie Doughty. QPR have had a couple of nibbles to try and get Macauley Bonne.
But you’d think it would also be true that Charlton would have been open to at least trying to negotiate if their circumstances were testing.
Instead the message coming back has been short and sharp – their prize assets are not for sale.
In normal circumstances the Addicks might have been prepared to wheel and deal but the current EFL sanctions mean even if they do free up a spot in their squad the embargo-enforced wages of £1,300 a week is not enough to get their targets.
Last weekend’s 3-1 defeat only served to underline that Bowyer’s options are limited.
A makeshift defence – the area where Charlton are most under-resourced – looked uncomfortable time and again when asked questions.
Tyreece John-Jules, who would have been in an Addicks shirt if they had been able to press the button on a season-long loan from Arsenal, got off the mark for Rovers.
The quartet waiting to sign on the dotted line are only going to delay a little longer before they also take up other options.
It’s a shame the EFL don’t provide full transparency on the ownership process, because it leaves pretty much everyone in the dark about where proceedings are at.
It’s exactly why no-one knew the mess that the original version of ESI were in.
PICTURES: PAUL EDWARDS
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