Katrien Meire – my resignation is not on the table

CAS Trust members attended a question and answer session with Katrien Meire, David Joyes (Chief Financial Officer) and Tom Rubashow (Communications) before the match against Southend on Saturday.

Please note - the following is NOT a verbatim report. It is an attempt to convey the broad content and tone of the meeting from written notes. Some things will inevitably have been missed and neither questions nor answers should be taken as direct quotations.

Q. You have stated on a number of occasions that you have learned from your mistakes. Please could you clarify what mistakes you feel you have made, what actions you have taken to avoid repeating those mistakes and how the situation has improved as a result?

A. We made mistakes with regard to managerial choices. Managers didn't know the division. On the playing side we made mistakes with some overseas players. We are now looking at players who have played a lot of games in the previous season. We still don't have enough leaders and we will be addressing that in the summer. Off the pitch we underestimated the English tradition of how people support a club and we made changes which were perhaps not necessary. We didn't engage with fans properly which is why we are holding these meetings.

Q. Was the sacking of Russell Slade another mistake?

A. Karl is a better fit for this club. He has a track record in this division including a promotion. He works well with young players and his type of football is better suited. He needs a bit more time.

Q. As CEO you have presided over a catastrophic three and a half year period for Charlton Athletic. While managers have come and gone you have stayed in your sinecure post where you have been entrusted with enormous responsibility but no accountability whatsoever. You cling to you meaningless mantra of "not doing failure" when all the evidence presents otherwise. If you really had the best interests of this club at heart you should have recognised this level of failure and resigned, shouldn't you?

A: That's your opinion

Q: So relegation to the third tier; the lowest league position since 1926; disaffection of fans; public and in-game protests; loss of 4000 season ticket holders and dwindling crowds are not your responsibility?

A. Yes, that is our responsibility but my resignation is your opinion.

Q. When you look back on your time here as CEO what would you like to be remembered for?

A. One thing is that all our youngsters are now on long-term contracts. I inherited the Diego Poyet situation but now, along with Steve Avory, I have ensured that our young players are signed up. Also the training ground.

I don't do this job to be remembered. I just want to feel that the club is going in the right direction again.

Q. With the continuing development of, and changes to, the surrounding area, possibly providing a potential, but different fanbase than is traditional for the club, are there plans to exploit this? At the moment, the current average attendance is falling, so what are the plans to reverse this situation by appealing to this new, possibly, wealthier fanbase? Does it include redevelopment of the ground by building leisure and or/commercial facilities, hotels/accommodation etc but with a reduced capacity, similar to the model in place in Belgium?

A. There are no plans to redevelop The Valley. Our focus is on the training ground. We don't have the capacity to manage two projects. To reduce capacity would be very stupid.
We need to retain our fans and re-engage those who have stopped coming. In terms of reaching out to new fans we are developing an improved website. (Tom R: this will have full player archives going back 20 years and will feature interviews with players)

Comment: It will take more than a new website to attract people after Tuesday's performance.

Q. Is it really plausible or feasible to break even financially?

A. (David Joyes): It is a difficult challenge, although Wolves have achieved it at Championship level. We consider ourselves a Championship club and £14.5m was the average loss for Championship clubs in 15/16. In previous years we over performed against our wage bill.

Katrien Meire: When Roland bought the club the FFP rules limited losses to £5m and he thought that we could be competitive at just a small loss. In 14/15 the rules were loosened. When we are back promoted we will need to be very clever.

Q: Attendances have fallen by about 4000 since we were last in League One. Can you account for this?

A: Some people have turned their back on the club because of us, because of the ownership.

Q. And yet you are still here. Has Roland ever questioned your position?

A. You'd have to ask him (laughter)

Q. We can't. Do you ever ask yourself?

A. Yes, I do ask myself. Roland manages many business all over the world and if he is not happy he will take action.

Comment: If your objective is to reduce the fan base and achieve our lowest position then you've achieved it.

Q. What is the situation with Igor Vetokele, Naby Sarr and Christian Ceballos?

A. It's not certain yet. We will need to talk to them all individually. I hear that Ceballos is happy in Belgium. Karl has never seen Sarr play. We'll have to assess it in the summer.

Q. I think you should be commended for ensuring that ticket prices are such that football at The Valley is affordable for most people. What do you intend to do to push that out and publicise it more?

A. Roland is very keen that football should be inclusive for everybody. It's part of his political philosophy. We want to publicise our prices more. We would like our unique selling point to be that supporting Charlton is not expensive and that people feel part of it.

Q: And yet there are eleven blocks where there will be a price increase after three years of failure?

A. We have reviewed our stadium plan and simplified the pricing structure. Some seats will be more expensive.

Q: You don't seem to be grasping the fundamental point that all the time the owner is stating that he's not interested in success - i.e. that the club is without ambition and just a player farm - it doesn't matter how many managers we have. We are not a proper club and we are rotten because of the man at the top

A: Some of what Roland has said has been taken out of context. When he acquired the club his ambition was the Premier League.

Comment: He sold our two best players!

A: I have explained several times that we offered Yann Kermorgant a contract and he refused it. Roland has the financial capacity to push if we are showing signs of promotion. Our idea is still to aim for The Championship.

Q: I am not able to watch the team any more. It makes me feel physically ill. Why do you think we have underperformed this year? The players hearts aren't in it.

A: Looking ahead to next season we have developed five recruitment criteria and one of these is a desire to play for the club. Karl knows what he wants and we should be able to sign our first choices (as we did last summer although it didn't always work out). There will always be hidden players like Magennis but generally Karl knows what he wants. We have six scouts working on our behalf.

Q: Roland has been quoted in the Belgian media calling fans "stupid people" and "vinegar pissers". He states that those with strong feelings are misogynous or disgruntled ex-employees. This is offensive. Why does he think this? How is the situation represented to him?

A: He is not blind. He knows that most of the fans are not trouble makers but it was a minority that started the protests.

He didn't call fans stupid. I explained to fans who wrote in by email that this was a mistranslation.

Q: Well why didn't you make any attempt to correct that impression publicly? You say you are trying to re-engage fans. Why didn't you make a statement in the programme or on the website?

Q: Will the new website be for profit?

A: (David Joyes) Yes, but we don't know how this will work out. We don't expect the sums to be significant.

Q: What would it take for you to resign and what would it take for Roland to sell the club ?

A: It's not on the table. I love this club and I love working with the people. It's my responsibility to get it right. My KPIs are Championship football and re-engaging with fans.