Parting with a four-figure-sum to shed some crocodile tears in front of a critical panel of sport business experts, as an equally suspicious swarm of journalists watch on, is a rather weird thing to do. Or at least it would be a rather weird thing to do were this not the same woman who sanctioned the spending of more than a million to secure the services of Naby Sarr.
Instead, Katrien Meire has merely provided further evidence to suggest her decision making makes Callum Harriott’s look unquestionable, her arrogant insistence on not shouldering the blame for the failure of her actions makes Alan Pardew appear modest, and her loathing of Charlton Athletic supporters makes her more suited to a seat in the Holmesdale End rather than one in The Valley’s Directors’ Box or at the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference.
Before Meire even decided to open her mouth, it is infuriating that she would opt to attend such an event the day after yet another huge failing in her position as the club’s CEO. Much like choosing to attend the networking event in Ireland not long after dismissing Guy Luzon, or heading off to Dubai as the Addicks tiptoed towards relegation.
A seemingly genuinely interested Chris Wilder ultimately turning down the vacant head coach position as he was not provided with written assurances about the control he would have over team selection and signings. No desire or willingness to alter a failing strategy, and give reign to a boss who, with the reasonable power he desires, might well have been capable of reinvigorating Charlton on-the-pitch.
Wilder’s rejection weakens Roland Duchatelet’s regime to a point even lower than where it was as a number of supporters stood protesting in front of the West Stand following the conclusion of the Burnley defeat on Saturday. As CEO, the regime’s most powerful representative on the ground and arguably the most important position in the day-to-day running of this football club, her attentions today should have been exclusively on addressing yet another embarrassment. At least attempting to heal the damage she and the regime she works for continues to cause to Charlton.
Alas, instead of working to correct the mistakes made at The Valley, crippling the reputation of a once respected club, she found herself at a high-profile business of sport event, working to build her own reputation. Or at least protect Katrien Meire.
For she was not there to represent the Addicks, but herself. That obvious as the expensive crocodile tears were produced.
Instead of immediately speaking in a manner that suggest the football club she works for was her priority as it was criticised on stage, as you might expect the CEO of one to do while it is being described as poorly run, she pretended that the real victim in all this is not the club or its supporters, but herself.
Governing bodies, apparently, haven’t done enough to protect her. To stand up for her and Duchatelet’s failing regime. To legitimate the damage, destruction and disillusion that their ignorance, mistakes and insults have caused.
It is apparently she that needs protection, and not the club that she is helping to wilfully damage or the supporters who are having their bonds with Charlton destroyed because of her selfish and stupid actions.
For fans, who she actually opted to call as such on this occasion, “sometimes…cross the line” in their protests against the regime.
“For the last couple of months, I’ve had extreme abuse, I’ve had criminal offences committed against myself, and I’m disappointed about governance in sport, that none of the governing bodies contacted me and stood up for the fact that things are not allowed, that’s one step too far,” said Meire, behind her expensive produced crocodile tears.
“I also ask the governing bodies in this country, that sometimes some of the fans have crossed the line, very far, and this is just acceptable. It’s been reported by the media as it’s normal and it’s actually not, and the governing bodies have a responsibility to make people aware that that is not what sport is about.”
The evidence for this the fraudulent resignation document produced for Company’s House, and the leafletting of her hometown and parents’ house about how “shitty” she is. Maybe you should be looking at yourself if your Company’s House profile is so easy to manipulate, and supporters feel the need to take their perfectly legitimate and legal protests to Belgium.
Besides, if there are legal issues, than maybe the CEO should be asking for assistance from the police, not governing bodies. Karl Oyston, whose ownership I imagine Meire admires deeply, is a big advocate of that.
But so too does there appear to be an unhappiness in the way that the media have covered both the failing of Duchatelet’s regime and Charlton’s protests.
For the media, quite rightfully, have seen the protest movement as a well-organised, passionate and non-violent one. Intelligent in its methods as it fights against a regime that is insistent on damaging the club that they love. Addicks have been praised, or at the very least had their voices heard and been given sympathy.
By contrast, Duchatelet, Meire and Richard Murray have been rightfully mocked. A flawed recruitment strategy, the appointment of head coaches on the basis of their willingness to abide by a manipulative system, and their continued insulting of supporters three of the many things they’ve been guilty of, and many reasons why supporters are disillusioned. That, Meire, is not what sport is about.
Apparently, however, we’re all wrong. Supporters, press, club staff. Everyone.
“We’ve got the most affordable season tickets, we invest in our community, we invest in our academy.
“We spend £30m in less than two years of ownership. And yes, we got it wrong with the managers and the players, but that happens, that’s why clubs get relegated, that doesn’t mean that everything else is shit.”
So, relegation is all fine and dandy because we’re got a weird season ticket structure that makes some affordable, we’ve got an excellent Community Trust that Meire has no involvement in, and we’ve got a potent academy that produces players for this regime to sell on and fill their pockets.
Then there’s this idea that spending money is actually something that should be viewed positively. What have they spent (loaned) that £30m on? Failure.
And we protesting supporters are, obviously, driving fellow supporters away, rather than the disconnection that this regime has created with its failure, insults and destruction.
“Me and the owner. It’s fine, I even understand that it’s part of the role that I play, but I feel frustrated by the fact that media reports, all these kind of things – there is so much abusive language now at The Valley – and that’s not part of football. It’s in their interests to try not to have this time of behaviour because now mums with kids won’t come to the games. The chants that are going around, it’s not promoting the sport, and the governing bodies have an interest in trying to stop that.”
Again, there is a need to look at why those chants are being sung. Why Charlton supporters feel the need to protest against their club’s ownership, and not simply embrace their club. Why there is so much unrest.
And it might also be worth looking at how many mums and kids are involved in the protests, who feel as disillusioned as any other supporters, and are fighting for the future of their club.
A pathetic attempt to deflect criticism of her control of the club, and place pressure on governing bodies to protect and supporters to be scrutinised. Ignorant, arrogant and cowardly.
Her hatred of Charlton supporters has created an incredibly strong us V them mentality. Any criticism she receives and any protests aimed at her are a direct consequence of her failings, and her hand in damaging the bond between a football club and 20,000 supporters.
She receives criticism purely because her actions are pathetic. Not because of her nationality nor gender.
“Just like when I started supporting football 15 years ago. Whenever there was a black player they would make noises. That has evolved, why can we not also educate fans towards respect of everybody in the game?”
First of all, Meire as an individual has not earnt respect. How can someone that has insulted supporters again and again, and insulted their club for that matter, command respect? She simply does not deserve it.
And to link the legitimate criticism she receives for her failure as a CEO to racism is another incredible insult. Another attempt to belittle Charlton supporters, and to show no desire to shoulder the blame for the unrest in SE7. It’s our fault.
The fault of a group of supporters who been marvellous in fighting for equality in football, within the game itself and in the stands. Red, White and Black Day always a huge statement day in my time as an Addick, our support, and those that make up the protests for that matter, diverse, and never have I heard a racist comment in SE7.
The anger against Duchatelet is not because he’s Belgian. The anger against Meire is not because she’s female. The anger against the pair of them, and Murray, is because their wilful destruction of a once great football club is breaking the hearts of committed football supporters.
Depressing that they fail to see that, that they would rather protect their own reputation, and play victim while making supporters appear like the guilty party.
Supporters who have raised £27,998.59 through a protest fund in order to fight against the destruction of their club. Supporters who have continued to support their side, irrespective of the bleak football that has been offered at times. Supporters who, in the past, have fought successfully to protect the future of this club.
Supporters who, incredibly, have ended another day further away from the club that they should be attached to. And all because Meire, advised not to speak to the press by her own admission, decided to use this high profile platform to effectively have a tantrum.
Unfortunately for Meire, such is the widely publicised mistakes that she has made and damage caused, few appear to be buying what she said. No one interested in those four-figure crocodile tears. Many continuing to question why she maintains a position she is clearly not suitable for.
In fact, her position, as it has been for many months, is completely untenable.
Charlton Athletic cannot develop in any way, shape or form while someone whose decision making is incredibly misguided, who is so unwilling to admit to the damage that everyone else can see she has caused, and who continues to insult the supporters that she needs to win back.
There will never be a change of strategy, or an attempt to learn from mistakes, while she remains.