‘Valley Gold’ – a name that is synonymous with Charlton Athletic FC. In fact, this Saturday, August 20th marks exactly 33 years since we launched the new fundraising scheme at our then, third annual Open-Day at the Club’s Training Ground in Sparrows Lane, New Eltham.
When, as Commercial Manager, I made my original presentation to the Board early in 1989, I never thought that my ‘Valley Gold Card Club’ scheme as it was known then, would still be playing such a massive role at the Club well into the next century!
So, with this Saturday being Valley Gold’s 33rd birthday and with this season marking 30 years of being ‘Back at The Valley;’ I thought I would update an article I first published in 2019.
Over the past 33 years Charlton Athletic FC has arguably undergone the most dramatic changes in fortunes that any football club has ever experienced and the Club – apart from its unique community ethos – is now unrecognisable from the one that was in existence when Valley Gold was first launched.
In 1989 The Valley was derelict, Charlton Athletic was ground-sharing with Crystal Palace and my colleagues and I were based in a portacabin at Selhurst Park. Incredibly, I was one of just eight members of staff (one of which being Chris Parkes, who retired as Club Secretary at the end of last season) who were running the administration and commercial operations of the football club and for us the dream was to one day be back working for the Club at The Valley.
Although it was officially launched in August 1989, Valley Gold was first announced to the world by myself at that momentous, emotion charged meeting at Woolwich Town Hall earlier that year in March when then Chairman Roger Alwen made that very famous statement to a packed gathering of Charlton fans – ‘which will enable Charlton Athletic Football Club to once again play football at The Valley’ – as you can imagine, it was and still is one of the proudest moments of my life.
Back then there was no bigger cause for Charlton fans than the return to The Valley. Valley Gold was seen as a vital way in which the club could raise important extra funding to assist with the costs of returning to The Valley, but it was also devised as a method to bond the Club with the fans and as a vehicle for the supporters to play a hands-on role in assisting the directors to re-build Charlton Athletic. Valley Gold was a remarkable success on both counts. In fact, Valley Gold funding paid for the renovation of the old house in Harvey Gardens that became the Club’s new offices and Club Shop, and this was the first real signal that Charlton Athletic FC were, indeed, returning to The Valley.
At this point I would like to recognise the fantastic job that Andy Bryant did when Derek Ufton, who was Valley Gold’s then President, Arnie Warren, the Club’s then General Manager and myself appointed him in to be our first Valley Gold manager. Andy, who had been running Crystal Palace’s successful ‘Lifeline’ scheme, was instrumental in the success of Valley Gold in its first few years and his enthusiasm and organisational skills played a huge part in establishing Valley Gold as a vital source of income for the club.
After the return to The Valley in 1992, Valley Gold played less and less of a direct role in the ground renovations, yet it still maintained its hard-core membership of around 1,500 members.
Whilst the scheme continued to play an important part in the club, in truth, it took something of a back seat to other, vital initiatives such as the VIP scheme, the North Stand Patrons and the launch of the Club as a Plc.
In the mid-nineties the Club re-positioned Valley Gold as a fundraising initiative to support the excellent work being undertaken with the development of young players and, again, Valley Gold never let anyone down. Players such as Shaun Newton, Richard Rufus, and Lee Bowyer, all came through the ranks at this time and Valley Gold’s funding played a major part in establishing such an effective youth-development programme at the Club.
There have obviously been many great initiatives at Charlton Athletic over the years, but Valley Gold has been there, done it and bought the T-shirt! It has proved its worth to Charlton so many times and, like a good friend, it is always there when the Club needs it.
The scheme has had several ‘wash and brush-ups’ since its launch in 1989 and it is now operated on a day-to-day basis by Charlton Club, an independent committee which is made up of representatives from the Club and from the supporters. The committee is excellently chaired by Club Chaplain, Matt Baker.
As we approach such an important landmark as the 30th anniversary of being ‘Back at The Valley’; I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of Valley Gold’s past and present members for their support over the years. Valley Gold has been a great servant of the club and by linking it directly to the Academy it continues to play a vital role in helping Steve Avory and his staff develop talented young players through to the first team – as evidenced by the emergence of young players such as Miles Leaburn, Charles Clayden, Aaron Henry and Deji Elerewe.
When, in February 1989 I first presented the concept of the ‘Valley Gold Card Club’ to Club owners Roger Alwen and Mike Norris, I obviously hoped but never expected it to be, such a fantastic success story. The fortunes of Charlton Athletic have ebbed and flowed somewhat over the past 33 years but Valley Gold is as relevant now as it was that sunny day at the Training Ground in August 1989.
Happy Birthday Valley Gold!