Charlton fans took their discontent with the club’s owner to Wembley last Saturday. Representatives from the Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust (CAS Trust) and the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) gave a presentation about the Addicks’ ongoing protests at the annual Supporters Direct / Football Supporters’ Federation conference.
CAS Trust’s Richard Wiseman and Joe Read (CARD) participated in a workshop titled “Creating change: scrutiny, protest and pressure” alongside representatives from the Newcastle United and Blackpool Supporters’ Trusts.
The Charlton presentation was fronted by an inspired and moving film produced by a CARD volunteer, juxtaposing images from the glory days of the club’s 1947 FA Cup final win and the 1992 return to The Valley with recent footage of the mass demonstrations against Duchatelet.
It featured ordinary supporters recorded outside The Valley in Harvey Gardens voicing their anger and dismay about the mismanagement of the club, alongside clips of chief executive Katrien Meire and chairman Richard Murray dismissing the protests as the action of a small minority.
The audience of supporters from Newcastle, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Brentford, Everton and Borussia Dortmund greeted the film with warm applause and high acclaim. The film can be viewed here:
Richard Wiseman explained how CAS Trust had called a public meeting in February 2015 to give supporters the opportunity to express their views about what was happening at The Valley. The meeting had requested that the Trust should continue to make efforts to establish dialogue with Duchatelet and to attempt to exert some influence on behalf of fans, but they had had no success in engaging with the owner.
He explained that things had come to a head with the appointment last October of a head coach plucked from the Belgian third division, at which point many supporters felt that the vanity and mismanagement they were witnessing meant that there was little hope that anything could be achieved through dialogue.
Joe Read explained how he had responded to an idea that supporters might start wearing black and white scarves as an expression of their support for the team but their opposition to the regime. He publicised the idea through social media and the scarves - in the team’s 1947 Cup final colours - soon became commonplace in the ground as a symbol of discontent.
He said that protests soon moved on to a more active footing in January this year with the creation of CARD - a group of supporters who had inspired thousands of others to join in the marches, disruption and activism highlighted in the film and which had raised over £25,000 from individual fan donations to fund their activities.
The workshop concluded with agreement that Supporters’ Trusts and ad hoc protest groups had different responsibilities and aims but that, if they could remain unified, they could be a potent force in opposing discredited owners. However, as supporters of Blackpool and Newcastle emphasised, the process could be a long haul which required a lot of commitment and perseverance.