PR specialist Kevin Rye has suggested ways Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire could turn things around at The Valley but it may be too late
3 November ~ For many years Charlton Athletic were admired for the way the supporters battled to save their club, formed their own political party and returned the Addicks to their home at The Valley in the 1990s.
They were seen as a club in touch with their community and an inspiration for many fan movements that followed, not least for Brighton during their long hunt for a new ground and Wimbledon’s rebirth.
Yet since the takeover by Roland Duchatelet in 2014 Charlton have descended into chaos, slipping down into League One amid fan protests at the way their club have been run.
Kevin Rye, a fan engagement and communications consultant who previously worked for Supporters Direct, has looked at the situation at The Valley in his blog. In it he has questioned just how Duchatelet and the chief executive, Katrien Meire, allowed such a situation to develop in the first place, and whether it can be rescued.
“We all make mistakes, and I’d venture to suggest that it’s unfair to lay into them too much on that basis,” Rye writes. “It’s more the way they’re handling their errors that concerns me.
“They appear to either have decided, or been advised by a PR professional (which is worse, in my opinion), that the best way of mitigating the bad decisions, bringing the majority of people back onside, is to ‘batten down the hatches’.”
Rye goes on to suggest that that Duchatelet and Meire may have “passed the point of no return” with fans, though the best thing to do “is be honest, and keep being honest. Go to fans forums, do phone-ins, and do loads of ‘mea culpa’, loads of ‘we’re sorry, and you’ve every right to be angry.’ Tony Blair used to use it and it made people less inclined to hate him, and took the pressure off the government.
“And quite frankly, it’s not what people would be expecting when you’ve made mistakes; big mistakes. Also, don’t talk about ‘fan engagement’ whilst you do this: no-one wants to hear that phrase. Saying sorry isn’t about ‘engaging’; it’s about apologising.”