As the Club has made aware by its release of the letter to the media, CARD were contacted yesterday with the invitation for talks by Katrien Meire aimed at working together.
The following is the response that was provided by CARD at 3pm today.
Dear Katrien Meire,
We acknowledge receipt of your email and this response is sent on behalf of the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet, which as you know comprises many elements, including the Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust, Voice of The Valley, the Charlton Life message board, the Spell It Out and Roland Out campaigns, and the supporters’ protest fund, as well as an increasing number of individual fans. It represents CARD's collective view, and is not solely the view of any one individual or group within the coalition.
As an aside, we do not recognise one of the email addresses to which you sent your email and we believe you have sent it to an unconnected third party by mistake. We also note that you sent your email at 6pm on Wednesday night and then announced it to the media the next day.
A continuous narrative of failure
You state: "Last season we made numerous mistakes on and off the pitch which resulted in relegation and disengaged fans."
The reality is that your entire stewardship of the club, on and off the pitch, since it was purchased by Roland Duchatelet in January 2014 has been amateurish and substantially misconceived.
It is disingenuous of you to identify “numerous mistakes” last season as the cause of disengagement by supporters, when the breakdown in the relationship quite clearly began in January 2014 with the sale of Yann Kermorgant and the inadequate signings imposed on manager Chris Powell that month, and was underpinned for many people by Powell’s dismissal that March.
This disaffection was quite obviously in evidence again in February 2015 when 400 supporters assembled at Woolwich to discuss their overwhelming discontent with the club following the sacking of Bob Peeters. At that stage those present overwhelmingly wanted the supporters’ trust to continue to try to engage with the club. You declined that opportunity for dialogue, despite the vigorous efforts of the trust to follow that mandate.
Self-evidently, neither the events of 2014 nor early 2015 can have anything to do with “mistakes” last season. They are, however, all part of one continuous narrative, which has extended into this season with the team’s worst start at this level since 1926. This has been compounded by the absentee owner’s assertion last month that he cannot give any more attention to a club that comprises only 1.5 per cent of his business interests, your gratuitous and false remark about Peter Varney at the Russell Slade press conference in June, and the interview given to the South London Press last week by the hitherto concealed Thomas Driesen, confirming his significant, continuing role within the club.
That narrative has resulted in the loss of 4,000 season-ticket holders and substantial, if less easily quantifiable, damage to the reputation and goodwill of the club, both within the fanbase and the wider football community. Your reluctance to acknowledge the full extent of the failure over which you have presided does not suggest that you have truly learnt anything at all.
Disrespect and refusal to engage
Almost from the time of your arrival at Charlton, you were repeatedly approached by supporters individually and through representative organisations, such as the supporters’ trust, seeking to work together, offer help or just to engage with the club on particular matters. In numerous cases you did not have the courtesy to reply or even to acknowledge these approaches, no matter how polite or constructive they were. Others you rebuffed or deferred.
You have made a large number of public statements on video, in media interviews and at public meetings that were disrespectful, of Charlton supporters in general, of staff past and present, and of particular individuals, including Chris Powell, seeking to imply that his version of events in January-March 2014 should not be believed by fans because he had been dismissed by the club, even though it is widely supported by others working at Charlton at the time.
Similarly, your handling of an approach by the former chief executive Peter Varney, set out in a series of emails between August and November 2015, was both disrespectful and unprofessional.
Following the sacking of Guy Luzon last October, you stated on video at a public meeting with fans that all the four changes of manager/head coach in the space of 20 months had been proven to be the correct decision, apparently oblivious to the absurdity of such a statement, and invited fans to believe that the appointment of Karel Fraeye, a man wretchedly ill-equipped to lead an English Championship club, as the latest head coach was a fresh start. Little more than two months later, he too was dismissed.
A number of people who previously gave up their time to serve on the Fans’ Forum and even the tokenistic Target 20k committee you established have withdrawn their attendance because they became convinced that your engagement with these structures was entirely cosmetic and would not generate any positive outcomes. Several of these people have since become active supporters of CARD. So have people who have worked for the club since your arrival and who have direct experience of dealing with you. None them were dismissed, so they have no personal agenda, but they are now actively working with us because they recognise the extent to which you are damaging the club.
You will also be well aware that your regime is opposed by a significant number of people within your own directors’ box, as well as former sponsors, directors, players and other officials, and sections of the media. CARD matters only to the extent that it attracts the backing of other supporters. If we were isolated in our views then we would not have been able to call upon the level of response that we repeatedly demonstrated last season, and you would not be contacting us now.
The only way forward
We believe that we acted responsibly and in keeping with the wishes of many fair-minded fans by providing the club and the team with an opportunity to show that things had changed following the appointment of Russell Slade. There can be no serious suggestion that protests are in any way responsible for the team’s abject record this season. However, the evidence of further failure is now overwhelming. We also have no doubt that you would continue to make the same appeal to "support the team” to the exclusion of any opposition to the regime, claiming to have learned from mistakes and changed direction, all the way to relegation to League Two and beyond, but we do not believe that standing idly by while that happens is the right course for Charlton fans.
We want the team and the club to succeed because for all of us it has been an integral part of our lives for many years, which is obviously not the case for an owner who has failed to attend a single match at The Valley in two years. However, as the name of our coalition suggests, it is our settled view based on the events since 2014 that Roland Duchatelet and you, as his chief representative, are the problem and that your departure is a prerequisite for the club to begin to move forward again. The supporters' trust put this to you as its position directly last April.
Part 1, continued below....