Sunday, January 24, 2016

Charlton protest - Give Our Club Back

Charlton fan Simon Pirani has sent us this report of the extraordinary scenes at Charlton Athletic yesterday:

“We are not your customers”, thousands of Charlton fans sang during today’s home game against Blackburn Rovers. They called for Roland Duchatelet, the chronically out-of-touch multi-millionaire who owns the club, to sell up. After the game, a couple of thousand fans (including me and my friends) demonstrated outside the club’s main entrance.

I’ll readily admit that if the club was owned by a half-competent multi-millionaire – e.g. one who didn’t continuously sack managers (in some cases because he made poor appointments in the first place) and make incompetent interventions in the transfer market – there would probably be no protests. But the point about the system whereby clubs are financially dependent on Rupert Murdoch’s TV money and owned by multi-millionaires is that you’re always in danger of getting one who is a fool, and (worse) doesn’t listen.

Charlton fans, who like almost all genuine football fans are incredibly loyal, have had it up to here … most of all because Duchatelet and his hapless side-kick Katrien Meire, the “chief executive” who has no actual decision-making power, treat them with contempt.

The club’s pathetic, small-minded attitude to the fans was summed up by the use of stewards to remove a banner stating “we want our Charlton back” – a pretty mild slogan by football standards – from the North Stand today.

When poor strategy decisions earlier this season provoked protests, Meire was daft enough to dismiss them as the work of “2%” of the fans. Subsequent displays in the stadium showed that the figure was more like 50%. The black-and-white scarves adopted as a symbol of protest were much more visible than the usual red-and-white ones at today’s game. 

It was also Meire who made the elementary, and fatal, mistake of calling the fans “customers”. (Most cynical, business-minded football bosses think of fans that way but are smart enough not to say so out loud.) Anyway, that was good, because it’s a reminder of what it’s all about. 

I do think the campaign against Duchatelet is a bit reactive, rather than pro-active. And of course Charlton’s horrendous record on the pitch doesn’t help. (Today’s 1-1 draw left us second from bottom, so it just wasn’t good enough, but it was better than the two previous results, losses by 5-0 and 6-0.) What’s more, I would like to see more of a long-term strategy, at Charlton and all clubs, focused on raising the level of fan-based ownership systems that are common in Spain and Germany.

But let’s start somewhere. This is all about a part of working class culture being enclosed, bought and sold by profiteers. Let’s resist. We are not customers'.

picture from Jimmy Stone on twitter

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