Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Disillusioned Charlton fans out in force

My best guess is between four and five hundred Charlton fans gathered in Woolwich this evening in the very unimpressive and freezing Woolwich Grand Theatre building to discuss the current state of affairs affecting our beloved football club.

The meeting ran for two hours without a stop and there was plenty of open, democratic, respectful and inclusive dialogue. Personally I would have liked to have seen a more focused and less democratic style but I am probably in a minority on that and you can't argue with how it was run. Clearly a lot of time and effort was put into organising this and running live Twitter feeds and comments etc for the benefit of an even wider audience. Plenty of filming and pictures too and I believe BBC London will be running a piece on it. 

The evening began with some pre-planned speeches from a variety of speakers. Jeff Doyle from the Essex Supporters Club, Rick Everitt, someone representing the Into The Valley message board, Craig Sloman from CAST and Steve Dixon. I won't attempt to report what each said but the themes were fairly similar and summarised much of the most recent discontentment about the strategic direction of our club, the failure of the owner to communicate with the supporters or of his appointed CEO to enter any meaningful dialogue and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of supporters feeling that their emotional bond with the club is being broken. Rick Everitt was bang on the money as usual and captured the mood. Steve Dixon was brief and summarised the issue as a choice between wanting to support a smaller independent London club like we always have done or to be happier following a European Network of clubs who pool resources. I think that's a fair question but it misses the complexity of an owner whose stated model is to break even and who is primarily interested in the collective value of his stable not the specific performance or ambitions of any one of those clubs.

After that we had an open mic and supporters gave a wide range of views which largely covered the same ground and aired the same fears about the Network model and fact that the evidence of the first 12 months would suggest there is no coherent strategy beyond churning managers, giving European network players airtime in the English game and managing costs down to support the aim of breaking even. There were several "be careful what you wish for" messages and some who weren't sure whether they should be concerned or not.

What was very clear from the meeting is that the average age of those present was considerably higher than any of the previous meetings like this I have attended over the last forty years. The demographic of our fan base is worryingly high - take a good look around you next time you are at the Valley. However, it seemed even higher this evening and at 51 I didn't feel old. Whatever happened to all those Junior Reds? I suppose seven years of mainly dross (apart from a triumphant exit from League One) has curbed their enthusiasm and we have long since lost all the Premier League Glory Boys. Whatever, it should be a serious concern from the clubs owners about the need to genuinely engage with their supporters across the ages and I do not mean just one fifteen year old.

The last part of the meeting focused on ideas from fans about what action might be taken and that was a little disappointing if I am honest. What is still crystal clear is the vast majority of those present still want a meaningful dialogue rather than direct action now - there was a near unanimous show of hands on this. Some of the ideas seemed a bit late or naive. The point was made several times that we should appeal to Richard Murray's better nature. I get the sentiment but Murray is on the main Board and it's pretty clear he isn't going to sellout on Roland anytime soon. He made that point at the VIP meeting yesterday. We all want meaningful dialogue and I suspect the first key action from the session will be another attempt. Sorry, but 500 people trekked down to Woolwich on a Wednesday evening precisely because we aren't getting any meaningful communications and Katrien Meire was adamant last night that she isn't entertaining any dialogue or dissention. She's quite happy with a club-controlled Fans Forum which isn't truly representative and which is mainly limited to addressing hygiene factors, which are right in Meire's comfort zone. 

It would have been more helpful if a number of specific actions had been drawn up as a starter for ten that we could have added to and then taken a show of hands against those. In any event, I am sure we will get there but it may take more time and might mean we have to go around the houses once more before we show our yellow teeth. On a personal level, as I have already said, I will not be renewing my season ticket on principle and I will decide what other action I can take or support as we move forward and see what Roland does next.


ChicagoAddick said...

Thanks Dave, appreciate the late night write up, similar feedback from my brother.

500 is an incredible amount of people, and I reckon at least that number again were probably unable to get there.

I hear from a few people that Rick made an impassioned speech. I hope that we don't lose our impetus. We also need to separate the issues away from results and even Luzon - I am happy to back him and the players as long as they carry on from Saturday.

We cannot accept that Meire simply says we talk to her and her staff and not RD. It is he would should go after, and that needs to be our focus and immediate goal. Yes it is a private company, owned 95% individually by him, but it is irresponsible and outrageous that he won't engage with the fans/customer base or explain the strategy.

My brother mentioned that he felt young. This is a big problem that needs to be addressed, but I think it is a wider issue caused by Sky TV, the Premier League, computer games, other entertainment activities, cost, safety (not at games but kids going on their own), it's just different and clubs at the top level aren't bothered. Man U call a 10-year in Singapore watching games on his X Box a fan.

A fan for me growing up was going to as many away games as possible, owning home and away kits and events like tonight.

I don't think this is just a CAFC problem, though mind you dodgy network loans, 4 managers in a year and dreadful home form does not help.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave,

Read AFKABartram's post on CL yesterday evening and for me at least it summed up perfectly how I feel.

I was hoping that the meeting my have generated a five point plan of action, dialogue is good if all parties are prepared to listen but I just can't see that happening, so when that fails, what next ? another meeting ?.

Worryingly for me, there doesn't appear to be a collective will amongst the supporters to truly force the issue, maybe things have to get a lot worse before before "everyone" wakes up to what's happening to our club, you would be in a far better position than me to gauge this.


Dave said...

PH - I bumped into AFKA in the pub beforehand and had the same conversation. I think you are right re the collective will. There are still too many for whom three decent results will vindicate the Network model and plenty who aren't interested in club politics and who see the disillussionment as more to do with a section of those used to a far more harmonious dealings. It's a mirror of early season when those questioning the strategy had to take a back seat for a few months whilst Peeters ground out those draws. It might take relegation or another 12 months of short-termism decision making before this becomes unanimous. In the meantime we are going to suffer as a club.

Anonymous said...

I tend to be like you Dave, wanting direct action now. But I've learnt from others that you sometimes have to play the game long, with astute chess like maneouvering and the occasional bit of Machiavelli. And doing things professionally and appropriately was how we got back to the Valley.

The Trust have to be seen to represent the broad feelings of the majority - katrien's comments about not giving special treatment to certain sections of fans was a very clever way of nullifying the Trust unless they can demonstrate they speak for most of us. It will take a lot of time and energy for the Trust gain that voice, and then summarise it in to effective action.

Pembury Addick