Charlton Athletic crisis: ‘Pay your staff their bonuses’, council leader tells owner Duchâtelet

The Valley
Fans are planning a protest at The Valley on Saturday

Greenwich Council’s leader has stepped into the crisis engulfing Charlton Athletic, writing to the football club’s owner Roland Duchâtelet urging him to pay staff the bonuses they have earned.

Backroom staff at The Valley and at the club’s training ground in Sparrows Lane, Eltham – many of whom are poorly-paid and work long hours on matchdays – have been told by the Belgian electronics magnate that they will not be receiving promised performance bonus payments because the club is in financial trouble.

Staff are considering legal action against Duchâtelet, whose four-year tenure at the club has seen the team relegated to League One amid a backdrop of instability, with a huge drop in income with the loss of TV rights money and fans staying away from The Valley.

Fan group CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet) has organised a protest in The Valley’s car park at 2.15pm on Saturday ahead of the match against Fleetwood Town – past protests have resulted in matches being disrupted. In 2016, a match against Coventry City was halted after plastic pigs were thrown onto the pitch.

Danny Thorpe has written to Duchâtelet today to urge him to “do the right thing” and cough up.

“There is a huge groundswell of concern over this issue and is is a testament to the strong feelings… that so many fans are set to take part in a protest which could disrupt the match on Saturday,” he said.

He added that the club was “a source of great pride” in Greenwich borough.

A promised takeover of the club has, after many months, still not materialised, and Duchâtelet has instigated a cost-cutting regime, including denying academy players bottled water, cutting the use of electricity and taping up paper dispensers in toilets.

Today’s Evening Standard reports that a staff member was even told to ask permission to eat crisps while at work because Duchâtelet wanted to save money on cleaning costs.

Thorpe’s intervention is the first time the council has got involved in the long-running saga at Charlton, although local MP Matt Pennycook has written to Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and the English Football League about the issue.

Two years ago, Thorpe’s predecessor Denise Hyland refused a request from a fan to talk to Duchâtelet about fans’ worries about the club’s future. The following year she even took part in a photocall with Eltham MP Clive Efford and Duchâtelet’s former chief executive to promote the redevelopment of the club’s training ground.

18 months on, work has halted at the training ground.

The council has close relations with the Charlton Athletic Community Trust, a separate body from the football club.

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Addicks fans’ protest shirts raise £3,500 for Charlton Park Riding for the Disabled

CARD protest, 17 September 2016
Pest control: Charlton fans gather in their protest shirts before last week’s match against AFC Wimbledon

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.”

CARD protest, September 2016
Charlton fans gather outside The Valley on 17 September

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.
  • Katrien Meire applied to join the Football League’s board – but did not turn up to the meeting to make her pitch to other clubs.
  • 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.

Charlton Athletic fans to be charged for using club’s own ticket office

Ransom Walk

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.

The Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet campaign group – whose eye-catching stunts included a funeral cortege down Charlton Church Lane to The Valley – is promising more protests in the new season. It is holding a fundraising party at the White Swan in Charlton Village on 23 July, featuring the launch of a specially-brewed ale, Roland’s Ruin.

Charlton Athletic protest group urges fans to support local shops and pubs ahead of ‘beach party’

Campaign Against Roland Duchatelet

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.

Recent weeks have seen matches interrupted by fans throwing beach balls and stress balls onto the pitch. There has also been a mock funeral procession while unofficial match programmes have also been handed out.

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.

Charlton Athletic fans hold mock funeral procession to The Valley

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.

A number of protests took place during the match, including delaying the start by throwing beach balls onto the pitch. The Addicks won the match 2-0

Thanks to Matt White for video. See more pictures and video from the protests.

Charlton Athletic fans to step up protests as club ponders flats inside The Valley

Ransom Walk

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?”

The fan in the new poster, now 28, says he is boycotting home matches in protest at Duchâtelet’s running of the club.

“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.”

The poster was taken down earlier this week, but the Campaign Against Roland Duchâtelet (CARD) says more will appear in the coming weeks.

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.

The Jimmy Seed stand is named after the manager who won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947
The Jimmy Seed stand is named after the manager who won Charlton the FA Cup in 1947

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.

The Eagle has fallen: New Charlton barbershop changes name after football gaffe

The new Charlton barbershop - Monday and Saturday
A new barbers’ has appeared in the old Brew & Choo unit close to Charlton station. We thought they were possibly being brave in taking on the titans of SE7 men’s hairdressing at Andrew’s, a little further up Charlton Church Lane.

Then we saw the name. Eagle?

Thankfully, common sense appears to have prevailed – and the owners have realised that calling your new business after Crystal Palace’s nickname isn’t going to go down well a stone’s throw from The Valley. The name Eagle Barbers has disappeared ahead of today’s match with Blackburn Rovers.

Floyd Road

Speaking of The Valley, fans are preparing to protest against absentee owner Roland Duchâtelet after today’s match. Anti-Duchâtelet graffiti has appeared in Floyd Road today, and it’s likely other visible signs of discontent will be seen in the area in the weeks to come. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s going on, The Guardian’s Owen Gibson has written possibly the most comprehensive assessment of the situation.

A petition has been launched to force the Belgian electronics tycoon out of the club – it can be found at ourcharlton.org.uk.