“Rebuilding a Football Club Through Innovative Community Partnerships: the Case of Charlton Athletic”

The Business of Sport – Seminar Series

Room G01 – Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1 7HX

Thursday 23rd January 2008 at 6pm
(For directions click here)

“Rebuilding a Football Club Through Innovative Community Partnerships: the Case of Charlton Athletic”

Given by:

Steve Sutherland, Commercial Director, Charlton Athletic Football Club


Charlton Athletic was formed in June 1905 by a group of 15 to 17 year old boys. The club joined the Football League in August 1921, and won the FA Cup in 1947. In the years that followed Charlton enjoyed unprecedented popularity with crowds at the Valley ground regularly topping 70,000. However, from the late 1950s the club went into decline culminating in 1984 when it entered financial administration following a period of financial turbulence which included the reckless signing of former European Footballer of the Year Allan Simonsen. The club were forced to leave their Valley ground in South-East London just after the start of the 1985-86 season after its safety was criticised by Football League officials, and began to ground-share with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. But after a prolonged supporter-led campaign the club returned to their Valley ground in December 1992. Three years later Alan Curbishley was appointed manager and this signaled a steady but significant resurgence in the club’s fortunes as the club joined the Premier League for the 1997/98 season, retaining their place until being relegated in 2007/2008.

The improvement in the club’s fortunes on the pitch was mirrored off it as it rebuilt its fanbase through a unique combination of financial discipline and innovative community marketing/partnerships. Charlton are now acknowledged as leaders in the application of community partnerships as a strategic business tool in English football. In this presentation Steve Sutherland will outline the history of Charlton’s business development since the nadir of the 1984/85 season, and will explain how Charlton continue to apply the winning formula of financial discipline and strategic community marketing to develop the club into the future.



Steve Sutherland is the Commercial Director of Charlton Athletic Football Club. He has worked in the football industry for the last twenty years. Beginning with a three stint years as Charlton’s Commercial Manager in the late 1980’s he went on to spend eight years as Marketing Manager of The Football League. His achievements at The League included negotiating Endsleigh Insurance’s and Nationwide Building Society’s title sponsorships of the Football League Championship and Auto Windscreens’ sponsorship of the cup competition for Second and third division clubs. On leaving The Football League Steve spent a season as Commercial Director, and then Joint Chief Executive, of Swindon Town Football Club. After a year working in a freelance capacity for clients such as One2One, Auto Windscreens, Match of the Day Live, English Partnerships and the First Artist Group he returned to Charlton Athletic in January 2000 to become Assistant to the Chief Executive with responsibility for business development. Steve was appointed Commercial Director in October 2006 and now oversees all of the club’s commercial operations including sponsorship, ticket sales, conference and banqueting, database marketing and retail.
For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Email: or Tel: 020-7631 6763

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