Sunday, 27 July 2014

Promised Meeting(s) Cynically Circumvented?

I must be getting a bit slow on the uptake in my old age. When someone posted a comment to say that the promised meeting(s) with supporters groups (or group) would be held on 3 August I thought ‘fine, rather late, not the best of times (as the comment mentioned), but at least progress’. When I saw the piece on the club site about the ‘day of fun’ at The Valley I thought ‘good idea, chance to showcase the improvements to the ground (which deserve praise), chance for fans to mingle with the players etc’. It didn’t immediately occur to me that the two are somehow supposed to be related. I hope they’re not, as what is being offered up on the day – a question and answer session with Meire, Murray, Peeters and Jackson – is, while laudable, not in any way shape or form delivering on the statement released in March.

A cynic might be tempted to conclude that some management course ‘graduate’ came up with a wheeze, to turn around a perceived negative into a positive. (For the record I used to have a policy of immediately binning a CV from anyone who’d been on a management training course and have seen and heard nothing since to make me change my mind.) ‘We have a problem. We issued a statement in March to try to head off criticism and buy time and it seems some still expect us to deliver on the contents. Why not have a fun day, open to all fans, give away some freebies, include an informal chat with two board members, the head coach and the skipper, which should be broad enough to ensure that the real concerns, like those pesky Trust questions, can be glossed over? We are seen to be keeping our word, we should generate some goodwill, and we’ve got around a problem’. If that (or something like it) is the thinking, it is treating fans with contempt, regarding their views as potential problems to be circumvented if possible.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely no reason why contact between the board and the supporters should be exclusively through the Trust, and/or the Royal Oak group. The more the merrier. The March statement (which I printed out and kept; it is still on the club site if you go back far enough, to 28 March) said ‘be assured that we will be making plans to meet with as broad a spectrum of the fanbase as possible’. A fun day as outlined is a very useful element in delivering on the promises. But it is only that. I don’t think anyone back in March would have believed that this alone was what was intended to address the very real and heartfelt concerns raised by the Trust and others.

Perhaps the ‘board’ wishes to stick to the letter of the statement rather than the spirit. So let’s go through it. ‘Since we arrived at the club in January we understood the importance of interaction with Charlton supporters’. To back that up, the video of the new board, a Q&A session with VIP supporters by Meire and Murray, and the recorded interview with Duchatelet were cited. Sorry, but stage-managed events/recordings are not a substitute for what – in March and still today – is the real issue, Duchatelet being quizzed, unscripted, by fans’ representatives on his plans, vision, and motivation. That would be interaction, not an attempt to pay lip-service. The statement goes on. ‘Understandably, given events on and off the field over the past few weeks, we have received a number of requests from supporters’ groups for a meeting to discuss our approach to running Charlton and our vision for the club’s future’. The Duchatelet recorded interview is then cited as a ‘first step’, before the excuse for delay was outlined.

To be fair, nowhere in the statement is there an actual pledge to hold meetings with one or more of the groups that had requested them. It is carefully worded to avoid that. Instead there was that ‘as broad a spectrum of the fanbase as possible’, which if you are a lawyer you may feel is satisfied by the fun day Q&A. I don’t think there is any doubt that anyone reading the statement at the time believed it amounted to a commitment to hold meetings with the groups that had requested them, or at least just with the Trust. That was the spirit of the statement.

Sometimes even a lawyer’s statement inadvertently gives it away. The statement included: ‘we understand the current requests for dialogue and are keen to meet with supporters to hear their views and discuss a shared vision for the future of this great club’. What is the point of ‘discussing a shared vision’? If it is shared, both parties are in agreement and the ‘dialogue’ is mutually-supportive and quite frankly pointless. What is wrong with discussion about a vision for the club, to listen and perhaps take on board the views of those that might not agree with it? That, again, would be interaction rather than paying lip-service. The March statement said that we ‘are keen to meet with supporters’. Prove it.

What infuriates me is that – absent any fresh news regarding real meetings – it amounts to a missed opportunity. A ‘problem’ is something to be dealt with, even learn from, rather than circumvented (which usually means it doesn't go away). The Trust and others are people who care about Charlton and have nothing but the best interests of the club at heart. They devote time and effort to that end. They are people to be embraced by the board, to be listened to seriously. People like myself who view with a mix of disdain and concern what we understand of Duchatelet’s vision and motivation (which is inevitably limited) would be ready to amend views in the event that people who we know have Charlton’s interests at heart came away from a meeting with Duchatelet (I mean no disrespect to Meire but the only question I would ask her is exactly what her decision-making capabilities are) either reassured or at least appreciative that he has taken time to truly listen to what they have to say and to have answered their questions honestly, even if there is still disagreement.

Again, don’t get me wrong. Duchatelet owns the club, he is under no obligation to have meetings with supporters groups, it is not something that they have any right to. We were told early on that communication isn’t one of his strengths. So be it, I don’t know what he might be scared of. Absent such meetings just please don’t in any way pretend to ‘understand the importance of interaction with Charlton supporters’. They become empty words.

On a brighter note (or at least a mix of the positive and negative), Peeters does continue to impress with his openness and attitude. The comments regarding Ghoochannejhad hit the right note. I don’t know yet whether he’s staying or going, but agree that unless his attitude is better the latter is fine. I wasn’t impressed with what I saw. His diving in and around the box was an embarrassment, as was his obvious delight at having contributed mightily to the cause when he managed to fall over around the centre-circle and win a free kick. He clearly has talent, but I’d genuinely rather watch Dickie Plumb honestly plying his trade.

So there we have it. I hope everyone who attends the fun day has a great time. No doubt the club site will be hailing a success whatever happens. I shall of course have swanned off to France before then, so will not have the opportunity in the Q&A to ask the only question that really matters: when will there be the proper meeting)s)?


Anonymous said...

What a load of shit, move on, you and so many other Charlton fans need to remember that it's not you who owns or runs the club.

Anonymous said...

No, the fans don't own the club. But matchdays would look pretty sick without the fans who pay their cash to watch the club and, so, are entitled to show an interest in how the club is being run. You're fully entitled to your view too, but why the need to respond to bad language when others express theirs, however wrong you may think they are?

Anonymous said...

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
― Benjamin Franklin,

PS Grow up anon 1

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for all the comments guys (yes, all of them). Some people may truly feel that the job of supporters is just to turn up and provide backing for whoever is in charge. I just don't agree, which isn't to suggest delusions of importance (at least I hope not).

I do feel that a well-run club (or any business) maximises contact and sensitivity to its customers. And the bottom line for me is if you say you want and value contact and input then deliver on it.

Anonymous said...

And this from the 'Fan' who went to the Valley on match day just to blow a raspberry in some useless demonstration and who left before the game started instead of staying to cheer the lads on. You know. Like a supporter does.

As for Barnie Rubble and his 'Trust' and the Royal (Cr)oak Group...Perleeeeze! All those successful multimillionaires telling a rank amateur how to run his club....

Anonymous said...

Well said BA
There are some fans who think that questioning the motives/strategy etc of Roland is somehow disloyal to the club , which is nonsense. I , like you, support the team and Charlton Athletic FC , but I don't like the current ownership and the 'fed' club system. In the same way many fans support Man Utd but don't support the Glasers or support Newcastle and don't like Mike Ashley or support Blackpool but don't support Karl Oyston.
Charlton will be here long after Mr Duchatelet ( hopefully !!)and we can be ever hopeful that at some point in the near future we get another Richard Murray .

Anonymous said...

Isnt it pathetic that individuals can't make a point without being abusive or name calling. KM has met with the FF during a period when they said fan consultation was on hold. If fans aren't content with this they should turn up to the q&a.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks again guys. Now there I was thinking that the purpose of meetings was the opportunity for fans to ask questions about plans for the club and to listen to the replies. I wasn't aware that anyone had suggested their purpose was to tell the owner how to run the club.

If meetings have taken place which I was unaware of, that's great (and it is confusing with the FF, Trust, Royal Oak group etc). Positive news which if I'd been aware of might have tempered (even headed off) what I wrote. If there has been such contact I'm happy to acknowledge that I might have been unfair. I hope we get an account.

As for what I did around the time of Powell's sacking, no apology, no need to explain (again). I'd do the same again (without suggesting that anyone else 'should' feel or do similar, or criticising others who felt differently).

Anonymous said...

The FFs remit and minutes are controlled by the club and its membership reliant on the club for players and management to attend their socials. The fact that they continued with the FF while under a period of non engagement suggests exactly what their opinion of it is. The fact that this next public meeting is called a fun day and mixes the q&a the way you suggest also says much. However it is open to all fans (many of whom may be on holiday mid summer school holidays).

Anonymous said...

As a supporter of 60+ years, I feel that the first thing that should be done is that you should show a degree of respect to the people in charge.Mr.Duchatelet & Ms.Meire should be the way in which you refer to the people "in charge".
How you can expect to be taken seriously when you show such disdain for the people who, after all, "saved" the club.

Blackheath Addicted said...

There's no disrespect intended; I've always tended to use just surnames, for players, management and owners alike (with some exceptions). I may have disdain for the vision, to the extent that I understand it, and expressed disgust at some of the decisions made, not least those in the January transfer window, but I hope that never came across as personal.

As for them having 'saved' the club, that is a point of view, not a fact. They (or rather he) made an investment. What remains unclear - and which I had hoped meetings would shed some light on - is why, what is Duchatelet, Mr Duchatelet if you prefer, hoping to get from it? Or to put it another way, is our club in the hands of someone we can trust and have confidence in, or are we now part of a poor experiment which involves too great a compromise?

There was quite rightly the benefit of the doubt at the start, I think we all welcomed the takeover given the state we were in (although I've yet to see any evidence that we were headed for administration and absent that doubt that we were, given that the previous owners were clearly hunting for a buyer and progressively dropping the price to flush one out). That for me went with the January decisions and then the way Powell (Sir Chris if you like) was treated.

The only person who can ease these concerns is the one who makes the decisions and owns the club.

Sciurus Carolinensis Nemesis said...

What a lot of self-important paranoid drivel.
It may just be that what you (chose to) infer from the March statement was slightly wide of the mark.
Is it not possible that any groups of fans with shared purpose might be able to coordinate themselves to attend the Q&A on 3rd and ask the questions they want to ask? One lot managed to form a trust and another bunch met each other in a pub, I think the chances are good they can air their questions in the forum which will be provided. Whether the eccentric Belgian millionaire chooses to engage directly with Tom, Dick or Harriet is his affair and what we 'feel' about that is irrelevant. The thing we know as 'Charlton Athletic' is part of his pan-European football network, whether we fans choose to continue following the team is our affair. We do still at least have a team to follow - not something that would be true and certainly not in division 2 if Roly Douchebag hadn't made it part of his network.
There's nothing so unedifying as impotent self-importance.

Blackheath Addicted said...

I think you'll find there is.

C.S. said...

I'm amazed at the number of anonymous sheep who have commented on this post and who obviously just follow the club without caring how it is run at all

Blackheath Addicted said...

I think - and hope - we all care, otherwise what's the point? I've some sympathy with the view that we are supporters, our job is just to support come what may, just don't really agree with it. If that veers into impotent self-importance, some sympathy for that too! Of course I don't have any influence, let alone power. It's a blog for crying out loud.

I'll happily admit (because I can't deny it's true) that I've written stuff when angry, sometimes after a glass; and I've never written anything in my life on any subject that I wouldn't revise/edit when taking a fresh look. What does surprise me is if my opinions/ramblings so infuriate some they bother to read them.

oligab said...

Steady their BA , your blog doesn't infuriate me , I am just intrigued by someone as articulate as yourself ,posts such crass comments . Mostly they are total drivel and full of RD hatred but hey ho I still enjoy reading them because they offer a different opinion to mine.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Merde, I'll have to try harder next time.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that people didnt find the time to comment on the last load of rabble that ran the club close to administration whilst leaving the new regime with a host of players who were close to the end of their contracts. I dont think the new owners or indeed the board deserve the amount of negativity being served up by most Charlton bloggers and forums. So far we have seen a not insignificant sum of money spent on a very run down looking Valley, new plans for a much larger and improved training facility at Sparrows Lane, a much needed overhaul of the poor catering facilities at the club and an amazing amount of money invested in players....Have I seen trumpets and fanfares over us spending £2.3 Million on Vetokele? No.

Is this because he is an unknown quantity, well probably, but under the last regime we signed super striker Simon Church during last close season...surely Vetokele should be writing some headlines in the Forums and blog world. All I keep seeing is people basically wheeling out the same old crap and negativity. Has this become the Charlton disease? Things needed a change and a bloody good shakeup at the Valley and thankfully the new owners have done this with gusto.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Fair points and nothing I'd take issue with. I have included, even in this post, the fact that the improvements to the ground should be lauded and rightly shown off to supporters - and that along with others I welcomed the takeover at the time.

I'd still give the previous owners some credit, not for sure for how things ended up with them (and for their communication 'skills' and from what I read treatment of staff) but just wouldn't overlook that they too took over when we were in a pretty sorry state, gave Powell the backing to bring in a new team (yes, helped by funds from transfers out), and oversaw us getting back to the Championship. Just why they ran out of money and/or commitment I don't know, but their final six months were indeed dire, leaving Sir Chris in a very tough position and any new owner with a tough inheritance re contracts and the ground.

It's possible I've not placed enough emphasis in posts on these aspects but they have been included.

Newyorkaddick said...

BA, isn't it enough for them simply to communicate via their actions? In just seven months:

- took brave decision to fire a popular manager and replace with an unknown (but seemingly better one) who subsequently delivered play off form and comfortably secured safety;
- invested significant sums with (no meaningful or obvious near term returns) on the stadium and pitch;
- introduced an innovative (maybe too innovative) pricing policy including rock bottom £7 per game season tickets;
- signed a series of eclectic players (most from outside the network), many unproven but almost certainly better value than domestic equivalents.

As Teenage FanClub once said, ain't that enough?

Blackheath Addicted said...

Fair points, but I do feel that picture of positive consistency is at odds with also: making a pig's ear of the January transfer window (when strengthening was required we were seemingly ready to sell anyone and replace them with consortium reserves who were largely ignored by both Powell and Riga), and offering said popular manager a new contract only to change tack days later after the cup exit.

I did actually write something subsequent to this post focusing on the positives (but didn't post it as perhaps there's been enough from me for now and I was off to Lyon, where I am installed today). They have been in there but perhaps not given sufficient prominence by me at least. What's been done to the ground is entirely praiseworthy and the recent signings provide concrete evidence for optimism that we will at least be competitive (even to the point where it's reasonable to speculate on whether our owner has had a rethink of the short-term balance between broad breakeven and what is required to compete in this league). Concerns about this were justified on the evidence of the January decisions, players walking to take up better offers elsewhere etc. But what has actually happened more recently does significantly ease them.

Clarification, or at least more shedding of light, on how this consortium model will work in practise I still feel would be desirable (while readily accepting we have no 'right' to the info). For example, Standard Liege drew the first leg of their Champions League qualifier last night. Are our prospects in any way affected by whether or not they get through? If they don't, does our ranking in the consortium go up, such that getting us into the Premiership becomes a greater priority? If they do, ....

We will of course find out through experience if nothing else, but for now we are somewhat in the dark. It is a potentially new - and potentially undesirable - situation to be in where an owner may be (and I stress may) more concerned with the net worth of a group of clubs than the fortunes of one of the parts.

I'm not negative by nature (I think) and the only thing in recent weeks/months that has rankled with me is the suggestion that those of us who are sceptical of/against the consortium model might and have voiced concerns somehow welcome failure for us, to somehow be 'proven right'. That's unfair and I know in my case not true. I want us to succeed. Period.

Now it is time to bugger off on holiday. May we be top of the league when I'm back in Blighty.

Hilltothevalley said...

For the poster complaining about the way BA addresses the board members I truly believe that you are living in a by gone age of cap doffing and courtsy's. I tend to refer to them as Kate and Roland and that in no way detracts from the respect I have for a lady who has achieved a position in a men's world or a man who has developed a business empire.

BA I agree with New York Addick much of their actions have adequately answered the questions the G21 and belatedly the Trust raised. I was never in favour of the self appointed G21 demanding an audience and whilst the Trust is the nearest we have to a representative body, it is far from that. An open forum Q& A meets my view of communications much better than does separate meetings with self appointed self righteous groups, hanging on to past glories.

The early days of the Belgian regime by their own admission were littered with errors on the playing front. They were lucky they got away with them, with the astute appointment of Riga.

Many cite CP departure as a major negative and maybe it was although I am in NYA's camp and feel Riga proved better. But new regimes as Parkinson found out, chage managers and CP made it clear he and Roland were at odds.

As for Riga, he and I have something in common, we both were interim managers at time of his reign. Interim managers have a brief to address a problem, resolve it and then move on. That was Riga's brief and it was fulfilled.

The question now which will only be answered from 16th august is .... Has Roland and Kate got it right with the management and the players.

That said and I think I disagree with you at many turns, we do need the opposite view point, if only for supporters and I to continue to re evaluate our positions, so keep asking the questions and keep going to the valley.

Wyn Grant said...

Interesting range of views, to say the least. I have some reservations about the network model. However, I think that Roland is idiosyncratic rather than the devil incarnate. Roland and Katrien made some mistakes at the beginning, hopefully they are on a learning curve. I am profiling Katrien in the next Voice of the Valley. I really can't criticise them for not wanting to talk to the Valley Party 'old guard' and what I hear from the Trust is that they are satisfied with their day-to-day relationship with the club. At least we are not running out of Cash as happened under the old regime.

Anonymous said...

BA, I bet Roland has a good laugh at what is posted on the CAFC blogs. Could it be he is just enjoying his retirement, and fancied owning an English club? His purchase of Charlton - when you consider the financial opportunities at the top table in England - seems as astute as some of his other decisions. I for one am glad not to be embarrassed by the owner of the club, and from what I have read, the improvements to the Valley have been welcomed by fans. Now all we need is 3 points on Saturday! Hope you have enjoyed your holiday!

Martin Cowan

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for all the further comments. Sorry for absence of replies but I have been drowning myself in the delights and output of la belle France (which this time around really did include a bottle of Chateau d'Arse and one from an area called Le Clape). All over now, back to what passes for reality.