Mundell Fleming gives his feedback after that video interview
It's now some three weeks since it was announced that Roland Duchatelet was buying Charlton Athletic and in that time he's appointed lawyer Katrien Meire to the Board, overseen the loan signings of three players from Standard Liege and, in a very positive move, the Club have released a "Meet the Board" video featuring Roland, Katrien and born again Chairman Richard Murray.
It's very early days, of course, but the video did provide some instructive soundbites, with the following the key takeaways:
1. Not surprisingly, the immediate objective is to retain the Club's Championship status with a clear understanding that the squad will need strengthening if that objective is to be secured. Discussions are ongoing, but it seems that we can expect to see further new arrivals, though we might have to wait for the re-opening of the loan window in early February before this process is complete.
2. However, although there is a commitment to strengthen the squad, which Katrien hinted would continue in the summer, Roland is not going to splash the cash. The objective, very clearly, is to run the Club on a "sustainable" basis. Richard Murray suggested that with TV money set to increase and player costs likely to decline under the influence of FFP, it ought to be possible to break even. And that may well be Roland's objective.
3. There was much talk about the importance of the Club's Academy and it is clear that player development, rather than player acquisition from other Clubs, forms the backbone of Duchatelet's vision.
4. Finally, the new Board aim to "improve the match day experience", whilst ensuring that it remains "affordable" for fans.
Whilst much of this could have been guessed at, it is, nevertheless, broadly positive and encouraging. Moreover, Duchatelet, Meire and Murray were all friendly and positive, with Katrien particularly enthusiastic and engaging. This ought to auger well for an employee and fan friendly environment.
However, it's very early days yet and whilst fans can stop worrying, at least for now, about the Peninsula and Chris Powell's position, a key question is whether Roland's vision is robust enough to withstand the brutally competitive nature of the Championship. Moreover, just how determined, practical and proactive will he be in trying to reach his goals?
Achieving financial sustainability, especially if that is defined as breaking even, is not going to be easy. An increase in TV money and a fall in wages might help, but it's important to understand the arms race which has made the Championship such a financial graveyard.
Clubs spend money in a desperate attempt to reach the promised land of the Premier League. They speculate to accumulate and it's likely that some owners will continue to do so. FFP will limit losses to £6m next year and £5m thereafter, but some costs are excluded from this calculation (Club's Academies, for example). In Charlton's case these "add backs" would have totalled £2.1m last season so that going forward Clubs might lose £7-8m, or more, each year and still be FFP compliant. That's where Charlton were under Jimenez and Slater - until their money ran out.
Then there might be as many as six or seven teams with hefty parachute payments to compete with. Only time will tell how FFP will play out and then how Duchatelet will react, but competing in the Championship may be harder then he imagines.
The planned focus on Youth development is encouraging and exciting, but a key question is what, in practice, does it mean? Will the Club seek to obtain Category 1 status for its Academy, for example? If progressive player development is central to Duchatelet's vision, a related question is how his network of Clubs will work together. Will it be a loose federation with a degree of top down "encouragement" so that Clubs cooperate in the loan market, for example, or something more ambitious and structured, perhaps overseen by a Director of Football?
Roland Duchatelet appears to be a nice man who wants to do good. His appointment of the very inexperienced, but seemingly warm and friendly, Katrien Meire tells us a lot about him. But we'll need to wait and see just how practical his strategy is and how well it withstands the rigours of one of the most unforgiving leagues in world football.