The fans’ forum, in an optimistic sort of theory, was organised in an attempt to quell supporter anger, address their concerns, and begin to build a relationship between them and those at the top of the club.
Alas, it concluded with fans of Charlton Athletic left further insulted by the words and actions of CEO Katrien Meire. Their concerns over the ignorance, naivety and stubbornness of those running the club increasing. Any hope of bridges being built curtailed by a suggestion that supporters are the villains, and those running the club in such a manner that has left supporters angered, disillusioned and apathetic are the victims.
In fact, the only positive outcome from the event has been an increase in opposition to Roland Duchatelet, Meire and Richard Murray. Without being unfortunate enough to be there, I cannot judge the mood in the room, but outrage grew and grew on social media with each infuriating quote.
There is an argument that a response should not be given until the full video is published, but the local media do a superb job, and their quotes are enough for me.
It would appear Meire, the chief speaker, went into the night with intentions of only defending herself. Providing an impression that she was doing her job well, not admitting the most obvious of mistakes, and showing little empathy for supporter suffering.
The closest she came to showing any sort of understanding came when she said that supporters “are not clear what our strategy is”. Very true. But that confusion only exists because those who run the club have, over a 22 month period, not got round to telling us what that strategy actually is.
We’ve been left to work it out for ourselves, growing understandably more cynical with each poor result, signing that fails to impress, and sacked head coach. Wanting to be a community club and develop youngsters is not a strategy.
The strategy, whatever it may be, does not appear to be in the best interests of Charlton Athletic or its supporters.
That something that was only reaffirmed by Meire’s suggestion that the appointment of each head coach under Duchatelet’s reign has been the correct one, and improved the club. An utterly bizarre belief. The way in which each manager/head coach has been removed has been incredibly messy, the need to sack them suggests failure, as does the lack of progress on the pitch. Her ignorance terrifying.
Regardless, it would appear the relationship between head coach and owner is more important than managerial ability and suitability. A viewpoint offered by Murray, and one that, given what has occurred in the past, can only be interpreted as the bloke in the technical area needs to first and foremost fulfil the requests of Duchatelet. Worrying, even if the true meaning is slightly less sinister than that.
It means we’re probably stuck with Karel Fraeye. You could point to Saturday’s victory and impressive performance, and suggest that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but so too could you point to the failure of the previous appointments of this nature and the fact his experience means he simply does not deserve the role.
At the very least, he’s not someone that will challenge those above him.
But, apparently, that is not an asset that is required. For, once again, it was reiterated that at no point under this regime have those who operate away from the dugout influenced team selection.
Do I believe systematic liars or a series of managers and head coaches who worked for both Charlton and Standard Liege? It’s a tough one.
We also got the classic Roland treats his clubs “like his children” line. The metaphor being used to imply that every club he owns is treated equally.
They might well be, but they’re all treated equally poorly. Sent to school with half a packed lunch, and the wrong colour jumper. Bullied by their classmates, and picked last for lunch time football.
In addition to the sort of comments that only the extremely gullible will believe 22 months into this regime, the forum seemingly featured a number of contradictions.
A boast about investment from Meire, before Murray admitted that the players signed from Europe have not adapted quickly enough. Effectively failed investment.
An insistence than Meire wants to discuss the club with supporters, despite stubbornly defending herself throughout the evening, her continued failure to respond to emails, and a desire to remove the platform from which supporters can protest.
And it is her comments about Saturday’s protest that have arguably angered fans more than any others. “I want Charlton fans to stand up against the negative people and don’t give them a platform. It was unacceptable.”
A peaceful protest, merely containing chants which expressed the anger that Meire’s actions has caused, seen as unacceptable. Instead of accepting that the protest was a result of her failure in running the club, and that change is needed, it has been turned into a stick to beat Charlton supporters with, and make her appear like the victim. Almost as odd as her decision to laugh, and take a photo, which was apparently okay because she was called some nasty names.
These awful people, your fans and customers, are protesting against you because you’re ruining their connection and bond with something they love. Again, her naivety is infuriating.
Also infuriating was the comment from a supporter at the event who suggested that “the behaviour of fans has been disgusting. We are Charlton fans, support the team and back the team no matter what.”
Of course, that comment is misguided. There was a great feeling of pride felt during the protest on Saturday, while the players have been supported whenever their efforts have warranted it. Angry reactions at full-time given when justified – we are not robots.
Besides, with that attitude, we would still be at Selhurst Park. With that attitude, Duchatelet and Meire will continue to treat us with contempt. With that attitude, Meire has an excuse to suggest her running of the club is flawless with every positive result.
In fact, it’s beginning to reach a point where you have to question whether positive results on the pitch are actually in the long term interests of Charlton. Of course, relegation would be a disaster, but so would this regime having further cause to justify their misguided actions and beliefs. We deserve so much better.
They’ve reached a point where they cannot address the anger, discontent and apathy they have caused. Not that they seem willing to accept it, bring about the required change.
As such, the positive energy from Saturday has gone. The players, with a marvellously spirited performance, gave us something to believe in again. Meire has returned us to a depressed and disillusioned state.
The relationship this forum sought becoming further impossible. The only relationship supporters want is one with their club. The one they used to have, and have fought for before.
It’s going to be a long old slog, this.
Quotes from the evening can be seen @NewsShopperSprt and @Brad_Pinard.