Tuesday, May 01, 2007

16,422 Charlton Fans Can't Be Wrong

Well I got that one wrong didn't I? Having suggested that the 'free Premiership season ticket offer' was a gimmick, the club have just announced that 16,422 fans have already renewed their season tickets for the 2007/08 season, despite not knowing which division we will be playing in.

Given that I continue to think the free offer is gimmicky, although its 'expected value' has increased thanks to our recent downturn in form, then there is potentially a far more bullish conclusion to draw from this news. (just admit you're wrong - Ed.)

Rather than claim that the offer, "...has really captured the imagination of supporters...", I think infact that the offer probably had less to do with the high renewal rate than the club might imagine. Instead I'm tempted to believe that perhaps after seven consecutive years of Premiership football played inside a compact friendly stadium, the team/club has won the hearts of many of the so-called 'plastic' fans, who have realised they can't give up the bug regardless of the division we are playing in. The 'free offer' was actually a 'free lunch' which they were happy to accept, but perhaps which the club in hindsight need not have committed itself to offer.

I had never thought the high renewal rate to be a likely outcome, but if true it suggests that all of the various promotional initiatives (not least Valley Express) have actually worked to a large degree. The next real challenge will thus be retaining the bulk of these fans if we go down and don't bounce straight back, but it was an extraordinarily encouraging statistic which boosted my hopes that we could well emulate Birmingham and Sunderland next season. Indeed given that the likes of Leeds and Birmingham barely managed total attendances of 16,422 for some home games last season, it puts the statistic into an even more favourable perspective.

The structure of Charlton's fanbase is a little odd however, because whilst we might now sell a total of say 19,000 season tickets even in the Championship, I would imagine we would struggle to sell more than 2,000 or so matchday tickets on a walk-up basis. Meanwhile, our away support remains poor, and disproportionately so compared to the impressive commitment of our home support. I suspect that part of the answer lies in the limited capacity of The Valley, enticing some more marginal fans to purchase season-tickets to guarantee tickets for the more interesting games. I also think that our location just a few miles from the City (and even closer to Canary Wharf) encourages plenty of neutrals with some disposable income and a keenness for live football. Some other clubs may laugh at us, but The Valley is a pleasant place to watch football. After all, they're hardly going to rock up to the New Den in their pinstripes and pink shirts are they?

But what if there's genuinely some uniquely addictive quality to supporting Charlton that gets you hooked and in need of rehabilitation? Although fans of all clubs probably think the same, I've always thought Charlton was just a little 'special' in ways I can't necessarily put my finger on. I mean, I can't imagine feeling like this about Crystal Palace for example, even if I'd been born on the Holmesdale Road.

I'd like to think I'm a fairly intelligent and logical person in other aspects of my life, yet if I have to miss a Charlton game (whether due to illness, job commitments, weddings, funerals etc..) I entirely lose my sense of perspective, managing to rationalise why it's ok for me to go to the game. As if to emphasise the point, do other clubs for example have the range of high-quality blogs that Charlton have for example? I reckon there's about a dozen in total, all writing regularly and well, and then just when you think there's no room for any more, along comes Confidential Rick with a style which might only be described as inimitable. Doesn't that say something about the type of club Charlton is and the people it attracts?

In the slipstream of Valley Express, I think the next challenge will be persuading more of the walk-up type of neutrals who do not need nor desire the coach transport, but just want to be able to make a last-minute decision to attend a game, and know that tickets will be available. Although I understand the club utilises various forms of advertising in this regard, it's important to spread the message that walk-up fans are both welcome and can be accommodated. When these types of fans being showing up in greater numbers, I believe the expansion of The Valley should begin.

However, regardless of the reasons for the renewals, we can now approach probable Championship football with a higher degree of financial certainty than expected, with all of the cash arrived upfront. It obviously can't even come close to softening the overall financial blow of relegation, but combined with the parachute money we ought to be amongst the very best positioned to gain promotion. Who knows, we might even manage to keep Benty for one more season?

Meanwhile, the result from Anfield was a good one for the Addicks, and our final two fixtures are now effectively against Spurs and Liverpool Reserves. This does not obviate the need to beat our North London rivals, but it is an extra small incentive and an extra weapon in Pardew's armory, as he seeks to rally his troops for a huge effort on Monday.

I almost feel happy again.


At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Bob Miller - Hamilton Chapter said...

You have to wonder how the momentum will swing relative to the International Supporters' Club. As has previously been reported, Ken Jennings, an ex-pat Charlton supporter, now residing in Victoria, B.C., Canada, has stepped forward with an offer to take charge of the management and administration of the international programme, which, with the departure of Ian Cartwright from the management group at Charlton, has more or less fallen by the wayside. If we are truly leaving the ranks of The Premiership, it is ever more important that we continue to build and culture off-shore support for CAFC. The club must realize that in its likely quest for re-entry to the top flight, it is imperative that they have a large and committed core of fan support no matter where. Thus, I am hopeful Ken will continue with his quest to build the international following and will, in turn, receive the full and unbridled support of the senior management at SE7!

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure about playing Liverpool reserves. The players will be trying even harder for a place in the starting line up for the CL final.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger charlton north-downs said...

NY I go back a long way first game Preston at the Valley 1966.Playing sport and family commitments limited me until recently from buying a season ticket, but now I have one for next season. Im praying for a miracle for us to beat the drop.This offer could be a financial disaster(or at the very least hinder our progress)to the tune of £6 million but of course compensated by the money in the premiership.If we are promoted next season then I would be prepared to pay at least 50% if it helped the cause.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the season draws to a close, I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed your blog and the several other regular high quality contributions on the net. I am sorry to speak anonymously but I don't think my identity will add much to my remarks. I too am a lifelong Charlton fan living overseas. I can only get to a couple of games every season. Charlton fans are not always thick on the ground and reading and contributing to these blogs help make up for not being able to exchange opinions with family and friends over a pint at the local. It’s been a tough season and the pain and emotion which have been evident, particularly in the darkest days under the unfortunate Les Reed – who remains, I believe, a decent man and a good coach - were very real.

As regards your latest blog, there’s no doubt in my mind that supporting Charlton is a passion. I accept that there are people who come to the Valley to watch a game of football but to be a real Charlton fan you need a particular commitment. Living in the Valley catchment area is not like living in a city or a town where almost everybody supports the local side. Let’s face it, if you grew up in South –East England, you could support any team you like. Many of my friends, who were interested in supporting a winning team, went for Man Utd., Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs without suffering the slightest shame or embarrassment.

Supporting Charlton was a more painful experience. I saw my first game at the Valley over 45 years ago. It was pretty bleak going for the next thirty years but following the Addicks taught me to be modest, flegmatic, and not to take pleasure in other people’s misfortunes. Was I the only middle-aged Charlton supporter in the Valley who felt uncomfortable at the jeering of Palace and their fans when we sent them down a couple of year’s ago? What goes around comes around, as they say.

I am delighted to see such a positive response to the Board’s season ticket offer. They may have made a couple of wrong moves this season but we are blessed with the dedicated and progressive Directors who run our club. Obviously, the promise of a free season ticket if we come up again is part of the reason for the huge response to the offer. However, I also think that there are many fans that are not too despondent at the prospective change of scenery that would come with relegation. That is not to say that they want us to be relegated; it’s just that things have become a bit stale for us in the Premiership. It’s some time since we had a side that played decent football – the first few games of last season excepted - and it has become rather monotonous struggling in the Premiership and getting regularly panned by the rich boys. The chance to see some different teams, visit some new places – Scunthorpe included – and win more than a handful of games is not without its appeal for some, assuming – and this is the dodgy bit – that we go straight back up.

Ambitions were not always so muted. In the first couple of years following our last promotion we seemed to be on an upward trajectory. This was brought home to me when, following a particularly nasty defeat earlier in the season, I sought to raise my spirits by watching the DVD highlights of the first season back. That side had pride, passion and no little ability; qualities which have been apparent only in brief flashes this season.

Unfortunately, the current squad contains too many players who are either not good enough or have failed to deliver on their potential, and too few with the determination and leadership necessary for a club of modest means to succeed in the Premiership. We have been particularly short of strength in midfield. Matty Holland is a great club man (I’ve lost track of who is this week’s team captain but he surely deserves to be club captain) and worth his place on this team but he is no longer a ninety-minute end to end player. Mark Kinsella suffered the same decline after his knees went. Oh to have him in his prime! The younger members of the panel have the legs but have rarely shown the passion to match. It might have been different if Andy Reid had been able to retain his fitness but that is something we will never know.

I have to agree with your comments in a recent blog about the extraordinary lack of passing ability in the team. My common sense tells me that I must be wrong but I do not remember a Charlton team that misplaced so many passes, misdirected so many corners and wasted so many free kicks. How can professional footballers who are paid absurd amounts of money to do what most of us would do for nothing, if only we had the ability, be so incompetent in the basic skills of the game. I watch a lot of American sports where players are excoriated if they make basic throwing, passing or tacking errors. I hate knocking players because I do believe that if we expect them to give of their best, they are entitled to the encouragement of the fans. Nevertheless, the level of basic passing skills shown by this team has fallen some way short of what one would expect at the Premiership level.

So, two games left; our reason tells us that it’s all over but our imagination allows us to dream on. In the early sixties, Charlton had a reputation as relegation escapologists. Maybe the heirs of Keith Peacock and Brian Kinsey will gain inspiration from the heroes of Fellows Park. Whatever happens, let us hope that the players do themselves and us proud by fighting through to the end. The fans have their part to play by giving vociferous and unconditional support for the duration of both games. If moaning is merited, save it for after the game when it won’t drain spirits on and off the pitch. One thing is certain, if the players and the fans do not give their all over the remaining three hours of this long and emotional season, we will have no chance of avoiding a trip to North Lincolnshire next season.

At 4:35 AM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

It's hard to disagree with any of that - I like the US sports analogy - in baseball, blatant errors are even acknowledged on the scoreboard.

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous noel said...

...and I've just worked out that my four tickets for next year (2 U11, 1 U18 and 1 Adult in the NW) works out at less than 7 quid per seat per game. And if we do go down and up, that halves to £3.50/seat per game over two full seasons which, even if I do have to watch Kish again, represents pretty good value.


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