Charlton Athletic fans made a 600-mile round trip all the way to Belgium to protest against the club’s owner, Roland Duchatelet, and CEO Katrien Meire. Fans took to the streets of Sint-Truiden, Duchatelet’s home town, to protest against his management of the club. Fans of Sint-Truiden’s own club, Koninklijke Sint-Truidense Voetbalvereniging (STVV), joined the protests, as STVV are also owned by Duchatelet. Whilst taking the protest to Duchatelet’s front yard may seem extreme, supporters, and the wider footballing world, see it as necessary in order to secure the long term survival of the club.
Since Duchatelet bought Charlton, results have nosedived, with the club being relegated from the Championship, and this season finding themselves in a battle to stave off relegation from League One. Last year, it was revealed that the owner was trying to interfere with former manager Chris Powell’s tactics and team selection, which ultimately led to Powell leaving the club. Duchatelet, it turned out, had sent emails to Powell regarding players that he should pick and asked for explanations as to why certain players weren’t picked. This is unacceptable behaviour for any chairman and there is no wonder that fans detest him so much.
While football is a results driven business, and managers are sacked on a regular basis, nine managers in three years clearly suggests that there is something very wrong. Duchatelet obviously doesn’t know what he is doing when it comes to appointing managers, so why doesn’t he employ someone who does? For example, a director of football, with a proven track record.
Money isn’t an issue for Duchatelet, and with the £11m from the sale of Ademola Lookman to Everton in January that was not re-invested into the club, perhaps he could use that to put more resources into finding a well-established manager who he won’t lose patience with after two months.
The Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) organised the protest and wants the club to be sold. Many feel that the club’s heart and soul is being torn apart, with Duchatelet only caring about making money from the club.
This much can be shown by the apparent lack of re-investment of funds. The Belgian businessman sees Charlton as a means to an end, the end being his bank account.
CEO Meire has stated that the club now sees itself as a feeder club for Premier League teams. The clear lack of ambition and inability to factor in the fans’ feelings whilst running the club is clear for all to see, as many life-long fans are now boycotting games at the Valley, suggesting that the only way that they can see Duchatelet leaving is if they hit him where it hurts: his pocket.
Protests have been ongoing for a while now, and nothing has been achieved. In order to reach some kind of agreement with Duchatelet and Meire then fans need to consider what is best for the club.
Yes, the pair aren’t running the club well at all, but it is clear that Duchatelet has no intention of selling up. Protesters need to realise this and think of a more productive way to channel their frustration and passion.
This will probably be the last thing that Charlton fans want to hear, but working with Duchatelet and Meire may be the only way for the club to move forward and improve both results and fan-owner relations.
With no solution for Charlton on the horizon, the future looks bleak for fans. A stubborn and selfish owner with no regard for fan morale is never a good thing for a football club and, unless a solution can be reached soon, the situation could deteriorate even further for Charlton Athletic.
Image courtesy of Ungry Young Man