Trust make formal complaint to FA

After consideration, the Charlton Athletic Supporters' Trust have now made a formal complaint to the FA regarding comments made by CEO Katrien Meire earlier this month.

We have asked The FA to investigate a breach of conduct regulations and the possibility of bringing the game into disrepute.

We would like to share with our members the letter we have sent, seen here below.

Dear Sir/ Madam

The Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust respectfully requests that the FA investigate public comments made by Charlton Athletic CEO Katrien Meire on 12 May 2016. We believe that the comments amount to a breach of rule E3 (1) regarding bringing the game into disrepute. She accuses Charlton fans in general of “extreme abuse” and “criminal offences” without giving specific evidence of such. She then goes on to make sweeping comments about lack of respect and abusive language, seeming to compare this to racist chanting of the past.

On 12 May 2016 Meire was in the audience at the Telegraph Business of Sport conference in London. During a panel discussion, Charlton Athletic were cited as an example of shoddy ownership. Meire spoke from the floor as follows in response to this: “"For the last couple of months, I've had extreme abuse, I've had criminal offences committed against myself, and I'm disappointed about governance in sport, that none of the governing bodies contacted me and stood up for the fact that things are not allowed, that's one step too far. I also ask the governing bodies in this country, that sometimes some of the fans have crossed the line, very far, and this is just acceptable. It's been reported by the media as it's normal and it's actually not, and the governing bodies have a responsibility to make people aware that that is not what sport is about."

Following this outburst, she was approached by journalist Declan Warrington and made further comments as reported in the South London Press. See the full report at Appendix 1, which includes the following:
“Me and the owner. It’s fine, I even understand that it’s part of the role that I play, but I feel frustrated by the fact that media reports, all these kind of things - there is so much abusive language now at The Valley - and that’s not part of football. It’s in their interests to try not to have this time (sic) of behaviour because now mums with kids won’t come to the games. The chants that are going around, it’s not promoting the sport, and the governing bodies have an interest in trying to stop that.

“Just like when I started supporting football 15 years ago. Whenever there was a black player they would make noises. That has evolved, why can we not also educate fans towards respect of everybody in the game?”
Under no circumstances does Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust, either independently or as a member of the protest group Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD), condone any direct personal abuse or illegal action against the club, the owner, the CEO or any employees. If Meire has evidence of any criminal acts, then we urge her to report these to the police.

Although we recognise that there have been some distasteful songs and chants aimed at Meire and owner Roland Duchâtelet from certain sections of the crowd, it is extremely regrettable and offensive that Meire chose to link this with racist chanting of the past. In 1993 Charlton officials and supporters were instrumental in leading the Red, White and Black anti-racism campaign, holding the first event of this kind in England. Indeed, I personally represented the club at meetings of the CARE (Charlton Athletic Racial Equality) Partnership when I was on the board as Supporters’ Director. The club and fans have continued to lend strong support to initiatives, including Kick It Out, ever since. In fact, 15 years ago in 2001, when Meire claims to be hearing such offensive chanting, presumably in her home country of Belgium, Charlton fans were unanimously celebrating Chris Powell’s inclusion in the England squad. We also note that Charlton U21 coach Jason Euell has recently graduated from the FA’s On the Board programme, promoting diversity in football governance.

For many, many years, Charlton and its fans have been at the vanguard of anti-racism campaigns in English football. We do not take kindly to any implication or suggestion to the contrary, let alone one made in public by the CEO of CAFC. CASTrust expressed our shock and concern at these comments in a statement on our website on 13 May 2016 – see Appendix 2. Meire has made no attempt to contact us nor offered any apology to fans since.

As the FA will be aware, we are in open dispute with the club’s current ownership and we support peaceful and law-abiding protests against the ongoing mismanagement of CAFC. Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust last met with CEO Katrien Meire and Chairman Richard Murray on 25 April. We expressed our disappointment that the owner, Roland Duchâtelet, refused to meet with us. We stressed to Meire and Murray that the future under the current ownership could only be one of financial decline, escalating protests and increasing ridicule from supporters and the media. We could see no business sense in it and it would be a miserable experience for all concerned. We stated our position that it would be in everyone's best interest for Duchâtelet to take urgent steps to find a new owner for the club – see Appendix 3.

At CAS Trust we will defend rigorously our supporters’ reputation and that of Charlton Athletic as a family-friendly and welcoming club for this and future generations. We respectfully request that the FA investigates Meire’s public statements of 12 May 2016, which we believe are insulting to all law-abiding Charlton supporters, constitute improper conduct for the CEO of a football club and bring the game into disrepute. Do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

Yours faithfully

Steve Clarke

Appendix 1: Article in South London Press

Appendix 2: Statement on CASTrust website in response to Meire’s comments

Appendix 3: Statement on CASTrust website reporting meeting with Meire and Murray