Friday 26 April 2019

So Who's Paying De Turck?

Sorry, but the point at which we allow our hopes to rise on the basis of comments made by Duchatelet or one of his acolytes passed a long time ago. Perhaps there will be a sale of our club concluded by the end of June, with Lieven De Turck apparently telling the Fans’ Forum last night that the ‘fifth party (international)’ is now doing due diligence having agreed a price with Roland. And perhaps not.

This time last season we were led to believe that we might have fresh owners before the play-offs, creating the conditions for an all-round celebration either side of victory at Wembley. This time around let’s just win the play-offs and then turn our attention back to our deluded owner, if he’s still around. Can you imagine him having the gall to actually turn up for a play-off final? If he has any concern for the club he would forget any such notion, for obvious reasons.

There were (I thought) nevertheless some points of interest from the accounts of the gathering. First, what surely must be considered the most tongue-in-cheek questioning of a football club representative in history (perhaps any recorded Q&A in history). According to the club website account, Ben Hayes (and full marks to him – and others - if he managed to keep a straight face) asked what had happened to the request (demand?) for the EFL to buy the club. It seems that De Turck actually answered and when pushed on whether Duchatelet still wanted the EFL to buy us said the club “has to accept” the EFL’s decision to turn down the opportunity.

Now if De Turck had commented to the effect that Roland’s call on the EFL was a reflection of his frustration at the authorities’ behaviour over the years (ie further undermining his already flawed concept of a network) all might have at least considered the possibility that our owner after all hasn’t entirely lost his marbles. But to actually give sober replies to the questions must have had everyone around the table in stitches, or created one of those situations when nobody dare look at another for fear of dissolving into mutual howls of laughter. It must have been something like the Life of Brian scene when the Woaman was asking the crowd who he should release (‘go on Ben, ask him if he thinks the EFL might reconsider if Roland agreed to drop his price ...’).  

Second, there was an exchange on the issue of whether potential buyers of our club are worried about those of us maintaining some form of boycott (whether all-in or not buying merchandise, spending inside the ground etc). De Turck apparently said the buyers are not worried as they believe this is an issue “linked to the current ownership”, but a fans representative seemingly commented that there might by now be a “certain amount of drift that isn’t boycotting”.

I can only add personal thoughts here. It stands to reason that the longer people stay away from games the more distant Charlton becomes to them and the less likely it is that they will return with a change of ownership. The time gets taken up with other things, which would probably have to be jettisoned to get back into a former routine. To minimise the risk of them not returning I’d expect any savvy new owner to go the extra mile to encourage them back and for these efforts to be extended by those attending trying to persuade fellow Addicks to get back in the saddle. We all want a packed Valley fully behind the team and new owners, whether this is in the Championship or still in League One.

Finally, there’s one aspect of the whole De Turck business which niggles me. Just who is paying for his services (I am of course assuming that he is paid)? I suspect we all know the answer, with the club site declaring that De Turck “is representing the club in takeover talks”. But that statement is obviously not true. ‘The club’ is not involved in takeover talks and has no need of representation. The club is an entity, perhaps an asset, it is owned by someone or something, and it has no say in who/what that owner might be. If De Turck was truly representing the club, he would be acting solely in the best interests of the club. In the context of negotiations over a change of ownership this could involve expressing opinions on potential buyers etc, although other than in rather strange circumstances could any ‘club representative’ have a material impact on a sale of the club.

I think we all realise that De Turck is representing Duchatelet. Nobody or nothing else. He is providing services (time and one assumes expertise) on behalf of the owner of our club, for his benefit. Any payments to him should therefore come out of Roland’s pocket, not footed by the club, and De Turck should not be described as representing ‘the club’, he is representing the owner – and the two things are not the same.

Now many might say it doesn’t make any difference. If De Turck is paid by the club it merely adds to the ongoing losses covered by Duchatelet and the debt to him, which is never going to be repaid of course other than in the context of a sale of the club. But there is perhaps a difference. If Duchatelet pays De Turck for his services out of his own pocket he is paid out of already taxed income (assuming he does pay taxes on his income). If his services instead add to the losses incurred by the club, they add to a debt mountain which could be used for tax purposes.

The amounts involved may not be especially material. But our deluded owner seems to pride himself on supporting transparency, according to the embarrassing page on him on the club site (“in his book he pleaded for economic and political transparency”). If transparency is paramount, just why would the activities of De Turck be misrepresented?