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CARD statement following Belgium and Northampton

The Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD) wants to thank the hundreds of Charlton supporters who made the 500-mile round trip to Sint-Truiden to join Saturday’s Unity Protest march through the town, as well as the many other fans who spontaneously demonstrated their own feelings about the owner and his regime during the team’s 2-1 defeat at Northampton Town

More than 100 supporters of a wide age range travelled to Belgium by coach and they were joined by many dozens of others who had made their own way from England by rail and road. The fans kept in touch with events at Sixfields via commentary relay to the coaches and a video link to the pre-march buffet, where Addicks protest band The 2percent also performed.

They were then accompanied by a small contingent of Sint-Truiden fans for the procession through the town to Stayen, home of Duchatelet’s Belgian club, STVV. Police estimated total numbers at about 300. The owner was at the stadium but did not show himself during the demonstration, which was covered by both local and London television outlets, and a range of other media.

The exemplary conduct of Charlton fans was underlined by the tweet posted by local police chief Steve Provost, with whom CARD had liaised extensively before the day. He said: “Nice demonstration #cafc, good agreement with the organisers, perfect execution by [police] colleagues.”

CARD also welcomed the sensible and proportionate policing of the march. But it contrasted the fans’ conduct with the prior claims of Duchatelet, who called disaffected supporters “vinegar pissers” in a local newspaper and said the police chief and town mayor would have to take responsibility for the “consequences” of allowing the demonstration.

In a statement to the Guardian newspaper, published on Saturday, the club also said: “We would request that anyone travelling to protest in Belgium this weekend will conduct themselves in an appropriate and respectful manner.”

A CARD spokesperson said: “It appears to be Roland Duchatelet who needs advice on how to conduct himself in an ‘appropriate and respectful manner’. He has previously called protest organisers ‘stupid people’, misognynists and ex-employees. Charlton must have had a huge turnover of staff if all those in Belgium were ex-employees.”

“The club also misled some national journalists into believing it was transporting all 1,400 travelling fans to Northampton. They ran five coaches and had made clear from the outset that they were not prepared to run more than that. They took 258 people, which is no bad thing, but they could not even be honest and transparent about that.”

“The regime has long demonstrated its poor judgement, but this was both naive and desperate, even unethical. It is yet more evidence of the management’s incompetence, as is the team’s plunge towards possible relegation to League Two, despite one of the biggest budgets in the division. Duchatelet and chief executive Katrien Meire have no idea what they are doing, which has been evident to many fans for some time.”

“The protest in Sint-Truiden went well beyond our expectations and in addition to CARD’s role we want to acknowledge the part played in delivering it by the Belgium 20 group, as well as Women Against the Regime (WAR). It was months in the planning, so it was not just about recent results, but three years of hopeless management of the club – confirmed by the team’s league position, the emptying Valley and thumping financial losses.

“If necessary we will return to Belgium in even larger numbers in future, but we would much prefer that Duchatelet makes arrangements to sell the club before that happens. We fear for its future if he remains in control.”

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