30th Anniversary ‘Back at The Valley’

By 3rd December 2022 No Comments

Earlier this year I was pleased to be invited to become the Chair of Charlton Athletic’s 30th Anniversary ‘Back at The Valley’ committee, which was established to oversee a programme of events throughout the 2022/23 season to commemorate that incredible and emotional day back on 5th December 1992 and, also, the 30th anniversary of the launch of the community programme at Charlton Athletic.

The first event, a ‘Back at The Valley’ Q&A evening, was held in October in association with the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust, which itself is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event was extremely successful and featured some great insights and reminiscences from some of the key people behind the club’s return to play at The Valley after 7 years in exile, including among others, former chairman Roger Alwen and ‘Voice of the Valley’ editor Rick Everitt.

The second event, a 30th Anniversary Dinner, took place at The Valley on Thursday , 1st December and I thoroughly enjoyed hosting it. Some 260 people attended, and it was great to see so many old faces (in both senses of the term!) again and to reminisce about what we all achieved together over the past 30 years since returning to The Valley. Our guests included the man who led us back to The Valley and the person I owe my whole career in football to, Roger Alwen, former Directors Richard Murray and Martin Simons, former CEO Peter Varney, the CAFC staff from 1992, representatives of The Valley Party, the ground-breaking political party formed by the supporters to take on Greenwich Council in 1990 and some of the club’s legendary former managers and players including Alan Curbishley, Steve Gritt, Keith Peacock, Colin Walsh, Bob Bolder, Garry Nelson, Steve Brown, Simon Webster, Radostin Kishishev, Sasa Ilic, Yann Kermorgant, Lee Bowyer, Johnnie Jackson, Paul Mortimer, Colin Powell, Jon Fortune, Kevin Lisbie, Chris Solly, John Humphrey, Jason Pearce, Mark Bright, Micky Bennett and representing the current players and the future of Charlton Athletic, Miles Leaburn, the son of Carl Leaburn who played in that first game back at The Valley.

Our third event took place last night, 2nd December at Charlton’s home game against Cheltenham. We used the match to salute the board, the management and the players from that iconic first match when Charlton won 1-0 against Portsmouth with a goal from Colin Walsh.

Five players from that game 30 years ago, together with Roger Alwen, Alan Curbishley and Keith Peacock led the two teams up the tunnel and onto the pitch last night. Sadly, the Charlton Athletic players of 2022 couldn’t replicate what their predecessors achieved 30 years ago and lost the match 1-0, which was disappointing.
This specially produced video by Dan Bream of BreamTeam was shown at the Dinner:

CAFC Back at The Valley Video

As I mentioned, not only are we commemorating the return to The Valley; we are also recognising 30 years of exceptional work in the community at Charlton Athletic and at this point I must mention one man who is intrinsically linked with this anniversary, Jason Morgan MBE.

Jason established the community programme at Charlton Athletic in August 1992 through a ground-breaking new partnership between the Clubs and the Professional Footballers Association.

Following years of expansion and success in community development under Jason’s guidance; in 2003 and with funding from the Sir Maurice Hatter Foundation, the Club established the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT). It proved to be an inspired decision.

From those humble beginnings that saw Jason being based at the Club’s Sparrows Lane Training Ground with the now apocryphal ‘bag of balls’; CACT is rightly regarded as being one of the biggest and best football related charities in the country.

Leading the way in matters such as Health Improvement, Education, Early Help and Prevention, Sports Development, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Social Action and Enterprise and Youth Enterprise; CACT is never afraid to tackle the big issues in society. One example of this was the ground-breaking ‘Street Violence Ruins Lives’ initiative that Jason and I – in my then role as the Club’s Commercial Director- launched in 2008. This led to the formation of one of the most respected crime reduction programmes in football.

Without a doubt under Jason’s leadership CACT has also played a huge role in the development of the Club. This was never more in evidence than in 2005 when we were negotiating the record-breaking £1.5m a year sponsorship of the Club by Spanish property giants Llanera. At every meeting I had with Llanera I was joined by Jason and the huge extent of the work that CACT does in the Community formed a major part of my sponsorship presentation. This collaboration between Club and Trust resulted in us signing the biggest sponsorship deal in the Club and CACT’s history.

Acknowledged as one of the leading figures in harnessing the power of football to combat social ills; Jason was deservedly recognised for his community work in 2013 with an MBE in the Queens New Year Honours List and in 2017 Jason was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Greenwich.

Further details of 30th Anniversary events taking place in the New Year, including another Q&A evening, a Golf Day, and a Legends Match, will be announced soon.

Steve Sutherland

Steve enjoyed two spells at Charlton Athletic. The first as Commercial Manager during the exile at Selhurst Park, the second as Commercial Director during the Club’s Premier League era. Steve is an Ambassador of Charlton Athletic Community Trust, and he is the Chair of the Club’s 30th Anniversary ‘Back at The Valley’ Committee.