Katrien Meire is fearless. A description often applied to a defiant centre-back or combative midfielder, with connotations of courage, determination and pride. The sort of character that can overcome any sort of obstacle, and tackle genuine testing and fear-inducing situations.
The form of fearlessness that Meire possesses, however, is anything but a positive. She doesn’t hold a character that lacks fear, but holds a position that the conditions she works under means she need not fear over losing.
It’s obvious that Meire’s role as CEO of Charlton Athletic is protected while Roland Duchatelet remains owner of the club.
She is the chief instigator of the breaking of the bond between the Addicks and supporters, a key reason why fans can no longer trust their club, and should feel a huge sense of guilt of Charlton’s relegation to League One given that her actions constantly proved costly. But Duchatelet supports, Richard Murray stands by, and Meire herself felt in no danger of losing her job despite the emotional destruction and more measurable failure caused.
Her position has been untenable for years, rather than months, and it becomes more so with each decision that ultimately proves misguided, insult directed towards the club and its supporters, and lie spoken. A competent football club, or even a competent business, run by an owner whose main interest is the success of the club rather than his own personal gain and experiment, would have dismissed her some time ago.
As such, there is a sense that Meire does not fear the consequence of her actions. That she can say and do as she pleases, knowing she has already done more than enough to be dismissed, without any sort of genuine punishment. Instead of that fearlessness creating courage, it has created stupidity, arrogance and furthered Charlton supporters’ disconnection from the club.
To the extent that even on a day where this regime have created something that positivity can be applied to, Meire has managed to remind supporters that it is impossible to trust this club while she remains a part of it. That she is an ignorant and pathetic liar, with no respect for this club, its supporters and those with a genuine interest in it succeeding that aren’t part of her clique. That this regime remains poisonous.
For Russell Slade’s first press conference as Charlton boss, although not likely to alter the feeling for those who feel so disconnected and insulted that they cannot feel any sense of positivity while Duchatelet’s regime maintains control, did offer an opportunity to get some supporters and the press on side.
An English manager, actually given the role of manager, appointed on a long-term deal. Apart from stating that there is no written agreement over his control of players, Slade’s words were positive and belonged to a man who is confident he will be able to achieve. Meire herself, insultingly to those who have had to suffer under her flawed leadership but a positive soundbite to a wider audience, able to suggest this is the start of a new era for the club.
At the very least, even if not appeasing disillusioned supporters who are rightfully sceptical of anything the club says or promises, this press conference was the easiest event for the regime to spin positively since Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Jordan Cousins signed new contracts. Not just some meaningless words plucked from thin air, but a shiny-bald-head-shaped bundle of evidence to full back on to create an argument that change is occurring.
The true untenability of Meire’s position, therefore, is shown by her success in even managing to remind supporters that she’s an insulting liar and completely out of her depth with such a positive platform to stand on. Any positivity created from that press conference immediately replaced by anger over her actions, and fear over the consequences of those actions.
Another outrageous lie made to protect herself and the regime. Suggesting that Peter Varney’s takeover bid involved a move from The Valley. An obvious attempt to persuade fans that this regime is better for the club, and any interested party want to provide further destruction.
Varney’s quick and emphatic denial confirming that Meire’s comments were indeed untrue, particularly given that he has made a 48 hour ultimatum for the comments to be withdrawn before his communication with Duchatelet and purchase proposals are published. Simply outrageous behaviour to create such a fabrication.
And beyond the direct anger over her lying comes a reminder that it is impossible to believe anything she says. Impossible to sign up to this idea that Slade’s appointment is a new era, impossible to believe this verbal agreement will be maintained, and difficult not to offer support to Varney especially if his proposals and communications are released. She’s somehow managed to find an unwounded spot on her foot to shoot.
She, as Ben Hayes so wonderfully put it on Twitter, is CARD’s “best recruiter”. Even on a day where this regime have positivity to play with, they manage to fuel momentum in the campaign to remove them from the club.
A reminder, too, that Meire has the most secure untenable position in sport. That she believes she can say what she wants, without fear of the consequences.
But there are serious consequences. Consequences that she’ll choose to ignore, but consequences that prove her ignorance stupidity.
For while Meire, and therefore this regime, remain, this club continues to have no respect for its supporters. Regardless of any footballing success, there will be no healing of the lack of trust in the club, and no building of a broken bond.
For her continued employment, and her continued insistence on issuing insults and fabrications, show there is no real desire to heal what many Charlton supporters would argue is the greatest damage this regime have caused to the club. The unwanted but unavoidable disconnection.