Tuesday 18 June 2019

8pm same day, Bowyer signs

About four hours after that astonishing piece on the club website about how greedy Bowyer and his Agent were being in their contract negotiations, another club statement that looked like it wasn't written by Duchatelet. This time, informing us that Bowyer has signed a new one year deal!

Whilst it's undoubtedly the right outcome for the club and it's supporters, you have to wonder what's gone on in the background and what permanent damage this has done to the relationship between Manager and Owner? If the club were to get taken over it wouldn't matter but I can't see this, although I couldn't see such an about-turn yesterday either.

What we do know is that Rich Cawley (Bowyer's press channel) tweeted that Bowyer had spoken to0 Duchatelet after the initial statement and that they were due to speak again this morning. One of them has caved in and it would appear it was Bowyer. I don't think Duchatelet would have gone so far so quickly. There wasn't really any time for further negotiation between the original statement and the last one, certainly not if anything was formally signed. I suspect the actual signing will happen later and that it was Bowyer's decision to accept what was on the table. To some extent it doesn't matter but like cheating on your partner, it's going to crop up repeatedly from now and doesn't bode well for happy families.

The wording of the latest statement is in marked contrast to the diatribe that went before it. Ironically, it thanks Lee for "his professionalism" and says that "stability is essential!" How they can say this with a straight face is beyond me although out looks like the staff trying to clear up the mess caused by Duchatelet's earlier outburst. 

If Duchatelet's piece with Jim White on Talkjsport was pre-recorded like his last one, that will need to have been updated or he will need to dial in live this morning. No doubt this will be a much easier discussion and Duchatelet will know not to get into the nitty-gritty of Lee's contract or what has happened since for a deal to be struck. 

Monday 17 June 2019

Bowyer can't reach agreement with Duchatelet and walks

Yet another, in the long line of embarrassing statements on the club website, this time trying to justify why ambition-less Roland Duchatelet has failed to agree new contract terms with Lee Bowyer and why we have lost him as a result.

So unprofessional to put personal contract negotiation details into a public message but Duchatelet is clearly trying, once again, to lay the blame at someone else's door. Talking about Bowyer refusing a threefold salary increase is interesting but I suspect there is more to this and three times not very much and what may still be short of the going rate is still not enough. We do not know whether this was the reason Bowyer has refused - there could be numerous others. The statement also explains again that the wage bill is being cut, despite promotion, and that this also plays a part in terms of affordability. On that logic it's safe to assume that the question of his transfer budget was also not something Bowyer could agree to as presumably the proposal was to cut that further to support his proposed pay rise. 

Duchatelet also looks to blame Lee's agent and gets another dig in at the over-spending culture in the championship. It really is very clear to me that Duchatelet would rather we had stayed in League One. It's why he sold Grant in January and didn't allow Bowyer an appropriate replacement. He really doesn't care at all about results and another relegation season in the Championship won't bother him in the slightest. 

The biggest laugh I got was the notion that a possible takeover might have been complicated or even halted if Bowyer had been signed on a bigger or longer deal. That suggests the continuity of management hasn't been seriously discussed with any proposed buyer, which tells you all you really need to know about the state of any takeover talks.

It's also very clear to me what happens next. Several key players (bigger earners) will now exercise their right to move on for more money and Duchatelet will be able to cut his wage bill further. Cheaper players will be brought in, as well as more loanees and whoever is appointed manager will have to make do and mend and rely upon more Academy players being thrown into the fray. Using more Academy players was also a term in Bowyer's first draft contract which was based on "incentivisation." I note they aren't even talking about a new manager but a less expensive Caretaker who can be blamed and discarded at a whim when results go tits-up. In other words, we are likely to be heading back to the days of Karol Fraye and Guy Luzon.

Those who renewed their season tickets early may be feeling even more disappointed than the rest of us but they will have to put a brave face on it and support the boys (and Duchatelet) no matter what. Pretty sure they won't sell too many more. 

In the circumstances, I see no realistic chance of a takeover happening and Duchatelet will be left funding the losses for another season, after which he will need to adjust his price to sell as a League One club again. Boy is he thick! He has also just pocketed north of a £1,000,000 in bonus revenues that Bowyer earned by getting us to the play-off final but he's not going to be wasting that on securing Bowyer or strengthening his side to maintain Championship status. If there is no takeover within the next four weeks I will be placing a sizeable wager on relegation and won't be wasting any money this season on watching any of it. So, so sad and short-sighted. 

Saturday 15 June 2019

Katrien Meire joins Club Brugge - what they should know.

Meire - the weakest link (Part 2) - [Reissued]

The article below was first published in February 2016. It contains a snapshot of the mess Katrien Meire created whilst fulfilling the role of Chief Executive at Charlton Athletic, a position she was woefully under-qualified for. Her arrogance and refusal to acknowledge mistakes or properly apologise made her a despised figure at Charlton amongst the fans. We have no idea how she got another CEO post at Sheffield Wednesday but she was released early from that. Good luck Club Brugge.

It's been a vintage Meire-baiting week so far and she has played her part hugely predictably and has probably burnt her new Head of Communications intern in the process. I wrote back in November about her impressive list of gaffes but already that is hideously out-of-date, so I thought I would do her the honour of updating it, just in case Roland wants a handy crib list. Given she is apparently a Lawyer, he may be grateful for some evidence.

- sacking of Chris Powell the season after getting us out of League One
- sacking of Jose Riga after he managed to keep us up that same season
- failure to properly support Bob Peeters when his squad were clearly short of resources prior to January
- failing to tell the truth about the recruitment of Guy Luzon after being undermined by her boss and believing she could lie her way out of it
- refusal to listen to supporter groups or respond to individual fans complaints
- setting a V I P supporters meeting to coincide with a fans protest meeting in Woolwich and then refusing to answer direct questions
- deciding not to renew the V I P scheme on the grounds that "we don't need the money" (this when V I P members actually pay more in advance than the match-by-match value of tickets)
- that Northstand lounge pass fiasco
- false economies with Valley Express and tolerating ongoing incompetent management of the service
- cocking up the offer of compensatory food vouchers for West Stand season ticket holders turfed out of their season to accommodate gloating Bournemouth fans in our end-of season humiliation game
- condoning the cheap shot sex-on-the-pitch advertising stunt which probably brought in bugger all additional revenue (she would have said otherwise after the furore)
- closing the ticket office on Thursdays and refusing to sell tickets to fans who arrived unknowingly
- cocking up the mailing out of season tickets and trying to blame Royal Mail
- deciding to stop disabled supporters from using the main lifts in the West Stand to reach their seats on Health & Safety grounds when they really wanted to avoid them inconveniencing Vista Lounge members (it was ok for them to use the service lifts)
- sacking the incumbent programme seller third party without first ensuring an adequate replacement service
- that ridiculous sofa which makes our club look cheap and for what?
- being naive enough to slag our older fans off to foreign journalists, telling them she doesn't care about our history and belittling a complainant
- failing to back Guy Luzon with a competitive first team squad
- publicly backing Luzon a week before sacking 'our Alex Ferguson' (or failing to check with Duchebag first on his intentions)
- sacking Damian Matthew along with Luzon, after all Matthew has done for our club, without any adequate explanation
- sacking David Martane only months after appointing him without any adequate explanation
- appointing yet another Belgian nonentity
- extending the ticket office closure to Wednesdays as well as Thursdays
- now looking at options to develop the club shop for flats
- presiding over a new low point in Club-Supporter relations, which takes some doing given our history and at a time when we have the wealthiest owner ever
- attempting to organise a last minute Family Day with bouncy castles in the West Stand car park to put parents and children in the firing line for our first pre-match Protest
- smirking at fans and taking a condescending photo of hundreds protesting
- belittling protesting fans by saying we were the "Negative 2%" when we were clearly far more, even then
- telling us our Protest was "unacceptable," as if we needed her permission!
- caught out at a web conference in Dublin saying that Charlton fans were "weird" for having an emotional attachment to the club which is owned by The Shareholder and that she would expect us to treat Charlton the same way you would as a customer at a restaurant or a cinema!
- putting on a live House DJ in Crossbars on the second Protest day as if that might provide a more attractive alternative
- the embarrassing email trail with Peter Varney which showed her and Roland's complete unprofessionalism in dealing with a legitimate business approach. It was insulting to see how a hero of the Charlton past was so badly disrespected
- the loan/sale of Tony Watt to Cardiff City when we were crying out for goals
- the hectoring of the put upon Fans Forum in their January non event
- Bannergate - the instruction for stewards to remove a "We want our club back" banner from a fan  which resulted in them also being removed from the stand in front of thousands of other irate protesters
- responding to ongoing protests by erecting steel barriers, bringing in dozens extra Stewards and Police. Installing floodlights in the car park to illuminate filming of protesting supporters and installing blinds at function room windows in an attempt to hide herself away
- the fabled exit at Colchester of her and hapless Fraye in the kit man's van after we were knocked out of the F A Cup by League One's whipping boys
- the removal of "Seb and Ben's" flag at the following home match, something that has been a part of the North Lower for many years
- the spontaneous and childish Official Site response to a fan prank that saw Katrien Directorship resigned with Companies House ("on Companies House!")

As I said when I finished November's post, what next?


  1. Also allowing Bristol City fans in with as many flags and banners as they want which also included a smoke bomb.
    Searching all home fans including my 13 year old son who is not legally allowed to be searched.
    I was told these searches were for security reasons. Then when i left the game 15 minutes early all gates in the north stand were wide open and no stewards on them. his is what i would class as a security risk. not a couple of banners.
  2. and still no apologies... stark contrast to the owners at Liverpool FC
  3. I'd add to the list the statement in the wake of sacking Sir Chris promising consultation with supporters' groups once there was the time, only to fob us off with a Q&A at the summer fun day. Oh, and choosing to unveil a new vision for the club and supporters at a Dublin conference. 
  4. BA - thanks - how could I forget the Dublin conference. Customers indeed!

Go on, you know you want to....

Thursday 13 June 2019

Takeover fever as Duchatelet gets real on a deal

I think everyone acknowledges that Duchatelet has the best opportunity he will get to sell the club between now and late Summer following promotion to the Championship. What has become clear in the last week is that he now appears to recognise this and looks like he may, finally, get real on a deal.

The persistent Aussies remain in the frame and the news from last week suggests that Duchatelet may have dropped his asking price from a reputed £72m to £33m plus responsibility for the settling of the £7m ex-Director loans. Fair play to Gerard Murphy and Co if that's the case. Murphy himself has reached out to the ex-Directors in a bid to understand what it may take to close the deal. The Aussies have also hung around in the belief that Duchatelet will be forced to drop his asking price and that seems that they have been rewarded for it.

However, yesterday it became public knowledge that current Cardiff City Chairman and long time football fan and investment banker, Mehmet Dalman, has also made a bid reputed to be in the same ballpark as the Aussies and he is trying to close the deal. The Turkish-Cypriot born business has been in the UK since the age of ten and has connections with south-east London. Whilst no-one would go as far as saying he may be a Charlton fan, he clearly has a reasonable understanding of the opportunity Charlton Athletic affords a would-be investor. 

You have to wonder if perhaps there is another bidder also negotiating behind the scenes. That might complicate and delay things but it might cement Duchatelet's conviction that he has to complete the best deal he can now. Whatever, Duchatelet looks to have enough interest to satisfy himself he's not going to get anymore for the club if the bids are competitive and I suspect they are. 

We have to hope from here that a deal does in fact get done and that Duchatelet has to cut his losses and settle the remaining debt before he shuffles off with his tail between his legs. The real risk is that a buyer is prepared to mortgage some aspect of the clubs future to meet Duchatelet's outstanding debt or that he retains any interest in the club or its' primary assets. 

One thing that does become clearer is the ongoing delay in signature of a contract extension for Lee Bowyer and his managerial team. Presumably, Bowyer has been aware of the latest takeover interest and understands that Duchatelet may be keen to leave that to prospective new owners. They may have even asked for that and I suspect it suits Bowyer who may feel he has a better chance of getting the right deal from anyone other than Duchatelet. If I were close to buying the club I would want the additional coup of announcing that Bowyer has backed me by signing a new deal for me and not Duchatelet.

Duchatelet's unique ability not to be able to compromise may yet scupper any sale but if it were to go ahead we might expect a long-awaited series of big positives for the club. There would be an outpouring of goodwill for the new owners. If they tread carefully and thoughtfully, they can easily maximise that goodwill to significantly boost season ticket and commercial revenues ahead of August. With Bowyer committed to the club and a reasonable increase above the Duchatelet budget, I believe we could realistically expect to survive this season in the Championship, learn some lessons and then seek to be more competitive in 2020-21. That must be the aim of any new owner I am sure the supporters would give them full backing if we can stick to that blueprint. 

In the meantime, let's all hope and pray that our nightmare ends soon and we can begin the healing process and look forward to a long overdue upturn in the fortunes of our club. 

Friday 7 June 2019

No improved offer for Bowyer

Another rambling Duchatelet missive was posted on the Club's website this afternoon. It updates on the general state of the club, the implications of running it in  the Championship and negotiations on Lee Bowyers contract as well as a possible takeover. I will take the topics one at a time in order of what I believe was important to Duchatelet in putting this out.

Lee Bowyers' Contract - Duchatelet tells us that the club first spoke to Bowyer about a contract extension "earlier in the season." Obviously live to supporters widespread concerns that it wasn't done early enough or with enough determination to get it over the line, this is a poor explanation as he goes on to say they triggered an extension clause in Bowyer's contract "in May." Duchatelet makes it clear that this clause enables his contract to be extended and states that "he needs to agree this for his contract to be extended as per the current agreement." That tells you Duchatelet is not offering him any improvement on terms which were agreed when he had no track record and was a fledgling League One manager. It ignores promotion and everything that Bowyer and his team have done to achieve that against all the odds. I believe this will be the sticking point with Bowyer and who can blame him?

Operating Costs/Budget for the Championship - Duchatelet repeats what he has said before in that he intends to cut the operating losses further and that "operating on a small budget will limit our chances of promotion, which are already obstructed by large, unsustainable overspending by some other clubs in the division." They won't limit our chances Roland, they will prevent us from competing at the top end of the table and we are very likely to follow Rotherham's relegation battle following their promotion from League One in 2017-18. He goes on elsewhere in the statement to say that "it has become unaffordable for nearly anyone to own a football club in the Championship." What he means is the level of competition to win the hundreds of millions of Premier League money is such that you have to gamble and invest heavily to do so and take some risk. As one of the wealthiest owners in the Championship he could do this but clearly isn't interested in taking the risk. That's his choice and good luck to him - he has already admitted he is no longer interested in football. At least it's out in the open now if you didn't believe it before. All that hot air previously about being prepared to invest in January if we were handily placed has been well and truly exposed. He never expected us to be in that position because he wouldn't invest sufficiently in the Summer to support it and it would never be a problem come Christmas. He really must be torn over Bowyer's promotion from League One.

Sale of the Club - Very interesting to hear him state that "following the win (at Wembley), I was filled with hope as one of the parties interested in buying the club wanted to move forward quickly to complete the purchase." Presumably, this is still the Aussies given they were at the match and there is still no smoke on any other credible buyers who have made anywhere near as much progress. 

He then goes on to say he is frustrated because the long understood issue of Directors loans has not been easy (or quick) to resolve. He names and thanks four former Directors for having agreed their positions and by exception calls the others out. I understand they are owed around £2.6m of the £7m at stake and are presumably less willing or unable to accept  the proposed buyout. David White is one of those owners Duchatelet thanks but he has been quick to Tweet that he's had a phone call asking if he was willing to discuss his loan and he agreed but nothing else has happened. Either Roland is once again misinformed or he's telling porkies. 

The irony here, of course, is that Duchatelet himself is holding out for as big a price as he can get for the club but expects these smaller fish to take what I assume will be sizeable losses on their loans. He then makes the point that the high cost of land/assets in London has made it hard to conclude a sale. What he doesn't say is that the price he has been trying to get for the club (the assets) is hugely more than what he paid for them in 2014 and suspiciously close to the debt he has wracked up in running the club rather than simple land/asset inflation. He calls the land/asset price "a specific issue" which sounds very much like it remains unresolved and, as such, is a much higher hurdle in the sale of the club than any remaining Director's loans.

Ongoing dig at Peter Varney & Co - He really can't help himself can he? He has to have a go at someone in every statement. Having already said that he "continued to pay for everything...despite the way the staff, my friends, my family and I have been treated by individuals who claim to act in the best interests of the club," he then goes on to say that the "first candidate for buying the club," pushed by Varney, Chappell and Everitt was the owner of Ebbsfleet (badly worded in his original to suggest that might be Rick Everitt!) and that it was debatable that they would "have been the right fit for Charlton." 

The fact is, as far as I am aware, that Peter Varney couldn't get any air time with Lord Duchatelet as Meire blocked him at every turn so perhaps it is debatable if Duchatelet ever heard them out. The email trail over several months was exposed ages ago and it was clear that Meire insulted Varney by not treating his approach with the seriousness it deserved and by blocking his group from direct communication with the Organ Grinder. Richard Murray poisoned the water here for Peter Varney, even if Varney was acting on behalf of the actual buyer. The notion that Duchatelet gives a toss about the right fit for Charlton is laughable. He would sell the club to anyone who would meet his inflated asking price. As for Varney and Co not being the right fit, Duchatelet is presumably typically uninformed that Varney and Co ran the club through the most successful period in its history in the Premiership. I suspect Murray took all the credit for that when briefing Duchatelet initially.

Finally he ends on an embarrassing "let's try to win games and enjoy those moments at the Valley." I say embarrassing because he clearly won't be part of it having not seen a game at the Valley since October in the year of our Lord 2014. It also sounds like he isn't expecting his team to be able to win many games away from the Valley with its' impoverished squad. 

The next step towards the cliff edge will be Bowyer accepting a better offer elsewhere. If that happens, Roland Duchatelet will have a much bigger problem on his hands than being unable to sell the club. 

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Dithering Duchatelet

We have been saying it for months now that the club's immediate future is at risk given the lack of certainty about retention of the management team and key players.

Lee Bowyer has made some reassuring noises indicating he is confident his contract will get sorted and his quotes have all been forward-looking. However, until he has committed on the dotted line there is a risk his head could be turned. Derby County are being linked with Bowyer on the basis that Frank Lampard may be off to Chelsea. Derby are a similar sort of club to us but they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League and their owners have undoubted ambition that Duchatelet lacks. Bowyer would see this as a bigger opportunity than the ham-strung job he currently has at The Valley. It may just be paper talk but it will give Bowyer more bargaining power and if he is approached it would be a tough decision to turn down.

What might persuade Bowyer to commit to Charlton was if he could see the club making the effort to secure the likes of Bauer and Aribo but neither of those deals have happened yet and Bauer has been clear that he was extremely disappointed not to have been approached about new terms much earlier. Equally big clubs are being linked with both players and money may well talk. Bowyer seems to already have acknowledged he will be fighting with his hands tied behind his back next season because of his relatively small budget.

Jonny Williams has already been released because his full Palace wages are clearly unaffordable and there was even a rumour suggesting Middlesbrough were interested in Taylor for £2m. You know that the Old Scrote would grab at that if offered.

It may just be over a week since the play-off final and players will be holidaying, but surely Duchatelet must move soon to start confirming the shape of the management team and the nucleus of the squad before he is out-manoeuvred. It probably doesn't help that he still has no Chief Executive driving these sorts of discussions here in London but that's his decision and after the shambles of Katrien Meire, he may just be enjoying a quieter life with no-one here to goad the customers.