Monday, 23 May 2016

Taking Ownership...

I have no firm idea what the 'fit and proper person' test actually entails for football club ownership, but I would sensibly guess that it includes criteria on the general law-abiding character of the applicant and his/her business and football background. The football background perhaps only relevant if they are proven to have an interest in another club within the Premier or Football League. It's therefore not surprising, sadly, that Mr. Duchatelet passed the test no matter how much we wished he hadn't with the power of hindsight.
I would be very surprised if the aspirations of the applicant feature much at all, as, let's face it, nobody in their right mind would say anything that could be perceived as a negative. If a would-be owner had a propensity to asset strip the football club without regard for ambition on the pitch, then he (or she) is hardly going to admit it! Furthermore, there are many ways to spin a story to portray it in whatever light you want, so it wouldn't be too much of an obstacle for any applicant with half a brain.  
The argument put forward from Katrien Meire that Mr. Duchatelet is funding the club with his money so he can do as he pleases (and we all just have to accept it) is morally wrong at the very least. My personal opinion is nobody should be allowed to own a football club without accepting a number of set boundaries, much like those in place to protect listed buildings. In the case of listed buildings, the definable character cannot be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority, so why cannot this principle in preservation work for football clubs, but with the local planning authority replaced with an elected board of trustees?
It would obviously take some careful consideration to interpret the parameters of what the 'definable character' would be, and I don't pretend to have the answers, but to understand how the soul has been ripped out of Charlton would be to understand how it could possibly be avoided if a club had to follow some pretty basic guidelines.     
A standard that considers elements like the general infrastructure and running of the club including accountability, plus community, history, tradition and the emotional bond generations of fans have invested in their club should somehow be included.
In pretty simple terms, the owner may have the money, but he or she will know from the outset that the direction he takes the club will be judged, approved or halted by Trustees. 
It is obviously no guarantee of success and offers no assurances against failure, but in my humble opinion it would ensure that football clubs cannot become the play-things of the mega-rich, who have little or no regard for anything other than their own selfish vision.
Let's face it, if a system like this was in place then single-minded people like Roland Duchatelet wouldn't own football clubs and perennial failures like Katrien Meire would be made accountable long before they could cause so much harm. We might have avoided the demise seen at clubs like Blackpool, Blackburn, Villa, Newcastle, Leeds, Cardiff and Leyton Orient amongst others. 
After all, Duchatelet doesn't own Charlton because of a love for the club anymore than he has a love of the game. He should be encouraged to take his money elsewhere...

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