05 April 2016


Hey, heyey Ro-o-land! (ooh! aah!)
I wanna know (oh oh oh)
Why you're such a ...
I've spent a lot of time considering if Roland Duchatelet's football empire might be nothing more than a criminal organisation. I'm sure it isn't, but maybe it's more useful to think of it as a cult.

Let's start with the premise that insanely rich people start out by being insanely avaricious. Their avarice is fed, rather than sated, by their increasing wealth. Their wealth is proof of their worth: they are rich because they deserve it, not because of anything as dumb as luck. And when you've made a few fortunes through business, you might think you have the Midas touch and be ready to move into another sphere. 

The founder of a certain cult* is quoted as saying
I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is!
Football is like a religion for many people, and there's far more money splashing around. Get a piece of that, your inner demons may whisper, and you can be even richer, have even more money that you could never spend in a thousand lifetimes.

With the Duchatelet organisation there's a clear expectation of reverence for the Leader, who is rarely seen among his people. He keeps away from the business end of affairs, surrounding himself with a trusted group of close associates. It's hard to get into that group, but once you're in, you're made for life.

Any criticism of the Leader is seen as heresy, and the heretics are accused of trying to bring down the organisation. They have to accept him as a benign, knowing figure.
The owner wants the best for Charlton. He does it his way and [the fans] need to accept that
The aims and above all the timescale of the organisation are deliberately vague. The Rapture is coming really soon, and Charlton will be swept up into the Paradise of the Prem, but for now, please be patient; your reward will come. Any setbacks on the way are just part of the plan: in time all will be clear.

There is, or was, a trace of a moral programme. The Leader might have thought that indignation at the absurd salaries paid to top players and coaches could be manipulated into support for a crusade against the system. Duchatelet has gone silent now on the line that he wants to reform football in Europe, and there's nothing to replace it. Certainly not a desire for success on the pitch.

Duchatelet chairs a board meeting
Cults fall apart, I suspect, when it becomes obvious they are driven by moneylust and ego rather than principle. It becomes clearer and clearer that it's all about the money for him. Making a Belgian billionaire even richer is not a campaign that's going to win many hearts and minds outside the charmed inner circle. It's not just that Duchatelet's project is failing, but that we've seen behind the curtain, and we know that Duchatelet's dreams, whatever they are, don't include you or me. So let's keep giving him nightmares.

*which is notoriously litigious, so shall remain unnamed

1 comment :

Sadie Cordwell said...

Well written piece with an interesting take on things, I enjoyed it. The religion/football connection is one I've been saying for years.