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What’s this all about, then?

Welcome, and thanks for visiting. Possibly by now you’ve clicked on some images of people on the map, and found yourself taken into a dense collection of Wikipedia-style pages. Maybe you are feeling a little disappointed; perhaps you had expected some hard-hitting citizen journalism, and instead find yourself in an on-line library? Well, it’s true that the gleeful away fans of Cheltenham Town enquired if the Valley was a library on their recent visit, but the reasons why we have taken this approach reflect important changes in how modern media, and the authorities we expect to protect us from criminal wrong-doing, have to work nowadays; we hope that if we explain those reasons, it will help fans of other clubs in similar distress to get their stories “out there”.

Hang on…Who are ya?

We do understand that people want to know who is behind a website, as part of their due diligence before “trusting” what they read there. However because of the content, we are also concerned about security. So the core team behind the site will stay in the background. We have a spokesman, an experienced veteran of past Charlton campaigns, who will liaise with the media, authorities and other fan groups on our behalf.

Charlton fans have established a reputation for effective campaigns in support of their club in times of distress, which attracted media coverage and pressure for change. Most recently you might remember CARD, the Coalition against Roland Duchatelet; stopping the game shown live on Sky TV by throwing inflatable balls, and later plastic pigs, on the pitch, has become a widely copied tactic; and when fans decided to take their protests to Duchatelet’s hometown in Belgium, an ITN crew thought it a good enough story to tag along for the day. This effectiveness in engaging the media  stretches back to 1990, to the Valley Party, which stood in local elections on the single issue of holding Greenwich Council to its commitment to let the club return home from exile at Selhurst Park.

Yet somehow, even as fans discovered that the takeover by ESI in December 2019 was not all it seemed, and might involve serious wrongdoing, we found it difficult to get the same level of media coverage of a threat to the club’s existence which matched that of the late 1980s. Groups of fans, brought together on the main Internet forum, Charlton Life, collaborated to understand the money trails, or the lack of them, and the bewildering changes of ownership as 2020 rolled on. By the summer one group had started to assemble detailed dossiers on the main actors; we could see that the situation was complex, and not easily explained in a media friendly press release. But we supposed that if we marshalled all the information effectively, some serious media would want to run with the story.

And for a while that looked likely to happen. There was serious interest in our work from both online/print media and big-name broadcast outlets. Yet, once we had shared our information with them, they started to back off. Some were clearly regretful and took time to explain the background of their work environment in these times; we won’t name them here, but they know who they are, and we thank them for their insights. But in short their message was, we cannot touch this unless you have clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing. When we responded that we are only fans, and we suppose that the media have the resources to take what we have, and dig further, some were quite candid that they did not have the resources because the demands of modern audiences is news, now, which generates clicks, every hour of every day. There is less and less money available to support journalists who might need a few weeks to really develop a story that is legally fireproof.

At the same time, we were trying to engage relevant authorities to take a look at examples of possible wrongdoing which we had uncovered, so that they might open inquiries. One of our group had access to senior people in two of the relevant authorities; over drinks he was able to describe the situation to them. Their candid response was like a cold shower for us; they said that while leads from citizens are officially encouraged, in practice they did not have the resources to follow most of them up. Then came the killer suggestion: “…if you can get an investigative journalist to run the story first, that gives us the internal impetus to investigate thoroughly”. Coming as it did so soon after the cooling of media interest, this made us feel we were in a Catch-22 situation from which there was no obvious escape.

However as we digested these sobering encounters, we noticed that the Charlton situation was far from unique; on the contrary it seemed like suddenly there was an epidemic of similar stories, nearly always involving clubs lower down the pyramid than the FAPL. On top of that, several of the characters we were investigating were associated with goings on at other clubs. We realised that if our information and similar information from fans of other clubs could be easily accessed, both investigative journalists and the relevant authorities might more easily be able to join up some dots, and establish bigger and more robust cases against individuals. So we resolved to build a website, not as a substitute for a media expose of the goings-on at Charlton, but as an information resource which would help the relevant professionals to take the investigation on from here.

We hope that the website will also be an inspiration for fans of other clubs to create something similar, so that it will be easier for investigators to cross reference information about an individual that has been involved in more than one club. It can also act as an early warning system for fans of any clubs who find that one of these characters are sniffing around. An example of this has already happened; while we cannot name names, two of our full dossiers (with more detail than the versions we post on the site) found their way to the boardroom of another, currently larger club, and apparently just in time to assist that club in deciding to reject overtures from bidders involved in this saga at Charlton. Just this week we have been pleased to provide the full dossier on Matt Southall to Rochdale’s Dale Trust.

It goes without saying therefore that we will happily link to any similar well-developed websites created by fans at other distressed clubs, and in this section we will also endeavour to mention similar battles at other clubs, as soon as their stories appear in reputable media. Unfortunately we have already had to post the first example of this, in respect of Rochdale; we brought forward the launch of this site mainly to provide support to Dale Trust and all the resolute and well organised fans of Rochdale. We also aim to be responsive to any email requests, although at the same time, given the disinformation and dirty tricks we have seen from some people documented here, we hope you will forgive us if initially we seek to establish your bona fide credentials before sharing any information; and that, we are sorry to say, has to apply to journalists as well as fans of other clubs.

The War on Wrong’uns starts here!