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04 December 2016

Letter to Roland Duchâtelet

Yesterday the Belgium 20 delivered around 200 letters from Charlton fans to Roland Duchâtelet in Belgium.
One of them was mine! In case Roland somehow lost it and wants to read it again, here it is.
Dear Mr Duchâtelet

May I belatedly and sincerely wish you a happy birthday. You have obviously been a very successful businessman and have shown a genuine concern for the future of your society which goes beyond many businesspeople’s selfish and overriding search for greater profits at any cost. Now, as you said when you sold Standard: “Quality of life and personal happiness are the most important things in my life”. You have clearly earned the right to enjoy yourself and to indulge in the things that make you happy.

It’s hard to see how your continued ownership of Charlton Athletic can be one of these things. As you and Ms Meire have pointed out, it’s costing you a lot of money to run the club and there’s no guarantee you’ll recover that investment. It looks like an expensive hobby and a hobby you simply don’t enjoy.

One of the reasons Charlton fans don’t like your ownership is that you show no interest in the club. Famously, you don’t attend games, and any recent trips to SE7 have been timed to avoid attendance at any match. If Charlton win, are you happy? Does it ruin your weekend if they lose? Probably not. When Charlton were relegated last season, completely avoidably, did you find yourself furious with anger at the mismanagement that had caused it? Probably not.

To us, the supporters, it seems as if you have bought the club and forgotten why you did that. There has never been a clear statement of what ambitions you have for the club. When you bought the club it was in a position of great potential, given clever investment. Instead, the team was weakened by some disastrous decisions from the start, culminating in the appointment of an interim head coach who was clearly out of his depth and made relegation certain. None of this needed to happen. Would you tolerate this level of mismanagement in one of your industrial businesses? Probably not.

When you have expressed an opinion you have tended to blame the fans. Most recently you said that the protests in Belgium recently were the work of a group of core actors and you were reported as saying that fans are unhappy because they don’t like the idea of a female CEO.

If you look at Charlton’s history you’ll understand that the club’s fans have a reputation - sometimes quite smugly so - for social progressiveness. I think many fans were, like me, delighted with the appointment of a female CEO. We can see that women are underrepresented in football management and were glad to see the club doing something to change that. For most people, the issue with Ms Meire is not her gender or her nationality but her competence. The team has not succeeded, and revenue, with diminishing ticket and merchandise sales, must be savagely reduced. Presumably you have given her achievement targets and unless they are incredibly minimal, she can’t have achieved them. If she were a manager in one of your core businesses, or in something you care about - STVV, perhaps - would she still have the job? Probably not. I don’t wish her ill, but her performance and your acceptance of it is another demonstration of how little you care for Charlton.

I wasn’t one of the “core actors” who visited Belgium recently, but they have my admiration and full support. I’m one of the much larger group who are protesting by staying away from games at the Valley. I have supported Charlton since I was a child and had held a season ticket for 12 years. It wasn’t an easy decision not to renew it but I simply want to make owning Charlton as expensive and unprofitable for you as possible, so that in time you will look for and find a buyer who will give the club respect and develop the enormous potential. Potential not just in terms of the facilities and location of the club, but in terms of the fans. Look at the energy, creativity and imagination that has gone into the protests. Imagine having that behind you! It could have been yours but you blew it and the chance won’t come back.

Again, I’ll quote your comments following the sale of Standard: "I have felt it was complicated for me at Standard. For the Standard fans too - those who didn't see in me the leader they wanted".

You’ll never recover the trust of Charlton fans, just as you’ll never recover the money you’ve spent.

Cut your losses. Sell the club.

(Source of quotations: http://www.castrust.org/2015/06/duchatelet-sells-standard-liege/ )

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