Yes, Roland’s done it again. No wonder his shoes need duct tape, he shoots himself in the foot so often. The statement on the club site related to the staff bonuses issue could have kept to facts, to inform supporters of the owner’s side of the story and his understanding of it. But no, there’s an unsubstantiated attempt to portray the club employees who are aggrieved at their treatment as “an employee or small group”, a silly attempt to insult CARD, and a truly daft attempt to suggest that the affair might have impacted on the sale of the club.
According to the statement, “the ownership believes the fans and the EFL deserve to know what really happened as the truth has been misrepresented”. (As an aside, isn’t it laughable to talk of ‘the ownership’ as if it was some sort of entity, or consortium, and not just a deluded individual.) When it’s added in that apparently Roland has changed his mind and will now meet the EFL (sometime in October), perhaps it’s reasonable to conclude that after all the EFL has some teeth as Duchatelet is clearly rattled. We can but hope.
If the purpose of the statement was to inform, it might have been better to stick to facts. I have absolutely no idea if the club employees are or are not entitled to a bonus. To determine that you would need to read the relevant job contracts and to talk to the individuals concerned to ascertain whether or not they were given verbal or other assurances that bonuses would be paid, and on what basis. The club statement refers to them as ‘discretionary bonuses’. If they are indeed that, they cannot be tied to performance targets, they are indeed paid (or not) at the discretion of the employer. However, CARD, in its piece on 24 August, stated that Duchatelet “has reneged on promises to staff concerning bonus payments”. The Daily Mail piece of 20 August stated that “Sportsmail understands that the controversial Belgian has reneged on a promise to pay 10% of salaries if specific targets were met across all areas of the club”. If bonuses were indeed related to the meeting of 'specific targets' they are no longer discretionary.
So perhaps the club statement could have provided clarity on matters of fact. Do the employees’ contracts contain clauses on bonuses and, if so, are these bonuses indeed entirely discretionary? Did Duchatelet make promises to club staff regarding bonuses, whether discretionary or not? If the answers – ie facts – are that any bonuses are entirely discretionary and no promises were made by the owner, Roland is in the clear and the club statement should have said as much, if the goal was to inform. As there are no such statements, you have to conclude that the goal was something else, to muddy the waters and to try to shift blame. Not as if there isn't form on that front.
The statement also notes that the Mail piece was published on 20 August, “before the decision not to pay a discretionary bonus was communicated to the employees”. I assume this is intended to cast some doubt over the motives of those who fed the news to the Mail. Instead it highlights at best appalling staff management. Clearly at least some staff believed they would be paid bonuses. Instead it appears they heard ... nothing. The owner didn’t think they merited being told of his decision, nor did any club official (if they had been informed of the decision). Communication only came after staff had put the issue in the media, forcing a response.
If the ownership was indeed bothered about the reputation of the club the situation would not have been allowed to arise, employees would have been informed of a decision on bonuses in advance of their expected payment. If the ownership cared one jot about the people working for the club the situation would not have been allowed to arise. A kind interpretation of events is incompetence, for which the ownership could apologise. A statement which studiously avoids dealing with the facts of the matter and instead looks at misrepresentation and shifting blame should be taken up by the EFL in the October meeting.