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29 February 2016

The eastern front

I was delighted to see that a group of 20 Charlton supporters made the trip to Belgium to take the protest against Duchâtelet into his backyard. While he doesn't own Sint-Truiden (STVV) it's clear he has a lot of influence over the club. Why else would the reaction to a totally peaceful protest be so strong? The supporters had their banner confiscated (fair enough, I suppose) but were evicted from the ground and handed over to the local police, which seems unnecessary, to say the least. STVV fans are already unhappy with the management of their club. Perhaps the heavy-handed reaction to the protest will encourage them to continue making their voices heard.

"Wanted: club with ambition!"
The protest achieved its first objective. As well as being reported in Britain, it made news in Belgium too. It's part of a drip-drip approach, to convince the world of football, and perhaps the Belgian business community, that an association with Roland Duchâtelet is bad news.

One of the Belgian news sites ran a poll, asking "is there a place for Duchâtelet in the world of football?" After some eurovision-style tactical voting from southeast London, the result was conclusive: currently 98% of 765 voters have said "non".

Meanwhile, last week, the Coco5 sports drink company was talked out of considering a sponsorship deal with Charlton. I've no idea how serious their interest was anyway, so let's not get carried away. But it does show that sponsors don't want to be associated with a toxic product like Duchâtelet's Charlton.

Mark Griffiths (@Markg2004) has compiled a list of businesses currently sponsoring Charlton and has written to most of them urging them to reconsider. A model letter is here if you've got the time or the mail-merge expertise to do the same.

Some people said that the protest after Saturday's game felt tired. I agree. Although it's important to keep some sort of protest going, it's hard to maintain the momentum when nothing seems to change. But the thought that some sort of protest will happen means Katrien Meire has to prepare for it. The expense and inconvenience of that is part of what we hope will eventually drive her and her puppeteer out of Charlton. Home and away, we need to keep the pressure on.

PS Last week also brought the news that Belgian second tier club Lommel have appointed Karel Fraeye as head coach. It's hard not to believe that Duchâtelet's had a hand in that appointment. Belgian football seems to run that way. His job is to save the club from relegation. Good luck with that, Lommelers!

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