My apologies to anyone who thinks this may all already have been said and done many times over. But I think the coincidence of the Trust announcing a prospective Q&A with Meire for its members and the Trust itself issuing a statement clarifying its position on contacts with the regime merits some comment.
Feel obliged to start by reiterating a basic ground rule, one that really shouldn’t be necessary. As far as I’m concerned anyone who goes around shouting or writing about ‘real’ supporters, ie ones who agree with them, and ‘others, not genuine Addicks’ is either a regime troll/employee or someone who needs to go on a basic training programme on what it means to be an Addick. Of course there are Addicks who support the regime, who tolerate it and are anti-protest, who would welcome a change of owner but feel the protests won’t help achieve this, and those who believe that only with a change of owner can our club prosper, regain its self-respect, and consequently back and/or participate in the protests.
It should be clear to all which group I fall into. But I hope It is also clear that there’s never been any suggestion from me that those Addicks of a different opinion are not real supporters. We all want the club to do well, to enjoy our matchday experience, and to be part of a full and vibrant Valley. Nobody wants to be protesting, those of us who do believe it is necessary. There will be an end to Duchatelet’s ownership, sooner or later, and that will be the cause for the celebration (even with a little dancing) of a reunification of all Addicks, something which I hope even regime supporters accept is impossible as long as he is the owner and doesn’t change his spots (unless of course you want unity among a few). And for every one Addick who complains that the protests are spoiling his/her matchday and is feeling forced away, I’d point to those who have been forced away since the regime showed its colours and incompetence and well before the protests began. They all, young and old, count equally and we want them all back when circumstances change.
Anyone who claims that they speak for real Addicks, the majority, the overwhelming majority, the silent majority, a rising majority etc is bullshitting. I don’t know how the numbers stack up and nor I imagine does anyone else. We can only go on anecdotal evidence, not what the bloke next to you says in support of your views, and it’s been a while since the last pre-match protest. If anyone might know it is the Trust.
There’s an intriguing start to its statement: “with the arrival of a new year and the recruitment of a number of new members …” Does that actually indicate that regime-supporting Addicks have indeed been taking up the suggestion that they join the Trust to get their voices heard? I’ve no idea but if they have it is entirely welcome news. I’d urge all Addicks to join, to make the Trust as representative as it possibly can be. It’s entirely up to them of course but the creation of separate pro-regime groups would be, in my view, divisive and counter-productive. And if as a result it ended up that a majority of Trust members were against the protests, it is absolutely right and proper that the Trust would then separate itself from CARD. I would expect no less. I’d also expect that unless and until it is clear that a majority of Trust members are against the protests the Trust maintains a line that reflects its members’ views as previously expressed and remains a part of CARD.
With this in mind, while I’d agree with most of the views and positions outlined by the Trust in its statement, I would advocate both that the Trust withdraws from the Fans Forum and declines to participate – and urges its members to decline to participate – in the latest planned staged Q&A with Meire.
The two relevant factors here are the Trust’s constitution and the English Football League’s new rule requiring clubs to enter into a defined process of dialogue with supporters. The Trust justifies its continued participation in the Fans Forum on the grounds that it remains “committed to communication” and that its primary purpose is “to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between the club and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed". The Trust goes on to acknowledge that the Fans Forum is the regime’s “preferred vehicle” for dialogue with fans.
I would suggest that the Fans Forum, however worthy and well-meaning as far as the Addicks who have participated in it may be, has been and remains an entirely inappropriate ‘vehicle’ for the sort of dialogue which the EFL now requires of football clubs. The regime has from early on deceitfully and wilfully attempted to give the impression that it values supporters, that it values supporters’ opinions, and that it wants constructive engagement with supporters. The only honest line I’ve seen on that front came in the recent Duchatelet interview when he said that “supporters can have a say in the logistics, like how the beer should be served”. Many moons ago in a piece on the Fans Forum minutes I joked that dialogue with fans had to be about more than the price of Bovril, but it seems not.
I would ask whether Duchatelet’s comments on the sort of dialogue with supporters that he feels is appropriate, and the sort of dialogue that we have witnessed to date, meet the EFL’s requirement that meetings (which should be held at least twice a season) should discuss “significant issues relating to the club” and are compatible with both the spirit and the letter of the EFL’s wishes. I would suggest that the regime does not currently comply with the new EFL rule and has no intention of doing so. Consequently I’d urge the Trust to contact the EFL to take the matter up with the club, to force compliance. This proper dialogue could take the form of scheduled meetings between the club and the Trust, an agreed agenda, and details minutes published by the Trust.
In the interim, the Fans Forum and the utterly pointless and counter-productive Q&As merely serve as vehicles for undermining the possibility of meaningful dialogue, allowing the regime to try to pretend that there is ongoing dialogue. I would urge the Trust to turn its back on both in pursuit of the goals outlined in its constitution – unless and until it is clear that a majority of its members support a different position. I’m a member of the Trust but have no interest in attending an event at which Meire will pay lip-service to communication and no interest in her answers. It’s not as if she is able to regain any shred of credibility and when it comes to ‘significant issues related to the club’ she is only the mouthpiece for our absent and indifferent owner.
Oh, and by the way, lest we forget Karl Robinson. Each passing day without a response from him, positive or negative, to the Trust’s invitation for talks lowers his standing in my estimation. He may of course be preoccupied with injuries and suspensions ahead of the weekend of course, or perhaps the piece yesterday about his shareholding in the company of Dele Ali’s agent. I’ve read the report and some of the comments around it, but seems to me there are two questions to be answered. First, did Robinson buy the stake (albeit a small one) and, if not, for what services was he given it? Second, although the regime has said there are no Charlton players on the books of the company involved, Impact Sports Management, are there any deals with any agents which mean that club officials, including the manager and board members, might benefit financially from the sale of players? If I thought there was any chance of honest answers that could be a reason to attend the Q&A.
Have to end with a ‘Robinsonism of the day’, I really like this one. On the club site, talking about Scunthorpe, he says: “It’s a long season, it’s hard to stay up there for the duration and we all have dips. That’s not to say that they’re going to have one.” Actually Karl, yes it is.