Saturday saw fans of Charlton Athletic and Coventry City march together to protest about the running of their clubs.
Charlton fans are angry at the stewardship of Roland Duchâtelet, who has not attended a match at The Valley in two years, and his chief executive Katrien Meire, which has seen the club go through seven managers, an exodus of experienced backroom staff and the team relegated to League One. Coventry fans face losing their ground for a second time under the ownership of a mysterious hedge fund, Sisu.
Charlton Athletic fans protesting against the club’s controversial owner have raised £3,500 for Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled Association after selling nearly 1,000 protest t-shirts.
The black and white shirts – loosely based on the kit the Addicks won the 1947 FA Cup in – have been sold as an alternative to the club’s official shirts for fans who are boycotting official merchandise while Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet remains in charge.
Duchâtelet and his chief executive, Katrien Meire, have overseen the club’s collapse into League One and a 40% drop in season ticket sales since taking over in January 2014. They are now on their seventh team manager, Russell Slade, and are 14th in League One.
Fans clubbed together on the Charlton Life forum to get the shirts made – even getting them sponsored by technology company Data Techniques, which pulled its own backing from the club in protest at its mismanagement.
They have now made enough money from sales to donate cash to local good causes. A further £3,500 is going to the Demelza children’s charity, which operates a hospice in Eltham.
Other proceeds from sales will help fund further protests against Duchâtelet, which have included disrupting matches with black and white beach balls and protesting in the tycoon’s home town of Sint-Truiden.
John Furlonger, chair of the trustees of Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled Association, said: “The group is run entirely by a happy, dedicated team of volunteers getting disabled children on horseback, so it’s very dependent on its community. The same volunteers also work astonishingly hard at everything else in between, from mucking out the horses to fundraising. No charges are made for riding.
“This wonderful donation will go a very long way indeed in making a real difference helping local disabled children to reach their true life potential. Heartfelt thanks are sent from everyone at Charlton Group to each and every Charlton fan who contributed for your kindness.”
Bob Jacobs, who runs Data Techniques, said: “Over the past 20 years we have spent in the region of £200,000 with Charlton as match sponsors, executive box holders and on corporate events at The Valley.
“For us it’s always been about ‘our’ team, not the owners of the club. By sponsoring the protest shirt, we took the opportunity to publicly express our opinion on what is happening to the club and support such a good cause as Demelza.”
Although Duchâtelet has finally appointed a manager with British experience after trying a succession of failed “head coaches” from Belgium, fans and the club’s owners remain bitterly divided. Recent developments include:
The disclosure that much of Charlton’s transfer policy was being run by an inexperienced Belgian, Thomas Driesen, over the heads of the club’s coaches and scouts. Driesen remains involved in Duchâtelet’s set-up.
The grandson of Jimmy Seed, the manager that won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947, has disassociated his family from plans to renew the faded “Jimmy Seed Stand” sign that adorns The Valley’s south stand. “He would be horrified to hear about the scouting ‘system’ imposed on the club by Roland Duchâtelet over the last four years”, Jim Dutton said.
Season ticket sales are down to 6,297, compared with 10,278 at the same stage last season – the lowest figure in nearly two decades – as long-term fans stay away.
A rare visit to London by Duchâtelet saw the club boast he had met a “fan group” set up by the owners, Target 20,000 – but even that stage-managed show of harmony ended in disarray after one of its members was told to resign after discussing the meeting on Twitter.
Duchâtelet told the group he rarely visits the club as it only accounts for 1.5% of his investments, and that he wished rival football fans would mingle together, as they do at rugby. Ironically, Charlton fans have been joined by rivals in their protests – including those of AFC Wimbledon, who beat the Addicks 2-1 at The Valley last Saturday.
The Addicks’ decline doesn’t just affect the club, it affects the area too, which is why this website will continue to cover the protests. Locally-based fan Dave Thomson and The Valley Cafe’s Mehmat Mantery discuss the impact of decline and Duchâtelet on the club and the community in this short video.
Tickets have been cut to £5 for next Saturday’s match against Rochdale. The Football for a Fiver match has traditionally attracted crowds of well over 20,000 – but with fans having withdrawn goodwill from the club, this season’s match is likely to see renewed protests as well as a fall in sales.
A limited number of protest shirts are still available for £25 adults and £19.05 for children – visit coveredendchoir.co.uk for more.
Update: The club has removed the £2.50 charge following “fan feedback”, but the £3 surcharge for buying in the two hours before kick-off remains.
Football fans who buy their match tickets from Charlton Athletic’s ticket office at The Valley face having to pay an extra £2.50, it has emerged.
The club – run by unpopular Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet – has slapped the extra sum onto the cost of each transaction to encourage fans to buy their tickets online instead.
Duchâtelet’s management, led by chief executive Katrien Meire, is also levying a £3 charge on each ticket bought in the two hours before kick-off.
They say supporters can escape the charges by buying in advance and printing their tickets at home, or using a smartphone. Fans can order online and have tickets posted to them for £1, while telephone orders now also cost £2.50.
But fans, who invaded the Valley pitch at the end of last season to protest at the way Duchâtelet and Meire run the Addicks, have complained that the club’s ticketing website is unreliable and does not offer a full range of ticketing options.
The charge also affects casual supporters, such as people who live close to the club who may decide at the last minute to watch a match, or opt to buy in person because it is more convenient than using online methods.
Arrangements for away matches – which are supplied by the host club and cannot be printed at home – are also unclear. The club’s ticket office implied on Twitter this afternoon that the charge would apply for away tickets, but fans could escape the charge by ordering online and then collecting from The Valley. When asked to confirm this, the club did not respond.
It has long been believed that Duchâtelet and Meire are running down the club’s ticket office to persuade fans to switch to online ticketing, saving money and creating a potentially lucrative marketing database. It is already only open to personal callers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
The club could be in breach of consumer law if it does not offer a way of buying tickets that does not result in an additional booking fee.
Fans uncovered the fiasco today as tickets for the first away match of the club’s League One season, against Bury, went on sale. Many may now just simply bypass Charlton and buy their tickets directly from the Greater Manchester club on 6 August, the day of the match, if they are available there.
Following the club’s relegation to League One, life at The Valley had appeared to be more stable since the appointment of new manager Russell Slade, a reversal of Duchâtelet’s past policy of employing “head coaches” who he was already familiar with.
But season ticket sales are widely believed to be well down on last season as fans boycott the club. Duchâtelet and Meire’s decision to levy extra charges on individual match tickets is expected to further hit attendances at The Valley, which were already set to drop to their smallest level for two decades.
Look out for this symbol in shop windows around Charlton this weekend – football fans are being urged to use local shops and pubs today instead of using facilities at The Valley as protests against absentee Charlton Athletic owner Roland Duchâtelet continue.
The Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet want the Belgian, who has not attended a match since October 2014, to suffer as much financial damage as possible in protest at his stewardship of the side, which is almost certain to be relegated to League One.
The Addicks face Derby County at home at 3pm, and fans of both clubs are being urged to use local outlets to put a financial squeeze on the unpopular owner.
“Throughout this week, CARD has been talking to local pubs, takeaways, newsagents and more, and encouraging them to display special endorsement posters in the windows of their stores,”the group says.
“Now it’s your turn. We want you to use those local companies prior to the Derby game. We want you tell the shopkeepers and till operators why you are spending money in their stores.
“Unlike Roland Duchâtelet’s current regime, these local businesses are here for Charlton supporters for the long term. We’re asking you to support them, and in the process hit the regime financially and put pressure on its relationships with business partners.”
Fans are asked to highlight their boycott on social media with the hashtag #cafcboycott.
Now, inspired by Duchâtelet’s chief executive Katrien Meire taking a 10-day holiday to Dubai instead of overseeing the struggling side’s loss to QPR last weekend, CARD has decided to hold a “beach party” outside The Valley at 1.30pm.
There are two more home matches left this season, with CARD promising “a big protest party” ahead of next Saturday’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Charlton fans have raised more than £20,000 to fund their campaign to force Duchâtelet out, with a protest song, More Than Just A Toy, released last Monday. It’s available via Bandcamp with all profits going to the protest fund.
One of the developers behind the redevelopment of Charlton’s riverside is promising “affordable homesteads for ordinary people alongside the river Thames” as part of a plan to create 5,000 new homes on what is currently industrial land.
Richard Upton, deputy chief executive of U+I, says the company will soon be in control of enough land to create a “small town” by the Thames.
Upton’s statement pre-empts a Greenwich Council consultation on a new masterplan for the riverside, which has been postponed until after the mayoral election.
His comments appear in Historic England’s Conservation Bulletin (see pages 26-28), in a special edition devoted to the challenges London’s next mayor will face.
Under U+I’s previous name of Cathedral, the company was responsible for the Movement development next to Greenwich station as well as the redevelopment of the Eltham Coronet cinema site. U+I is also behind Deptford Market Yard, next to Deptford station, and owns the Morden Wharf site to the west of the Greenwich Peninsula.
It’s the first official confirmation that U+I is involved in the plans for Charlton.
Upton writes: “In Charlton, U+I will soon control sufficient land to create a small town spanning 6 million square feet and providing 5,000 homes. The site is brownfield and light industrial in nature, but we’ve delved into its past and from this, we’ll create a future that makes it unique. The grimy industrial routes actually reflect the patterns of paths and hedgerows from the 17th century. Lovely. I promise you we will bring history and parochial distinction alive.
“Charlton will once again provide affordable homesteads for ordinary people alongside the river Thames.”
It also looks like architectural practice Farrells is also involved in the scheme. The article also features a timeline of the Charlton riverside’s history which is credited to Farrells.
Earlier this year, founder Terry Farrell told the Evening Standard he wanted to see a series of low-rise lift bridges for pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames at locations including Rotherhithe, Greenwich Peninsula, Charlton and Woolwich.
Separately, plans to create a secondary school on the riverside could come to fruition much earlier than planned, with proposals for the two-year-old Royal Greenwich University Technical College to become an 11-18 school, after the college had trouble recruiting students at age 14. A little-publicised consultation took place earlier this year.
In case you weren’t in the area yesterday, Charlton Athletic fans held a mock funeral procession along Charlton Church Lane and Floyd Road ahead of their match against Middlesbrough. It’s the latest in a serious of protests against the management of the side by absentee Belgian owner Roland Duchatelet and his chief executive, Katrien Meire.
Fans of Charlton Athletic are planning to step up protests against absentee owner Roland Duchâtelet after revealing the first of series of billboard posters ridiculing his ownership of the club, which has fallen to the bottom of the Championship.
It’s also emerged that Duchâtelet’s management team at The Valley are exploring the possibility of building flats inside the football club’s stadium.
The billboard, which appeared on Anchor & Hope Lane at the weekend, features a photo of a young boy at The Valley, taken in 1992, while it was being rebuilt in anticipation of the club’s return from its seven-year exile away from the area. The slogan reads: “Here before you and long after you’ve gone”.
It echoes a similar poster used by the Valley Party, which fought the 1990 local elections after Greenwich Council refused a planning application from the club to return to The Valley. That featured a young fan with the slogan: “If you don’t support us, who will he suppprt?”
“We’re bottom of the league at the moment, but it’s not about results,” Phil Reeks, from Greenhithe, Kent, says.
“It’s about the mistreatment of staff, the abject player recruitment policy, the constant mistruths, the same mistakes being repeated again and again, the list goes on.
“Over the years, I’ve had roughly 12 season tickets in various places around the Covered End, but I don’t currently have a season ticket. Even the club has admitted that 3,000 of its season-ticket holders aren’t currently attending games at the moment, and it’s doing nothing to win those fans back.”
After 2,000 fans attended a protest following the match against Blackburn Rovers at the end of January, CARD says it is planning another protest, “with a twist” for this Saturday’s game against Cardiff City.
Meanwhile, the club is considering the possibility of building flats inside The Valley, fanzine Voice of The Valley has reported.
Duchâtelet is said to have ordered his management team to find ways of making more money out of the stadium site. His first club, Belgian side Sint-Truiden, has had its Stayen stadium redeveloped to include shops, bars and a hotel. With The Valley being in a residential area – a plan to include a bowling alley met fierce opposition in the 1990s – his options are likely to be restricted to a hotel or flats.
Rumoured plans to build flats on the site of the current club shop appear to have faded for now after the club went back on an earlier scheme to close the Valley Central community space on Floyd Road. It is believed the club wanted to move the shop into the space. This website understands staff at the Charlton Athletic Community Trust were told Valley Central – which hosts youth services on behalf of Greenwich Council – would close in May, but the club later announced it would stay open.
The 36-year-old Jimmy Seed Stand – the stand furthest away from Harvey Gardens – has been identified as a candidate for redevelopment. The stand, used to accommodate away supporters, is the only significant structure to survive from the days before the club temporarily switched to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park in 1985.
Club executives are said to have visited Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road – which has flats built in each corner, with balconies overlooking the pitch – to see how it could be done.
However, such a move is unlikely to be popular with fans, who fear it will restrict the possibility of increasing The Valley’s 27,000 capacity should the club return to the Premier League. Greenwich Council gave outline approval – since lapsed – to a plan to expand to 40,000 a decade ago, a capacity that would be unlikely if there were flats in the stadium.
There are also some practical difficulties – while the current stand is rather old, it allows the police to segregate away supporters easily. There’s also the question of how residents of any flats inside The Valley would access their homes, as the south stand does not sit on public roads.
Charlton’s defeat to relegation rivals Bristol City on Saturday leaves them at the foot of the Championship table, and leaves recently-reinstated head coach José Riga with a far harder task than his last stint in charge two years ago.
The club faced further ridicule this week when a prankster faked chief executive Katrien Meire’s signature on a document sent to Companies House, apparently resigning her role at the club.
Instead of playing down the hoax, the club – which has recently appointed a new head of communications after months of bad publicity – responded with a terse statement saying it was “investigating the matter as it is something we take seriously”, leading to press coverage of the joke in both the UK and Belgium.
In a possible indication of the mood inside the club, a security guard was posted at the entrance to the stadium on Tuesday when Duchâtelet – who has not attended a match since October 2014 – arrived for meetings.
Local MPs Matt Pennycook and Clive Efford met Meire last month to discuss fans’ concerns about the running of the club. However, Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland told a council meeting two weeks ago that there would be no similar approach from the town hall, saying she was sure the club’s management were aware of fans’ views.