Monday, 11 July 2016

We are winning the war - the protests must continue

In the wake of Saturday's practice match against Welling United, there has been some unrest and disagreement between Charlton fans on social media about how we should be facing up to League One in terms of ongoing protests about the Owner and his infliction of the Incompetent Chief Exec upon us. The behaviour of a handful of 'youngsters' whose exuberance saw a number of smoke bombs thrown on and a couple of pitch invaders has been the catalyst but the rumoured season ticket sales numbers, the arrival of Russell Slade and sight of the new home shirt with Betdaq sponsorship is fuelling the debate.

I should start by saying I was part of the ageing cynicism that was content to see some old faces and talk Charlton rather than pay to watch it on Saturday, so  I can't comment first-hand, although it's pretty clear to me that what went on was relatively tame, if a bit pathetic and had more to do with it being a local pre-season match than any serious organised protest (CARD were not involved in any way).

Katrien Meire has been silent on season ticket numbers, presumably because there's nothing to boast about. Speculation has swung between 3,250 and 9,000 with the actual number probably being closer to 5,000. I think those who can be bothered to count available seats on the website booking system would support 5,000 but it wouldn't be beyond the manipulation of data for the Club to be presenting that view over-optimistically. There will also be a spike in sales as kick-off nears but I would expect that to be much lower than normal given the resolve of those committed not to go or to pay-on-the-day and the fact that those who were going to renew anyway are likely to have done so to ensure they secured one of the cheapest tickets in the North Lower. 

However you look at it, Meire's monumental mismanagement of last season, in particular, will take a heavy toll as will the depressing reality that we have been relegated with a billionaire owner. The fact is, next season's average attendance will, in all likelihood, be a four figure number for the first time since we returned to the Valley and the capacity was limited. The grouping of fans in the cheap seats behind the goal may also lend a bit more to the atmosphere this season but the rest of the ground will look empty.

Russell Slade's appointment was a significant change of direction from the arrogant Duchatelet and the demented Meire who has finally had to acknowledge that not all of the previous five foreign appointments have been the right ones or left the club in a higher league position. Slade as manager has been well received by the vast majority of the club's supporters irrespective of views on protesting and CARD have openly backed him. However, one swallow doesn't make a Summer and in addition to Slade proving his worth, there is also the prospect that Duchatelet and Meire could well decide he isn't right for them, especially if he finds he is unhappy with the way they appear to have worked with his predecessors and chooses to speak his mind (unlike his predecessors).

Slade has picked up very quickly on the things that are intuitively important to supporters e.g. history and expectations and has been word-perfect so far. My guess is he will stay on the fans side of the line, so could well come into conflict with Madame Meire who clearly believes she is the most important person in SE7 by a very long way and has a history of decision-making that fails to consider fans at all or which is has been openly antagonistic. 

However you look at it, Duchatelet has sanctioned a change on the policy for appointing the manager and that has as much to do with the ongoing level of protests as the evident failure of the previous five. On that basis we must keep up the pressure on The Regime. We may also see a more adventurous side to spending money, especially given what he is likely to recoup in transfer fees with Gudmundsson, Cousins and probably Lookman moving on.

Home gates will be smaller this season so we probably need to see fewer, more focused organised protests as well as a firm-line on the commercial battle to deny the club any additional non-match ticket revenues. No-one has to eat or drink in the ground and boycotting the Club shop is also hardly a major hardship. There are plenty of pre-match options and we support the local community in spending our money there, business which will all support Charlton long after the Belgians are an unfortunate footnote in our history. The CARD Protest shirt will also be highly evident at all games this year and it's represents a good saving on the mass produced Nike template one with the betting logo.

Now is not the time to start doubting ourselves or to hand Meire a wedge to drive between us. We need to remember what they have done to this club over two years and how we have been treated by Katrien Meire. The pressure on Meire and Duchatelet let off in the wake of Riga managing to keep us up in 2015 but that proved to be a false dawn. We all want to see a quick return to the Championship for the future of the club and to enable Duchatelet to cut his losses to persuade him he doesn't need all the hassle of football team he has virtually zero interest in watching and a fan base where he is reviled and ridiculed for gross mismanagement and ultimate failure.

If we don't get out of this division at the first attempt, then we will also need patience and the need to protest will become even clearer and more focused yet. The longer they are here, the bigger the job for the next owners to repair the damage and restore the club to something like where we were well before they took us over from the Chancers, Jimenez and Slater.

Stay firm, the people always win in the end.


Brian Cowan said...

Wise words. Small point, the Riga false dawn was 2014. We have had over two years of this madness.

Brian Cowan

Anonymous said...

'Demented Meire!' Love it.

If there was a major sign that all is the same below the surface, it is the continued presence of Katrien, who any other company would have tipped into the garbage.

Ken Shabby

Dave said...


Blimey! You are right, even more alarmingly obvious - thanks.