With the arrival of a new year and the recruitment of a number of new members the CAS Trust board thought it would be timely to review our position vis a vis the club and to make a clear statement of where we stand. We welcome feed back from members via email@example.com
1. CAS Trust regrets the decline of Charlton Athletic during the last three years under the ownership of Roland Duchatelet. The decline in terms of league position has been disappointing but the greater damage to the club has been the widespread alienation of thousands of long-standing supporters. These are loyal and committed people with no delusions of grandeur who are dismayed by both the lack of ambition and the arrogant mismanagement of the club. They have watched their club, which not so long ago was held up as a prime example of achievement, stability and inclusivity, being reduced to a laughing stock.
2. During 2015 and 2016 CAS Trust made repeated efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with the owner and CEO in an attempt to influence the direction of events. We were completely ignored by the owner and, although we did feel we made some progress with the CEO, her promise of supporter involvement in strategic dialogue proved to be empty words. In April 2016, having consulted with our members, we met her and Richard Murray and informed them that the trust and loyalty of many supporters had been so damaged under Duchatelet's ownership that we felt the situation was now irretrievable. We expressed the view that the only way for the club's fortunes to be revived was for Duchatelet to seek a buyer with the ambition and competence to provide a vision which would once again unite those lost supporters with the club.
3. CAS Trust had by this time become a member of the Coalition against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) which is a single-issue protest group aimed at persuading Duchatelet to sell the club.
4. Nevertheless, we have always been mindful of the primary purpose of CAS Trust as outlined in our constitution. This is the fundamental purpose of all supporters trusts under the aegis of Supporters Direct:
"to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between the club and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed"
With this in mind we have continued to attend the Fans Forum which is the club's official forum for communication with supporters. We have attended the Forum despite being aware of its shortcomings because our constitution defines our purpose and obligation as being to maintain such communication.
5. At its 2016 AGM the English Football League (EFL) adopted a new rule requiring its member clubs to enter into a process of strategic dialogue with their supporters. This rule was the outcome of negotiation since 2014 between the EFL, The Premier League, the FA, The Dept of Culture, Media and Sport and Supporters Direct and The Football Supporters Federation. The rule states that:
Meetings should be held at least twice a season and should discuss "significant issues relating to the club" and:
"clubs should be represented by the club's majority owner, board director(s) or
other senior executives. Where meetings are not open to all supporters wishing to attend, the supporter representatives must be elected, selected or invited in line with basic democratic principles."
While recognising that this rule does not achieve everything that we would like
to see in terms of supporter involvement we nevertheless welcome its adoption as a step forward.
6. CAS Trust continues to believe that it will be very difficult under Duchatelet's ownership to recover the trust and affinity required to establish unity with a large number of supporters and that, without such unity, enduring success is unlikely. The situation has worsened since April 2016. The club were relegated from The Championship. Thousands of season ticket holders did not renew. Supporters expressed the extent of their opposition by raising over £50,000 to fund protests. The CEO expressed the view that mistakes had been learned from but the sacking of Russell Slade and public criticism of Chris Powell by Duchatelet provide evidence that this is not the case. We remain of the view that only a change of ownership can provide a platform for a revival of the club.
7. However, in line with our constitution, we also remain committed to communication. As outlined in our 2015/16 annual report (and confirmed at our November 2016 AGM) we aim to ensure that strategic dialogue in accordance with EFL rules is maximised. The club have stated that the Fans Forum is their preferred vehicle for this. We have serious reservations about the suitability of the Fans Forum for this purpose but we are nevertheless committed to the principle of strategic dialogue and we aim to conduct dialogue in a way which will ensure that the views and aspirations of our members are trenchantly expressed and that the executive are held to account.
8. We will provide detailed feedback from Fans Forum meetings on our website.