Richard Murray – I believe Roland to be a good long-term owner

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This is a brief summary of the VIP Q&A held at The Valley on February 17th.  Please note, it is not an attempt at a  verbatim record - just one person's attempt to capture what was said.


Present:  David Joyes, Tony Keohane, Chris Parkes, Richard Murray, Katrien Meire, Johnny Jackson, Tony Watt, Steve Avory, Mick Everett. About 100 VIP members.


Q:  How will the club break even ? We are already losing £5m. This will increase because of loss of season tickets.

A  (KM):  We will continue to control costs and we believe we can increase commercial revenue. There will be more cash from Premier league deal. We will bring the club shop back in house after next season

Q:  There are concerns that lack of direction off the field is affecting the team on the field.

A:  (KM)  It has been an eventful year. Last year we were bottom with a lot of players out of contract. A new team and manager had to be got together. Therefore we try to create stability by signing players on long-term contacts and trying to keep a manager for longer than a few months. Guy Luzon is a long-term appointment.  It is important that CAFC becomes a club we can be proud of.

Q   Why have we had three managers who are all Belgian ?

A  (KM):  I cannot deny our links with Belgium. Riga and Luzon had previous experience in the network. When we appoint we rely on recommendations of people we trust. It is not our policy to recruit only from Belgium

Q:  Is the owner aware of the level of dismay and disillusion that long-term season ticket holders are expressing about his model, and more to the point his implementation of his model is causing and, if so, does he care ?  (applause)

A (KM):  Of course he cares

Q:  What would Roland consider to be success ?

A (KM):  He wants to create a stable Championship club. His vision is that the club becomes a gathering point for meeting friends and family. He wants a beautiful stadium. There will be £1m investment in a new screen, air-conditioning, ventilation.  He has invested in the team (Igor and Tony did not come for peanuts). We have to be realistic - Premier League is our ambition but I cannot promise you that in a couple of years.

Q:  Why, when Riga was available, was Guy Luzon deemed the best candidate ?

A  (KM):  We received a lot of applications. We interviewed several. It soon became clear that Guy was the favourite.

Q:  Are you aware that a public meeting has been called for tomorrow night ? There are a lot of fans who are concerned and want to find out more

A:  (KM): I understand fans want to know how the club is run. The Fans Forum has now changed - it includes all supporter groups. I think it is the best way for us to communicate with fans. I am a believer of treating every fan as equal. I have already met the Supporters Trust three times. Last time I referred them to meet the Development Officer and they declined.

Q:  Players have been recruited from Liege who are not suitable. Who is making these costly errors ? How do we avoid wasting money in future ?

A  (KM):  I understand the criticism about last year. This year has been different with some successes. Player recruitment is the most difficult thing. You can never be sure but we try to minimise risk.

Q:  Have any lessons been learned from the recent change of manager ?

A (KM):  We were on a bad run. We needed to create positivity. Confidence was low. After Brighton defeat I called a board meeting on the Sunday. We decided to dismiss Bob on Sunday afternoon and I informed him. Then I called our press officer so that fans would be informed first.  As soon as it was announced I started receiving calls and e mails from interested parties. We held an interview process which started on Monday. It became apparent that Guy Luzon was the favourite. I didn't appreciate being called a liar. I wasn't hurt but I was disappointed.  Roland says to me "Katrien, I pay you to tell the truth".  Decisions about football mangers often need to be made quickly (look at Norwich and Forest)

Q:  Why, in view of the fact we weren't scoring, wasn't Reza recalled ?

A (KM):  When he returned from the World Cup he said he had had a very good offer from elsewhere so we let him go. Instead we got Tony Watt

Q:  How can we hope to progress when we discard players like Kermorgant and Morrison ?

A (KM):  We made Rhoys and Yann offers. Rhoys accepted but Yann didn't.  Michael Morrison did not want to settle for being on the bench. He wanted to play so we let him go.

Q:  What young players are we expecting to break through ?

A (SA):  Not prepared to mention names because it puts unfair pressure on them but we do have some very good young players at u18 and u21. We must accept, however, that after their meteoric rise they will inevitably steady off.

Q:  How is progress on Category 1 Academy status ?

A (SA):  The owner gave a genuine message that he wants to invest in the development of young players. EPPP demands that we must be category 1.  I believe that the best players must play with the best

A (TK):  There was a planning application previously accepted. We have visited a lot of training grounds to learn. We met with the planners today and a revised plan will be submitted in the next six weeks.  We still have the Premier League funding but we are looking at various different funding strands. There are conditions attached to the PL funding.  In terms of PR about this venture, we need to bear in mind the views of local residents.  Yes, we can get category 1 status while in The Championship. We are aiming for it by 16/17. It involves an incredible level of audit.

Q:  Great start to season. What went wrong ?

A (JJ):  I can't pinpoint any one reason. Loss of form, injuries, suspension, small squad. If I could we would have sorted it out.

Q: Is it the best pitch you've ever played on ?

A:  (JJ) Last year was a terrible pitch but this is how it should be.

A (TW):  Saturday was fine, no problems. It is one of the better pitches I've played on.

A (ME):  We are currently rated the 4th best pitch in The Championship

Q:  John, are you on your way up north and how is your coaching going ? Have the club offered you a role ?

A  (JJ)  -  My coaching career is in its infancy. I've enrolled for "B" Licence this summer but I want to play as long as I can.

Q:  Saturday was a revelation because we defended by attacking. Will we continue to do that ?

A (JJ):  We'll try ! Credit must go to Guy Luzon. He has had us working tirelessly. And it is good because we required a lot of work. He is very structured and sure of what he wants from different players. Saturday was the first time we played how he wants us to play.

Q:  Tony, you've been compared on a message board this week as a Scottish sexual monster. Any comment ?

A (TW):  I don't know what that means. Is it a compliment or not ?

Q:  How did Bob explain to players that he wanted a left footed player on the right and vice versa ?

A ((JJ):  Out right is Johann's preferred position and to be fair he has scored goals cutting in. Bob wasn't one for banging in crosses. He preferred us to play intricately through the defence.

Q:  Will you be fit for Friday ?

A  (JJ):  No. I will probably miss a number of games.

Q:  Who is responsible for choosing the kit ?

A (CP): Not me, I prefer the orange kit

Q:  Tony, are you ready to play 90 minutes now ?

A  (TW): I hope to be playing 90 minutes

Q:  You told us that the owner does care, but how aware is he of the extent of alienation of many supporters ?

A  (KM):  He is aware, but it is my job to handle this. I give him the relevant information but it is up to me to make this work. We can only entice you with good football and facilities.

Q:  It isn't about shiny seats. Its about the constant merry go round of players and managers

A (RM):  Mistakes were made last January, but there is no way we could have afforded Johann, Igor and Tony under the previous owners. I can confirm that three people (with English experience) were interviewed face to face for the head coach job.

Q:  Why was Luzon's wife following Charlton weeks before Peeters sacking ? We all knew he was coming.

Q:  A lot of people are not planning to renew season tickets. It might help if the owner attended more games.

A (KM):  He watches all games on stream. He is in daily contact. Charlton is high on his agenda. We are a priority. I went to Belgium to see him yesterday. But he wants me and the staff to be the face of the club. he doesn't have time to be. There is no invisible hand. You must hold me responsible.  He tends to come to England mid week so cannot get to many games.

Q:  Why will the club not continue with the VIP scheme ?

A (KM):  We are grateful for the support of you guys over the years, but we no longer have a cash-flow problem. However, I am happy to attend more events like this

Q:   Is it ever motivational for players to be booed ?

A (JJ):  No, it can make it very difficult, although I understand crowd's frustration. I have been here a while so I can relate to the frustration but for others it can be negative.

Q:  There were rumours of an unhappy dressing room before Bob left. Are you now feeling happier ?

A:  (JJ):  It is very result-dependent. A dressing room is always down if you are losing. When you win the confidence spreads.

Q:  What is the truth about the owner influencing team selection ?

A (KM): The head coach is solely responsible for team selection. There are no puppets in this club.

Q:  Is Alex Dyer a liar then ?  And Bob Peeters ?

A (KM) : They are ex employees.

Q:  You introduced a £150 season ticket last year. People are moving to seats elsewhere. Is this policy to be reviewed ?

A:  (KM):  Yes, I understand your annoyance. We are reviewing it. Crossbars will also be different and we will announce at The Huddersfield game.

Q:  No programme sellers 10 minutes before game on Saturday. Where have they gone ?

A (KM):  We have had a roller coaster, but it was improved on Saturday. Today I was choosing new stands for programme sellers. I am pleased that they are becoming more pro-active - one tried to sell me a programme on Saturday.

Q:  We hear about the investment in the pitch and the training ground, but isn't the Premier League and University of Greenwich mainly funding the training ground ? And surely the poor pitch was factored into the purchase price ?

A (KM):  The new training complex would cost over £10m. Those parties will not be contributing anything near that. Our due diligence did not go as far as watching the under-pitch DVD.

Q:  What contingency plans does the club have for West Ham giving away tickets when they move to the Olympic Stadium ?

A; (KM):  We want to make football at Charlton affordable for children. We are unhappy about what they will do but it is a fact. Charlton can offer something different - a warm feeling.

Q:  Can we break even in the Championship ?

A (DJ):  We are reducing the deficit from £7m to £5m and there will be additional revenue streams from Premier League. We made a trading loss of £2.3m on players in the summer.

Q:  The warm feeling is important, but that is what a lot of people feel is being lost under this owner. What chance is there of you persuading him to speak to fans directly to convince them of his vision before they walk away ? It would be good if he would meet the Supporters Trust but, if not, he could travel on the train after an away game.

A (KM):  His dialogue with the fans is through me

A (RM):  I believe Roland to be a good long-term owner. I wouldn't be on the board if I didn't. The day I stop believing that I will go.


The meeting agreed that it was a good idea for VIP members to be offered a 10% discount on next year's season ticket with a list of charities to donate the discount to if they wished to.