What to make of the apparent offer by Meire and cronies to CARD - and the response, not being privy to the thoughts of either side? Was Meire's offer a genuine attempt at finding common ground with CARD, or a PR stunt aimed at getting the regime a better press when it comes to coverage of the coming protests and perhaps to try to divide supporters? We can't know - and ultimately it doesn't matter.
Start by assuming the former and question whether it makes sense. CARD, by its name, exists to pressure and campaign for Duchatelet to sell our club, asap, on the grounds that all the evidence since the takeover points to continued failure on and off the pitch under his ownership. So what is the possible point of CARD talking to Meire, when as I understand it the offer was based on the following: "The manager and the players need all the support they can get to give Charlton Athletic the best opportunity to challenge for promotion to the Championship this season. With this in mind, we have requested a meeting with CARD to look at how we can potentially begin working with them on a process of rebuilding this great club."
Again, consider CARD's reason for being. How can CARD respond positively to an invitation to work together, unless that is on the basis of some pledge from Duchatelet to sell the club? Perhaps such an offer might have been forthcoming at an actual meeting, but without an indication of such from the invitation the only logical reaction from CARD was the one it so eloquently delivered. In short, the offer of a meeting as delivered was doomed to failure.
So was failure intended? Here too we can't be certain but it is indicative of the mistrust - which is the result of experience, not prejudice - that we are inclined to believe it was. The other aspect, if I'm correct, was the sending of the invitation on Wednesday evening and the appearance of press reports of the offer before any response had been made. If the offer was genuine and if the leak deliberate, the person who leaked it should be dismissed and an apology published, because the leaking clearly worked against any chance of a positive response. If the offer was genuine and the leak accidental, then an apology to CARD is in order. There hasn't been one that I've seen. If the offer was not genuine, the leak was necessary since otherwise the regime couldn't be sure it would make it to all Addicks and the media.
So it seems to me that the balance of probability, in the absence of further information, is on the side of the offer not being a genuine attempt at constructive dialogue. Just consider another line from the reported offer. 'A Charlton spokesperson said: "Everyone at Charlton Athletic, whether staff or fans, have the club's best interests at heart." Leaving aside for a moment whether the regime's apparent latest strategy for Charlton (to be a fish farm for young players) is really in our club's best interests, fair enough. But how does that square with the Duchatelet statement, published on the club website, which said that some fans want the club to fail? Are we to take the spokesperson's comment as a de facto apology from our owner? An apology from Duchatelet for that statement is in order and any indirect, half-arsed implication of one is not adequate.
In previous posts I've suggested that if the regime had any sense it would have used recent months as an opportunity to try to establish meaningful communication with supporters. That opportunity was not taken. Instead, as CARD has outlined, it focused on more of what it delivered before, ie stage-managed events to use well-meaning individuals to create the impression of better communication (let's face it, better communication for the regime means working harder to tell us where they are going, not actually listening to and taking on board fans' opinions and interests on issues more weighty than the price of Bovril inside the ground). There was an obvious opportunity during this time to invite the Trust to talks on the basis of the offer apparently made now. Such an offer would have put the Trust in a difficult position. Its current position of being a part of CARD and not engaging in dialogue with the regime is after all the result of canvassing its members, so technically a change would have required a fresh 'referendum'. Some may say that the Trust doesn't represent all Addicks. Of course it can't, but aims to do so and is the most representative organisation that all supporters have. I'd urge all Addicks, including those who back the regime, to join and express their views.
Anyway, no such initiative was made and the time for it passed. Whether or not the timing was right for CARD to resume outright protests is now a moot point, the decision has been taken and I'll be going along with it. My only decision is whether or not to buy a ticket for the Coventry game, or just - in my normal fashion - turn up to assist with the protests. I'll give it more thought, but currently feel that just adding one more voice inside the ground calling for Duchatelet to go does not outweigh handing over some money to the regime. Perhaps there's an element, for me in my second season of boycott, of FOLI (of course I wasn't the first out, others just stopped going before me).
If the regime's meeting offer was intended to deepen the divide between Addicks supporting the protests and those who do not, let's make sure it fails. Differing opinions among Addicks is unavoidable and usually healthy. After all, this isn't some referendum where there's a right answer and a wrong one (we got it wrong, first time around anyway). All Addicks want to see Charlton succeed and to be progressing towards what we would consider success (at least being in the Championship). We all want a full and vibrant Valley, both because this is a vital ingredient for our club to succeed and because this considerably enhances our matchday experience (a sparse, quiet Valley and we might as well just be at a social club, or a local rugby match, which might please our owner but not me). And while we might grumble, we all accept that from time to time we will fall short of our goals and suffer setbacks. We are not protesting because we were relegated, let alone because we might not want us to get back up.
To those Addicks who are against the protests, and don't fall for the reprehensible suggestions that the protests are motivated by any sort of xenophobia or hatred, perhaps bear in mind one thing. You want a positive and enjoyable matchday experience, with a full and happy Valley. We all do, I miss that. But you've had no real protests so far this season and have you enjoyed the matchday experience? Is that positive experience simply going to come back of its own accord with the regime in place, even if performances on the pitch improve? Perhaps, over a decade or more, if the regime succeeds in bussing in enough kids on freebies. Our owner has further distanced himself from Charlton (as he doesn't do failure he has to dissociate himself from direct involvement with anything that is failing, to perpetuate the self-deception), probably views us as naughty children who need to be punished for disobeying daddy, perhaps only (apparently) refuses to consider selling out of spite and stubbornness. I don't know and don't care. We all want our Charlton back.