The Valley

This is over a week old, but oddly, nobody has followed up a story which could have massive ramifications for both Charlton and Greenwich. According to Sky News’ City editor, Mark Kleinman, Greenwich Council is in talks with Charlton Athletic about the possibility of building a new stadium, believed to on the Greenwich Peninsula, and using the site of The Valley for social housing.

Plans for an open air arena to the west of the peninsula are already in the public domain, and featured in a council masterplan developed 18 months ago. At the time, the club denied any connection with the scheme. But Kleinman – a lifelong fan of the Addicks – reveals the club has been in talks over a move.

He writes in fanzine Voice of The Valley that the talks have been mentioned in a document drawn up for possible purchasers of the club.

“The document again raises the spectre of a new stadium on the Greenwich Peninsula, which would ‘include residential properties alongside and converting the existing stadium into affordable social housing’.

“While pointing out that ‘there are no finalised or agreed upon plans for this development and… it should not be considered as definite’, it begs a number of questions.”

One of those questions, Kleinman adds, is why a club which is isn’t filling its existing ground (The Valley holds 27,100) would want to move in the first place.

The notion of Charlton leaving The Valley again is a sensitive one – and the involvement of Greenwich Council in a possible move will bring back unhappy memories. In September 1985, the club moved to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park, with Greenwich Council blocking a later plan for the side to move back to The Valley. In response, fans formed the Valley Party to contest the 1990 council elections, unseating the chair of the planning board, Simon Oelman. Charlton finally moved back to The Valley in December 1992.

In 2005, planning permission was given to expand The Valley to hold 31,000 – and potentially 40,000 – spectators; but relegation from the Premier League in 2007, and reckless spending on players in the season leading up to the drop, sent the club into a financial tailspin, resulting in a humiliating three years in the third tier of English football.

In December 2010, the club was sold to a mysterious group of investors whose identities have still not been revealed, but fronted by chairman Michael Slater. While manager Chris Powell has steered the team to on-field stability in the Championship, the departure of several key figures at the club in recent months have led to fears among fans that the club’s off-field affairs are unravelling, as investment dries up.

Charlton’s financial woes are by no means unique, but if the club was to return to the Premier League, future owners may decide it’s simpler and more lucrative to move to a larger stadium rather than redevelop The Valley – particularly if someone else builds the stadium. But such an approach has its risks – as has been shown by the saga at Coventry City, which has exiled itself to Northampton after a rent row with the landlords of the Ricoh Arena. Those landlords include the local council.

It’s not the first time a move to the Greenwich Peninsula has been mooted – in the late 1980s, it was suggested that Charlton could move what was then the Metrogas sports ground on Horn Lane (land now occupied by the Millennium Retail Park, Peartree Way and the Royal Mail sorting office) while around 2000, the club considered bidding for the Millennium Dome. Greenwich Council’s involvement in this isn’t novel – Lewisham Council facilitated Millwall’s move to the New Den 20 years ago – but does put an obligation on the council as a public body to explain what it’s doing. Leader Chris Roberts is a frequent visitor to The Valley – “more of a regular in the director’s box than some of the board,” Voice of the Valley editor Rick Everitt notes.

So far, however, there’s been silence. Indeed, the story’s not even been followed up by anyone in the nine days since it first appeared, an indication on how poorly-scrutinised matters at The Valley are these days (Charlton were the only promoted or relegated team in 2012 not to feature on a local paper front page) – a far cry from the late 1980s, when the Mercury led the Valley campaign. Instead, it looks like fans will have to do it themselves, and a couple of Freedom of Information Act requests have gone into the council. And in October, fans who live in the borough will get a chance to put questions into the next council meeting. For now, whether you’re a fan or not, this is one to keep an eye on.

Voice of the Valley can be bought for £2 plus post/packing from the fanzine’s website.

14 replies on “Greenwich Council ‘in new Charlton Athletic stadium talks’”

  1. Thanks Darryl. Great summery. I bought the VoV and was amazed that no one followed up the quite remarkable claims in that piece detailing the leaked accounts document. It seemed to me that VoV got it just right with what they did publish (re material to do with discussions with the Council) and what they chose not to (ie the list of all the players wages.)
    I can only imagine that the idea of a new ground nearer North Greenwich tube has been floated to try and lure in a big long time investor – with the misguided idea that such a move will result in footie mad fans from all over our fair capital rushing to the new ground every other Saturday. I don’t see how it’s justified otherwise because as (as you say above) The Valley isn’t exactly sold out at the moment. The money raised by developing that site wouldn’t be that great.
    Let’s hope that the uncertainty doesn’t add to Charlton’s woeful start to the season with just one point being taken from a potential nine. The manager has done a great job with the materials he has, but he clearly needs a bit more backing if the team are to do anything other than bob along in the bottom half of an already over-crowded league table.

  2. The Council wants all the entertainment venues down on the Peninsula. It can then squeeze more people into Charlton (I doubt the redevelopment will all be social housing given the proximity to the station), while failing to improve infrastructure and amenities.

  3. Glad to see VotV revived.

    Unfortunately, at the exact age I was becoming interested in football, Charlton disappeared off out of the borough so my affections went elsewhere. But I do get to the Valley from time to time and enjoy going. Other than the away end, the Valley’s a well appointed stadium and to me as a relative outsider, seems more than adequate for a club of Charlton’s size and realistic ambition. It seems to me that the fight for the Valley, and the triumphant return, are such an integral part of the club’s soul that it would be madness to move away.

  4. Shades of Sunleys leap to mind.What’s in it for the council.Build then move,or become homeless as before?After what happened previously and the effort by many people to get “back to The Valley” is it so easy to give it up.What’s next,playing in green and changing our name?Remember, the council opposed the move back,I personally wouldn’t trust them with any type of project.The foot tunnel fiasco bears this out.

  5. People won’t be arsed to walk onto the peninsular to watch Charlton. The roads won’t cope with car traffic (even if they were allowed, which I doubt). Forget buses, too crowded.

    Also, there’s no way London footie fans would travel to Charlton just because it is near a tube station.

    Most Addicks will be dead against a move. ned has got it right.

    But then, with mystery investors involved, logic never really plays a part in football.

  6. I guess the reason it’s not been picked up is because it’s a pretty obvious (and frankly poor) attempt by the owners to make their ‘asset’ look more attractive to potential buyers even more clueless about the club than they are…

  7. I trust Charlton’s current owners (whoever they are) even less than the Council. However, the prospectus in which this appeared was full of other guff akin to Estate Agent oversell. I suspect this piece was wishful thinking on the Charlton owners mind although the Council clearly have questions to answer because they need to be correcting Charlton claims as a minimum that they have been actively discussing this and are supportive.

  8. I very genuinely know nothing about Charlton football club and its plans and site. However – the site on the master plan mentioned above is the old Amylum/Syril glucose refinery which has now been leased by a new developer. The point about the site is that is a protected wharf – which means that – as a panic measure in the 1990s – it was to be kept for river and wharfage uses and that any changes would have to be agreed by the London Mayor and the PLA. The Council had scheduled the site for non-housing use when it was stll a factory.

  9. With all the planning permission granted for buildings that have been on the drawing board for years this sounds like a recipe for disaster. I can’t imagine what a housing estate crammed on to the Valley site would look like or the effect on the area of even more people shoved in like rats in a barrel. For goodness sake get the projects started and finished that are just lying fallow before you start somehting else..

Comments are closed.