Stability, Excitement and Positivity: An Interview with Thomas Sandgaard
I was lucky enough to interview Thomas Sandgaard on 23/08/2020. He has been in the media lately, having declared his interest in purchasing Charlton Athletic football Club.
Sandgaard’s willingness to chat to fans on social media has come as a nice change from reclusive owner Roland Duchatelet or the squabbling ESI. Sandgaard has also been open with the media answering many questions on his prospective takeover and plans. However, as always, fans want to know more and so I reached out and luckily Sandgaard was more than welcome to oblige.
You can watch the video or scroll down for a transcript of the interview.
In this interview we managed to get to grips with many different topics but started with what was the main agenda; the takeover. I simply wanted to know if there had been any movement and if any obstacles, such as Paul Elliott’s injunction, had been overcome. This is what he had to say.
“Hey Robert, I am very excited to be talking to you today and obviously Charlton is a fantastic club. Not only am I very excited to be involved and to hopefully own Charlton sometime soon. As you’ve been able to understand from my comments when people ask me questions is that I am very confident that I can make this happen. That typical happens when all parties have an interest in making this happen. If that was not the case then it would be an uphill battle but all parties seem to want to make this happen. But everyone seems to want to talk to make this happen whether it's Duchatalet whether it's Nimer and Southall and anybody else involved in all of this so I think everybody I'm looking forward to the bright new future for Charlton and I’m very positive for how well it’s going.”
[About Duchatelet] “Yep we have a good dialog, primarily with his main man Lieven [de Turck]. He is very positive and we have a very positive dialog. Which makes me very excited.
[Regarding Paul Elliott’s proposed injunction] “I'm not at all worried. And, you know, if for some reason there is something we don’t know, right now it doesn’t look like that transaction was ever completed, but if there was something we don’t and it was completed then obviously we will be negotiating with Elliott instead of Nimer. So that’s straightforward and we will assume that deal we put together, in that case, will be the exact same as the one we are already working on. That should be very straightforward and I’m not worried about that.”
“Let’s have a clean slate and move forward. That’s what this is all about.”
With all this complexity it may have been simpler to look at other clubs, with many clubs in England rumoured to be open for business. I probed Sandgaard on his interest in Charlton, what he believes Charlton’s potential to be and why that interests him.
“It started about four months ago when someone suggested, ‘Hey, why don’t you buy an English football club.” And I was like, wow, that’s an interesting idea. But I have always been interested in football and the whole is spinning around England so of course it would have to be an English football club. There were about maybe 10-12 clubs financially would be a possibility from the lower end of the Premier League to the top of League One. And I looked at the clubs that potentially could be up for sale and very quickly among those Charlton was standing out as a club that only really had problems at the high levels, at the board level, at the ownership level and the rest really has an incredible foundation. And that’s really what I’m looking at when I’m looking at building things. That’s what I do and what I’m good at.
"I’m good at taking something that doesn’t look that good right now and making it successful, that’s really what my skillset is. Everything about Charlton looked like, hey I can take that and make it into something great. If you look at the academy and actually if you look at the manager or coach, in fact the whole staff is in place. And obviously that fantastic training ground and fantastic stadium that we are still negotiating. At this point I don’t see there being any obstacles to making all of this happen. Charlton was just a perfect club and I haven’t even mentioned the connection with the Danish players who have played there over the years. It’s an amazing history something that warms my heart as a Danish person myself.``
I then asked Sandgaard what that success would look like to him.
“I am very ambitious and please don't take this like you sometimes hear from owners of clubs, and like you hear from almost everybody in football; ‘oh of course we are gonna win the Premier League.’ But I do have that kind of ambition, it's the kind of stuff that I do. Whether its eliminating competition, growing sales to a degree that no one else can figure out etc. Thats the kind of stuff we do, so hopefully we will be able to rival Leicester in terms of their cinderella story that everybody watched a few years back.
“Number one its about creating stability. If we, over the next two years, create stability around this club and I’m not even saying we necessarily have to get promoted immediately. But stability is important. Hopefully Covid will be over, we get everybody back in the stadium to support the team and after two years we can build the foundation of something that can go all the way. And when I say all the way I mean that we start playing European football.”
To reach this potential he must have a successful plan both in the short term and long. We have heard of his ambition to get Charlton to the Premier League but fans are interested more in the short term changes that may occur should he purchase the club. I asked Sandgaard about whether he had talked to Lee Bowyer and whether he had any plans to bring any personnel, both in terms of staff and players. How he might bring about that stability.
[Regarding if he had spoke to Lee Bowyer] “I haven’t spoken to him yet. It will probably happen very soon. I have to be very sensitive to the ownership situation and make sure I don’t interfere with daily operations. Lee Bowyer is going to be a very important pillar for me in terms of building this team. Of course I need to understand what his plans are, even what plans for each starting position he has for the team and what kind of football he sees getting us out of League One as soon as possible. Of course there are some adjustments needed; it's a slightly different style of play we get in League One versus the Championship. I am trying to understand what he is all about and his back[room staff]. Especially Steve Gallen who is approaching his recruiting so we know we have the best possible team here for the start of the season. But when the time is right I will have a chat with Lee, he certainly is someone I am going to trust to build the team around.”
[About possible transfers and more backroom staff] “Let's get the deal done and then I have a history of getting into it pretty quickly. Then we will get the right players in place, the right leadership, the right management team. I’ll make this happen, just like the club 10 years ago.”
There is more to Charlton than just a football club and Sandgaard has been on record showing his knowledge of Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) and how well regarded and run it is. I asked him whether he had any plans to support their projects and whether he also planned to support the women’s team too.
“Well its about creating that kind of stability that the staff, the team, the players and the fans can trust so everybody is on board with what we are doing. Let’s make sure we are transparent and that we listen to everybody. I want to make sure that we listen to the fans because without the fans we are really nobody. Nobody wants to play football in an empty stadium. Of course right now we are forced because of Covid but other than that we need the fans behind us. So let’s make sure we listen to the fans and we make sure we play exciting football. When we play exciting football it all comes together. Fans are going to love it but that is also going to attract better and more sponsorship, so financially it will be beneficial to have a lot of excitement around the club. By now the fans should know me enough that I should be able to create excitement around a club that is going to increase sponsorship and financial income for the club. That will be part of lifting, hopefully faster than any other club, to higher levels.”
[Regarding the Community Trust] “I have already been in touch with the community trust as well as the supporter trust and I have created really good relationships with the leaders there. I believe I will have a Zoom call with the entire board of the supporters trust sometime next week to get to know them. I want to get involved and it is something that is very dear to me, so I hope I can personally help the community trust as well as the supporter’s trust develop too, to even more than it is today. These are some of the strongest organisations that I see across all of England related to football clubs. That is an asset. If I can contribute to that that will be one of my goals.”
[About the Women’s Team] “That’s right, they have reached out to me. I have not furthered that dialog with them simply because it might not be appropriate until the next matter of days or few weeks when I get everything sorted out. But they have reached out to me, yes.”
Lastly, after having a pleasant chat with Sandgaard that left me excited about Charlton’s future I thought I would ask something a bit more fun. I asked if there were any small things he would change about Charlton to make a matchday experience that bit better. For example my brother would like to remove Fosters from the bars and replace it with Peroni.
“I haven't been there on matchday, so I can’t comment on that but you know what, if people don’t like the beer we serve then we either switch it up or add an alternative so people have choices.”
[I mentioned if Sangaard would like to have his own music in the pre-match warm up] “Haha, here we go. Was that the Sun who thought it was funny to have the headline saying Enter Sandman, and that could be an amazing entrance for the team as they come out the tunnel *laughs*. I love Rock music and maybe we will be able to add to the atmosphere by playing some good music.”