Roland Duchatelet is at it again, firing from the hip in another deranged fit of pique. Via the club's website he has today tried to deflect the national media criticism he has rightly received for failing to honour bonuses to low paid staff who he increasingly relies on to keep the club functioning in the absence of a proper supporting management structure and no recognisable day-to-day leadership. His comments are worthy of even more critique so I include them here verbatim:
"In June 2017 Charlton Athletic decided to give staff discretionary bonuses because the club covered operational losses with high income from player sales resulting in a profit of £1.4m ((EBITDA + £6m) during the 2016/17 season. In 2017/18 the operational losses grew and the player sales were much lower. This was mainly because of the ongoing sale of the club which caused our CEO to leave resulting in delayed player sales and delay in actions being taken to make the club more cost efficient. Last season the club lost £10m (EBITDA loss £5.5m) and as a consequence the decision was taken not to grant discretionary bonuses, all contractual bonuses are being paid. The ownership can confirm that to date no legal action has been taken against the club on the issue of discretionary staff bonuses.
In the meantime the club investigated how this issue became national news in the UK and beyond, a significant blow to the reputation of the club and owner and to the ability of the owner to sell the club.
On August 20th, before the decision not to pay a discretionary bonus was communicated to the employees, the article on the Daily Mail website appeared.
After the club confirmed on August 22nd that no bonuses will be granted for last season but contractual bonuses would be paid, the owner received an unsigned letter from “the administrative staff at The Valley” – there was no mention of the employees at the training ground. This letter was received at 4.35pm and was Tweeted out by CARD at 5.53pm. Their communication made it appear as if all employees were involved, that the bonuses were an obligation and that consequently the club was failing to fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees. An employee or small group tried to use the external pressure from the media to get their discretionary bonus despite the huge reputational damage to the club. It is unclear if a majority of the employees at The Valley supported the external communication of this letter, although it was written in their name, since nobody signed this letter to the owner. Although CARD has been very keen that the club’s management should always be accurate, the requirement does not seem to apply to their own communication.
The ownership believes the fans and the EFL deserve to know what really happened as the truth has been misrepresented.
Another recent example of the relativity of “truth” for CARD is when they recently wrote they “were disgusted to hear that Roland Duchatelet, our billionaire owner, is no longer willing to pay for academy players to drink water or eat breakfast at the club’s training ground".
The academy players still have access to water at all times, now they have refillable bottles rather than plastic water bottles. The ownership continues to invest £2.2m per year in the Academy, which is considerably more than the majority of League One clubs invest."
Wow! There's a lot that drops out that, so I'll start at the top....
- discretionary bonuses (which staff maintain weren't communicated as such) weren't paid because the club made a loss due to the fact that the club was up for sale (Roland's decision) which caused his CEO to leave which caused a delay in player sales and efficiency measures.
- she left at the end of 2017 and has still not been replaced to my knowledge (Roland's decision). He has belatedly appointed Leuven De Turck to oversee the sale of the club he does not appear to be an acting Chief Exec (Roland's decision) and has done nothing that I can see to hasten any player sales. Those who left in the Summer wouldn't have affected last year's financial performance.
Is he really saying bonuses might have been paid if the business in the January window was done days earlier, or is he implying more players may have been sold? The latter would make more sense.
- Roland seems miffed that his decision to renege on bonuses (discretionary or otherwise) was leaked to the press before he could tell staff whereas the facts are that the payments were due to have been in staff pay packets July and there had been zero communication to the effect that they would be getting diddly-squat (Roland's responsibility) and it looks suspiciously like it was the leak that forced him into having to justify his actions.
- How does Roland know that the anonymous letter claiming to come from "the administrative staff at the Valley" came from"an employee or small group" and not all the staff or the majority who weren't paid bonuses?
- Roland doesn't appear to understand why anyone would send an anonymous letter or the implied suggestion that those involved don't trust him not to be vindictive and take punitive action against them. He also seems to think that because the anonymous letter didn't mention the staff at Sparrows Lane who weren't paid bonuses either that they were somehow happier with the situation.
- The lesson Roland hasn't learnt from this is that deciding not to pay lowly paid staff relatively small bonuses and not communicating it properly is likely to have unintended and potentially disproportionate consequences. He acknowledges as much but will, presumably, make the same mistake again at the next opportunity.
- Like Joe Public and the national press, the EFL will indeed take a view - the truth may indeed have been misrepresented.
- CARD's highlighting of the penny-pinching around stopping of young players breakfasts and bottled water was simply to highlight the lunacy of the recent round of penny-wise-pound-foolish efficiencies that Duchatelet started off blaming the loss of Katrien Meire for not having started early enough (Roland's decision). He missed an opportunity to continue the line about the club's green policy and the part it played in doing away with those evil disposable plastic bottles.
- CARD have highlighted the false economies partly because they are laughable and continue to show Duchatelet up for the ass he is but, more importantly, because it demonstrates perfectly why the club cannot succeed under him and why he is failing even to be able to sell the club to a very interested buyer.
- The final point about the on going cost of the Academy is a hollow boast that, like his trumpet-blowing undersoil heating and his much-vaunted development of Sparrows Lane won't stand much scrutiny. He also fails to acknowledge once again that when he acquired the club we were a competitive Championship establishment but he is honest enough to be comparing us now to "the majority" of League One clubs.
- Roland has hardly been involved in the running of the club since he acquired us, so it's perhaps easy to see why he feel everything is always someone else's fault but he really ought to take some personal responsibility once in awhile for the absolute mess this football club is inland why he's going to take a massive financial loss when he is eventually forced to sell it.
I expect absolutely nothing from his upcoming meeting with the EFL because I suspect it's a box-ticking exercise and they have no real power over him and will be circumspect regardless of what he says or how he behaves. We might get a few sentences clarifying the line that takeover was being delayed by the EFL but even that will be worded by a lawyer.
Roland Duchatelet - who could have known what he had in store for us in January 2014? All ammunition, I guess, for the almost unbelievable tale that the book of his disastrous ownership will tell. It will serve as the bible for mis-management in football on almost every front for generations to come and who knows what chapters remain to be written?