An interview with Katrien Meire published in September in the Belgian magazine "Knack" was this week brought to the attention of Charlton supporters. A number of issues arise from the article but, in particular, CAS Trust thought it important to respond to the impression given in the article that supporter protests against Katrien Meire and Roland Duchatelet were motivated by misogyny and xenophobia.
We are pleased to report that the journalist concerned (Jef Van Baelen) was welcoming of a response from Charlton supporters and has already published the following article written by CAS Trust board member Heather McKinlay:
Charlton fans: “We long for the day when Duchâtelet sells our club.”
An interview with CEO Katrien Meire, which appeared in Knack on 27 September, caused much unrest among fans of Charlton Athletic. Charlton, an English League One (third division) team, is one of the clubs in the network of Roland Duchatelet, delegated to the young lawyer Katrien Meire in London.
Charlton football supporters are not hooligans. We are a mix of social classes, backgrounds and age, as the people of St Truiden witnessed when 200-300 fans aged from 7 to 70 held a peaceful march in the town in the spring. What unites us is passion for our club. Yes, we do call it “our club” because it is such an important part of our lives - in many cases passed on from generation to generation. Katrien Meire states that she wishes to attract younger fans – well, the way to do that is simple: create an atmosphere that encourages current fans to bring along their children and grandchildren! Instead Meire authorised a YouTube video of a young couple seemingly being filmed having sex in the centre circle at The Valley – which was then banned by the advertising authorities.
When first appointed CEO by Roland Duchâtelet in January 2014, Meire was welcomed to the club. Charlton has a proud track record of campaigning for equality, whether of race, gender or sexuality, boasting an award-winning community infrastructure. Recent success on the pitch was built on a foundation of close co-operation between supporters and directors. Instead of learning about such history, Meire stated that she could not care less about it. She told us that, “Roland does things his way and fans just have to accept that.”
It is nearly four years since her arrival and Meire continues to disrespect the fans. Mass protests started two years ago when fans ran out of patience. But I want to make it absolutely clear that supporters have no issue with her being female, no issue with her being young and certainly no issue with her being Belgian. We certainly don’t “blame Meire for Brexit” – 60% of Londoners voted to remain in the EU. We do, however, have significant issues with her lack of ability to run Charlton Athletic Football Club in a professional and successful manner.
She has lost our respect and trust for many reasons. She appointed a succession of inexperienced coaches and signed numerous players who were unfit or unsuitable which directly led to the club being relegated. Season ticket numbers have dropped from 10,000 to around 6,000: many will not return until the regime changes. Because of all the money wasted, the club has run-up an eye-watering debt of over £50M, causing fans to fear for its very future.
Above all, Meire often fails to speak the truth. For example, contrary to what she claims, there was no chant of her name and the C-word at the final match of the season when Charlton were relegated. This simply did not happen. Instead, fans unfurled a large banner stating “Liar” above her head in the directors’ box and this was applauded around the stadium. She had previously claimed that “only 2%” of fans were unhappy, yet in this interview she now seems to boast about the whole stadium being against her.
We long for the day when Roland Duchâtelet sells our football club, Meire leaves and we can look forward to a positive future. And we really don’t care whether the new owners come from Australia, Belgium, China, London or Lisbon - as long as they show a willingness to embrace the identity of Charlton Athletic Football Club and don’t laugh at us behind our backs.
The article from Knack can be read here (NB - please note this is a Google translate version so some subtleties of language may be missed. For example, the journalist has confirmed that Meire did not call Charlton fans incompetent although the translated article implies that she did)