Supporters of Charlton Athletic have voted their club owners to be the worst in the country, in a survey of nearly 5,000 football fans.
Of the 4,804 fans who took the survey, 3,514 gave their “overall opinion” of their clubs owners in the form of a rating from 1-10.
Charlton supporters gave their owner Roland Duchatelet the lowest rating, averaging at 1.12. Coventry and Blackburn Rovers were next in the list, both receiving a rating of 1.18 out of 10. Blackpool, Leeds, Hull, Leyton, Forest, Yeovil and Carlisle were the other clubs in the bottom ten ratings.
Over 1600 comments were left on the survey, many painting a concerned and angry picture of life following a club in crisis. The tests used to vet owners in both The Premier League and Football League were widely criticised.
Huddersfield Town received the highest rating, with supporters giving Chairman Dean Hoyle 9.88 out of 10. Burton Albion received 9.80, followed by Leicester City and Middlesbrough. AFC Wimbledon, Accrington Stanley, Brighton, Luton, Rochdale and Watford made up the rest of the top ten.
Duchatalet completed his takeover of Charlton in January 2014, appointing Katrien Meire as chief executive. Duchatalet and Meire’s tenure saw the club relegated to League 1 at the end of the season. The Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (C.A.R.D.) has organised regular fan protests against Duchatelet and Meire.
“News that Duchatelet has been named the country’s worst owner will come as no surprise to Charlton fans, or probably anyone else given the national and international coverage of the damage he is inflicting on our club,” said a spokesperson for the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) protest group.
“Whether it’s the litany of failed managerial appointments, the drastic fall in home attendances, the constant turnover of players, the incompetence of the day-to-day decisions made by senior club officials, the worrying increase in debt, or the contempt with which the regime treats fans, Duchatelet is failing by every measure. We’re committed to maintaining our campaign for him to sell the club.”
Katrien Meire has also received strong and vocal criticism since joining Charlton Athletic.
“So whenever I get friendly emails from fans they say ‘get out of our club’, so it’s not the shareholders’ club. They say they pay… but they go to the restaurant with their family every week or they go to the cinema, and they’re not satisfied with the product, do they go and scream to the people in charge of it? No they don’t! But they do with a football club, and that’s very weird.” – Charlton Chief Executive Katrien Meire
In 2016, allegations were made that Meire’s security staff assaulted a fan who held up a North Korea flag at The Valley but police later said the incident was not a “criminal matter”. Since takeover, the club has launched a failed youth production line in conjunction with Duchatalet’s other clubs and seen high managerial turnover.
To add insult to injury, Meire was appointed to the FA Council in August and recent media reports suggest she is even being considered for a bigger internal role at The FA.
Also on the list, Sisu Capital Limited is a privately owned hedge fund sponsor that took over Coventry City in 2007. During SISU’s time controlling the club, Coventry has been forced to play their home games in Northampton, were relegated to League 1 for the first time in 48 years and narrowly survived administration.
“SISU killed our club – It’s almost dead now. The Football League stand by and watch.” – Survey participant and Coventry fan
Coventry fans, via the Sky Blues Trust, recently made a third approach to SISU to plan to eventually take ownership. More than 20,000 fans have signed a petition calling on SISU to sell the club.
Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool meet this weekend in the FA Cup – with both sets of supporters urging fans to boycott the match as part of #EmptyEwood in protest against both sets of owners.
Blackburn’s owners, The Venky Family, and Blackpool’s owner Owen Oyston, who in 1996received 6 years in prison for raping a 16 year old girl, have each seen overseen periods of decline at their clubs. Owen’s son Karl Oyston recently told Sky Sports News that protesting fans should be “careful what they wish for”.
Alongside a spectacular series of relegations from The Premier League to League 2, Oyston has regularly launched legal action against supporters who have criticised the regime, including those using online Blackpool forum Back Henry Street.
At Blackburn, according to the BRFC Action Group, under the Venkys the club have received over £70m in player sales and £50m in parachute payment yet the club looks destined for relegation to League 2.
Leeds United – Massimo Cellino, in full control of Leeds United at the time of the survey, has now been banned by the FA from being a director at any football club on three seperate occassions. In 2014 the Football League imposed a six-month ban on him relating to conviction in Italy and had another suspension overturned in 2016. He sold a 50% stake to new co-owner Andrea Radrizzani in December.
Hull City – supporters have long been vocal in their critcism of The Allam family – who attempted to rename the club against the wishes of supporters.
Leyton Orient – The club was purchased by Francesco Becchetti in 2014, with the Italian taking the club from the League 1 play-off final to fifth from bottom in League 2 in just two years. Just last week Bechetti’s chief executive Alessandro Angelieri released a bizarre and inflammatory statement, stating that offers on the club would be considered while blaming players now departed on loan for a lack of effort in the first part of the season. The Independant reported that the statement appeared to have been run through Google Translate. High managerial turnover has been another symptom of the Becchetti regime, as well as an Italian “X-Factor” style gameshow where Italian players competed for a club contract.
Nottingham Forest – Since buying Forest in 2012, Fawaz Al Hasawi has has seen the club fail to pay bills on time, be placed under transfer embargo and part company with seven permanent managers. Two attempts to sell the club in 6 months have broken down
Yeovil Town – Under the tenure of Chairman John Fry – the club have dropped from The Championship to League 2 in the space of three years, and Fry threatend potential cuts in 2016. In February last year he said he would consider any serious offer for the club.
“Off the pitch he blames the fans (or lack of) for not attending matches which restrains the first team budget. However Mr Fry fails to mention how he charges one of the most expensive matchday tickets in the league – in the region of £20 – £25. How he has the cheek to price tickets so highly, whilst us continually mucking about in the wrong half of the table (fingers crossed this season will be different) and blame the fans for not attending is ridiculous.
And then there’s the matchday experience; a tea bar which runs out of milk, chips not cooked, no hot running water in toilets, only two people serving in a mouldy beer tent (yes a tent, not proper bar), a flooded car park and bird crap left in certains areas of the stands. Huish Park really is an unappealing place to visit and that’s even before we mention results!” – Survey participant and Yeovil Town fan
Carlisle United – In May 2015, Carlisle Vice-President Andy Bell announced to supporters that a mystery “billionaire” had made an offer on the club but little further detail has been released since, with fans still waiting for answers. Keith “Mysterious” Curle has given supporters something to cheer with Carlisle’s recent league form.