There barely a week that passes without the website of some sort of media organisation or football related group covering the demise of Charlton Athletic under the stewardship of Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire.
Depressing, bleak, and a constant reminder that ignorance, arrogance and greed of a poisonous regime has destroyed the once unbreakable connection between supporters and club. There no getting away from the reasons that anger, disillusion, and apathy exist.
But whether it be a national newspaper, a supporters’ group, or a snippet to be found within the pages of Joey Barton’s autobiography, there is always a sense of pride to be taken that softens the blow of being reminded the soul of your club has been destroyed.
For with criticism of this regime, and as such highlighting the mistakes made and damage inflicted, almost always comes praise for the unified, organised, and intelligent protesting efforts of Charlton supporters.
There understanding from the wider footballing community, appreciation for what the Addicks have done in their efforts to oust this despised regime, and the idea that Charlton supporters are showing the importance of football fans is constantly noted.
Such praise largely a consequence of how well organised the protesting efforts have been under the banner of CARD. A group that have united those disillusioned supporters, harnessing their passion for the club and opposition to its destruction in order to create excellent, effective and persistent protests.
And when they haven’t been uniting supporters in a visual sense, their statements and individual actions have been intelligent, well-constructed, and, above all, damaging to this regime. Those actions uniting disillusioned supporters behind them, and increasing faith that they want what’s best for the club more than those actually in charge of it.
The perfect response to Katrien Meire’s request for a meeting the perfect example of that. Not only wonderfully detailing the extent to which this regime have damaged the club, to a point where the only solution is for them to depart, but superbly explaining that the time for communication was two years ago, and not now.
Their response respected by, and echoing the thoughts of, the vast majority of supporters.
That ability to understand and appreciate the beliefs of Charlton supporters in a practical and composed manner only increasing the strength of the protest group. While some wanted the protests to continue in-game at the start of this season, the decision to temporarily withhold them was a sensible one, based on how many supporters responded initially to the appointment of Russell Slade and a handful of signings that appeared positive.
Equally, the timing of the return of in-game protests is as close to perfect as you’re going to get. Events on the pitch providing no relief to those that occupy an almost empty Valley, further damaging, Thomas Driesen-shapped, evidence being revealed that suggests the regime’s way of operating has not changed, and the support of Coventry City, another club in crisis, giving the protests even greater potential.
Continuation of intelligent, organised and thoughtful tactics, in addition to a determined effort to remove a regime that will only inflict more damage upon the club and its supporters should it maintain control, a main part of the reason why CARD have, and deserve, a great deal of respect for their efforts.
And yet, despite their selfless and tireless attempts to move the club into safer hands, there are those that dislike CARD.
A lot of it does seem to be rather immature and bizarre personal agendas against those involved in the group, which I’ll simply ignore.
But there are some practical, even logical, reasons why a certain number of individuals dislike the work of CARD, reinforced by the odd voice that suggests protesting inside the ground is not wanted. I can certainly understand why some feel incredibly uncomfortable being involved in the highly charged atmosphere a protest brings, and why some just simply want to watch football without distractions.
In truth, despite the pride that protesting in the hope of healing your club brings, we all want that. We all want to be able to return to having a genuine connection with Charlton, and enjoying a matchday.
But the reality of the situation means that, at present, that is simply not possible for the majority of supporters. Both among those who still attend, and those who have found that they can no longer attend while Duchatelet remains.
For those disconnected fans, whether they sit within The Valley without the emotion they once did or find themselves at home on a matchday, in despair that their connection with the club has been shattered by this regime, the priority must remain doing all that can possibly be done to force the removal of this regime.
Attendances will continue to decrease, disconnection will grow, and the pure footballing aspect of the club will not improve. In the short-term, though a grim and unfortunate consequence of the damage to supporter connection with their club, results are not the priority. Getting our club back, is.
That doesn’t mean that the support the team, not the regime mantra is abandoned. The team will continue to receive the support it deserves, support it has received even when their efforts have warranted post-match boos. But removing this regime is more important too the future of this club, and its supporters, than a few points in the coming weeks.
As such, I’m looking forward to taking part in the protests organised for the Coventry game, and feeling that sense of pride that comes with fighting for our club. Of hoping, however small, my efforts in combination with everyone else’s can make some sort of difference.
So that connection and emotion towards the club can return, and we can begin to rebuild under a new ownership. An important part of CARD’s response to Meire’s invitation was the idea of helping any potential new owner. Having that energy, determination and passion for the club utilised positively once this mess has ended would be marvellous.
Regardless, CARD’s efforts have been marvellous, and deserve total respect. Creating unity among disillusioned fans, maintaining a sense of ‘proper’ Charlton, and maintaining some degree of pride to be a supporter of this club.
If only Meire had utilised such an incredible support base when it was offered to her, and not attempted to take advantage of it as a desperate PR stunt two years later.