Charlton fans campaigning to remove the club’s owner will step up their efforts at Saturday’s home match against Blackburn Rovers - including a "flash" protest that will only be revealed at midday.
The Championship fixture is the first at The Valley since up to 2,000 supporters staged an unprecedented protest after the match against Nottingham Forest on January 2.
Since then Charlton have lost their last two league games 5-0 and 6-0 , been humiliated in the FA Cup by a lower-league side on one of worst runs of form in its history, and appointed a new head coach who was judged not good enough by owner Roland Duchâtelet just 20 months ago.
The club languishes second bottom in the Championship, and admitted publicly before Christmas that on average 30% of its 10,000 season-ticket holders are not attending matches.
Now the Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet (Card), a broad-based umbrella organisation aimed at forcing the owner to sell up, is organising a series of activities for Saturday’s game, culminating in a further mass protest in the west stand car park outside the boardroom after the match (5pm).
“We are demanding that Duchâtelet takes every step to find a successor who understands how to run a football club, is willing to invest sensibly in the team and appreciates the critical role of fans in building success,” said a Card spokesman. “We want Roland out - before it’s too late.”
More than £5,700 has already been contributed by supporters to fund future protests, and a series of activities are being planned, with the intention that they escalate the longer the owner remains in charge.
On Thursday (January 21) Card launched a petition ( www.ourcharlton.org.uk ), while some 750 free black and white scarves - one of the emblems of the campaign, echoing the colours worn in the team’s 1947 FA Cup final success – will be distributed before kick-off this weekend. Thousands of stickers, and even beer mats, promoting the campaign have been produced.
However, Card is also adopting guerrilla tactics to prevent the club being able to prepare properly for its activities, and Saturday will see the first flash protest, which will be announced at 12 noon on Card's social media channels (@CharltonCARD and facebook.com/CharltonCARD) and by volunteers around the ground.
Card comprises supporters from the Anti Roland Demos and Spell It Out campaigns and the Voice of The Valley fanzine, who have all organised protests at recent matches, as well as representatives of the Charlton Life message board and the Charlton Fans’ Protest Fund, and others. It is working with the Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust.
It was formed earlier this month to better co-ordinate united protests with a view to forcing Charlton’s owner to sell up in the wake of two years of mismanagement of the 111-year-old club.
The protests follow revelations that the owners refused even to meet former chief executive Peter Varney to discuss an investment proposal, managerial upheaval that has seen five changes of head coach in 22 months, a failing player recruitment strategy, and a series of PR gaffes by current chief executive Katrien Meire, including the labelling of fans’ affinity for the club as “weird” at a Dublin web conference in November.
Card will not advocate or endorse illegal protests. We believe that our strength is in numbers and in uniting behind our common goal, while not giving the club or the media any scope to portray us as destructive or making protests based primarily on gender or nationality, which can only be divisive.