Thursday 30 June 2022

Cause For Concern Off The Pitch?

For sure we welcome Conor McGrandles to The Valley, along with Eoghan O’Connell, Mandela Egbo and Joe Wollacott. We hope they all go on to become Charlton legends, while wishing all the best to Jason Euell, who earnt that accolade. Still gaps on the pitch to be filled for sure, along with the potential for some more to depart, but the spate of arrivals does help to focus attention on the new campaign and a fresh approach, as will watching a pre-season kickabout in Spain tomorrow.

On another front, should we, the supporters, feel justified in having concerns over the latest off the pitch developments – the sacking of Brian Jokat at COO after only around six weeks and the apparent dismissal of a number of club staff, including supporters liaison officer Dan Burke - or should we be shrugging our shoulders and concluding how the club is run from day to day is none of our business?

I guess the simple answer is if you believe fans are stakeholders, it has to be the former, at least ahead of any further information from the club. We are supporters because we care and that emotion can’t be switched on or off at random, either by ourselves or by the club. So these matters do concern us. Alternatively, if our role is to turn up and sing and dance, as Duchatelet wanted, go for the latter.

I think there’s sometimes a temptation to think that when a company is both owned and run by the same person this means that person can do pretty much what he/she likes. Not true. Being a director of a company carries with it defined responsibilities – and in addition to being the shareholder/owner TS is a director. The two roles are separate even if occupied by the same person and entail different duties.

General responsibilities of a director include that you must act “in the company’s best interests to promote its success” and in doing so take into consideration (among other things) the “interests of its (the company’s) employees” along with the “impact of its operations on the community and environment”, the company’s “reputation for high standards of business conduct”, and the “need to act fairly to all members of the company”. Perhaps pertinently, a director’s responsibilities also include avoiding conflicts of interest. The guidelines state that “you must avoid situations where your loyalties might be divided. You should consider the positions and interests of your family, to avoid possible conflicts”. The IoD adds that directors are also responsible for “accounting for the company’s activities to relevant parties, eg shareholders”.

Now I’ve no idea what was behind Jokat’s departure. But his arrival (first announced on 23 April with him to start in May) was hailed on the club website by TS as “a really important addition to the club”, someone who would “lead on all our business activity” and “help drive us to becoming Premier League-ready on the business side”. Fair enough. But silence as regards his departure after a few weeks and the reasons behind it is at best not good enough.

Same applies to the staff more recently let go. Whether or not correct procedures were followed, regulations adhered to, the absence of any official information will only serve to fuel discussion and rumours over whether or not the club is being run in an appropriate manner.

And my main point is that it would appear that the Charlton board – not TS as owner of the club - is not meetings its responsibilities if these extend to keeping stakeholders (and not just shareholders) informed and if supporters are considered to be stakeholders. And it’s all rather counter-productive as supporters groups meetings are coming up and questions will be asked. There will need to be responses then, which will be made public.

We’ve been through the worst of regimes, years when Duchatelet and Meire showed nothing but contempt for communication with the fans (it took place but did not extend to any material issues, let alone amount to supporters having any valued input). TS has made himself open and accessible to fans, makes appearances which are appreciated. But that openness cannot be turned on and off at his own discretion. We want our club to succeed in every area (especially as not succeeding in an important one kind of works against success in others).

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