Thomas Sandgaard has seemingly done everything right since he purchased the club last September, but his takeover of Charlton Athletic Women earlier this month may well be his shrewdest bit of business to date.
The Dane completed the takeover of the women’s team from local businessman and Charlton fan Stephen King, meaning both sides are now under the same ownership for the first time since 2007. The women’s side was controversially disbanded to cut costs after the men were relegated from the Premiership in 2007. The club was saved and kept afloat by the Community Trust, with King getting involved in 2011 and becoming majority shareholder in 2013.
Before the disbandment Charlton Women were at the very top of the English game, winning the FA Cup in 2005, the League Cup in 2004 and 2006, and finishing runners-up to Arsenal in the Premier League in both 2004 and 2005. The squad boasted numerous England internationals including Eniola Aluko, Katie Chapman, Pauline Cope and Casey Stoney, who went on to captain the national side.
Players and staff alike were rightly outraged at the decision at the time, with club captain Stoney saying: “I’m disgusted with the club – the men get relegated and we get punished.” The club cited financial issues as the reason for the disbandment, which seems understandable – this was in the days before huge parachute payments for relegated sides. Even so, surely something else could have been done.
My early days supporting Charlton were in the glory of the Premiership Years, and my memories are of a feel-good factor all around the club. This was only heightened by the success of the women’s team at the time. I’d be lying if I said I regularly attended women’s games as a youngster, but I was very aware of their success and definitely took pride in that.
I remember attending the FA Cup final at Upton Park in 2005 when Charlton beat Everton to get their hands on the trophy at the third time of asking. I was just nine years old at the time but I still remember the carnival atmosphere at the Boleyn Ground that day. The eight and a half thousand in attendance was a record for a women’s game at that time, and if memory serves the crowd was much more diverse than I was used to, made up largely of women and children.
A day like that must have done wonders for attracting fans to not only the women’s game but also to Charlton Athletic. The women’s game was on the up and Charlton were at the forefront of it, surely that could only have been a huge positive for the club as a whole?
Sandgaard has made his intentions clear with his most recent purchase, stating he wishes to get the side back to the highest level and challenging for titles once again. There’s a long way to go, but the Danish rockstar seems to be laying all the right foundations for The Valley to see the same sort of success it became accustomed to back in 2005. Here’s hoping his dream can be realised in both the men’s and the women’s game.