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13 January 2016

An open letter to Katrien Meire

The following open letter to Katrien Meire was written by @mikejwhite, and I'm hosting it here as I'm sure it reflects a lot of people's views and expresses them firmly and clearly. I'm grateful to him for sharing it.

Dear Katrien

I am sure you have received a lot of emails similar to the one I am about to write but I can’t stay quiet any longer and suffer in silence, I need you to know how I and thousands of others feel about the way that you think it is appropriate to run OUR club.

In my opinion, on a basic level at the very least, the role of a CEO is to understand the ‘customers’ and to communicate with them in order to deliver a great ‘customer’ experience. Having seen what is going on at Charlton recently I doubted myself, thinking that perhaps I didn’t really understand what role a CEO plays within an organization, and so I turned to our good friend Google. I typed in a simple search: “the basic role of a CEO”. I clicked on the first article that appeared in the search results. I suggest you also have a quick read using the following link:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/233354

As I began to read I realised two major things. The first was that I was right all along. I now know I shouldn’t have doubted myself. Your role as CEO is to communicate to the ‘customers’ a clear strategic vision and to drive the company’s performance, resulting in a successful organisation that delivers a rewarding and satisfying ‘customer’ experience. I don’t think many people can disagree that this is the basis of being a successful CEO.

The second thing I realised as I thought about it is that, on a footballing level, during your two years at the helm, you have not achieved any one of the 5 key points mentioned in the article.

You have not outlined a clear strategy other than ‘to make Charlton a financially stable Championship club with Premier League ambitions’. What does this actually mean? Is it code for we aren’t going to spend any money to try and even get into the Premier League?

As relegation threatens, you certainly have not provided the adequate resources on and off the field. I appreciate balancing budgets and resources is not an easy task in any business but as the article suggests, the skill in making such decisions lies in understanding ALL aspects of the business. With all of the ill-timed and uninformed comments you have made about the supporters, sorry I mean customers, you certainly appear to have completely misunderstood the football side of this business and what this club means to us.

Point three refers to building a culture within the organisation that influences all of the employees and ultimately the ‘customer’ experience. In your case you have alienated both loyal employees and supporters of Charlton, outsourced important aspects of the club such as ticketing, and by all accounts made the club a generally uneasy and unsatisfying place to work. Congratulations!

The next point made me chuckle as it is titled ‘Make Good Decisions’. I think the appointment of our managers during your tenure would be a good case in point. We are on to our 5th manager in that short period and you have previously stated that our position has always improved and they have always proved to be the right decision. Considering the win percentage of each manager and the league standings during their time in charge, I cannot see how you can justify that statement in any way or call them ‘good decisions’. As I write this Charlton sit 23rd in the league off the back of a humiliating 5-0 defeat away to Huddersfield and with an ‘interim’ manager in charge who has a win percentage of just 14%. Add to that the fact that he didn’t even have the decency to face the post-match press and embarrassingly sent one of the players to conduct the interviews. Stand up and take some responsibility! Was it a good decision to put him in charge? His position is surely now untenable and it remains to be seen if you will now make one good decision and replace him with someone long term that has the experience needed in our current situation.

How is the search for a new manager going by the way? I am presuming the club has spoken with a number of potential candidates to date although there has been zero communication from you on this subject.

The final point in the article touches on overseeing and delivering the company's performance. Well, I think our league position says everything that needs to be said on this point so I will leave that one there.

Your comments in a recent interview referring to the supporters of Charlton Athletic as ‘customers’ were understandably not very well received by fans. That comment was uneducated and just underlines how badly you lack the knowledge and understanding of the football world that is required for you to successfully do your job. Football fans (of any club in the world) and cinema or restaurant customers are not the same. Please let me take some time to make it clear why we are not just customers.

How many cinema customers do you know who would spend all of their hard earned cash to travel from London to all the corners of the country on a Tuesday night, with work the next day, to stand in the cold and see a rubbish movie?  The answer is NONE, ZERO, absolutely nobody! How many Starbucks, McDonalds or any other restaurant chain customers do you see with that restaurant’s logo tattooed on their body? Again, NONE, ZERO, absolutely nobody! That is why we are not customers. This may be difficult for you to get your head round but we are supporters and the supporters make a football club.

We love Charlton, some of more than we should do, and we would do anything for this club. As fans we have an emotional attachment to whichever club we support, which you seem to think is weird and again, clearly don’t understand. I don’t mind admitting that I cried on that famous day in 1992 when we returned home and again in 1998 when we gained promotion to the Premier League. Those special moments made all of the effort from so many people and all of the tough times of the previous years worth it. They were our aims, our goals and WE, as a club, achieved it TOGETHER and that is what Charlton Athletic is about, we are a family and you just don’t get it! Nobody with any attachment to Charlton wants to have to go through that again but every single one of us would if we had to and we would still be there at the end of it on a cold wet dark night in the north of England singing Valley Floyd Road as loud and as proud as we can. Customers and owners come and go but us as supporters will ALWAYS be here. We will still be here when you have gone because WE are Charlton Athletic, we are not customers!

As a fourth generation fan I am an emotional and passionate man when it comes to Charlton (weird isn’t it?) and I have decided that with everything that has happened at Charlton in recent times I will not attend another game until things have changed. I will continue to support and love Charlton as much as I have always have but I will not contribute to an ownership regime that I don’t trust or believe in. You will never lose me as a supporter but for now you have lost one very unhappy customer.

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