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What to expect from M. Duchâtelet

So, what next?

On Friday Charlton became the 7th football club that Roland Duchâtelet owns or has an interest in. In 2003 Duchâtelet took over at Sint-Truidense, where he was originally encouraged to get involved as a sponsor. The then commercial manager had written to some of the wealthiest men in Belgium, and living locally Roland got his first introduction to football ownership.

He had to relinquish ownership of Sint-Truidense when he bought Standard de Liège in 2011 as both teams were in the same division at the time, and like only a man can, Roland gave it to his second wife.

He didn’t make many friends in those early days at Liège, one of Belgium’s most famous football clubs, selling its best players to stabilize the club financially and making frequent managerial changes. There was unrest, riots and Duchâtelet got called all sorts, mostly because he took over after Liege’s best season for an age and stamped his authority early. He threatened to flog it, didn’t, and now they are top of the league.

Duchâtelet brought Standard Liege together with FC Brussels in 2012 and a year later he invested in AFC Tubize, both of whom are in the Belgium 2nd Division. Both teams play in the suburbs of Belgium’s capital and has allowed Duchatelet and Liege to scout in the backyard of one of their fiercest rivals, Anderlecht.

In October 2011 Duchâtelet son Roderick bought 20-times Hungarian league champions Újpest FC and then just weeks before Roland turned his attentions to the Addicks he bought financially stricken Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany. Media reports in Spain suggest that Duchâtelet now has his eyes on Spanish 2nd Division club AD Alcorcón. He’s been busy has our Roly.

A worrying trend is that each of the clubs he’s been involved in have had a lot of managerial turnover. Sint-Truiden have had 13 managers/head coaches in the 10 years since Duchâtelet got involved. Standard Liege have had four in less of the time Chris Powell has been at Charlton and Ujpest a crazy six in two and a bit years.

Players have also frequently been loaned between the clubs, particularly Liege, St-Truiden, Tubize and Ujpest. Already he has told Carl Zeiss Jena fans that he will bring players to the old East Germany and Sparrows Lane has already welcomed midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic and apparently Liege right back Alpaslan Öztürk has his overnight bag packed.

The need for more bodies is obvious, but we really need Powell to be making these decisions on signings. Mercia Rednic was sacked by Duchatelet at Liege after qualifying for the Europa Cup and he left saying that Duchatelet needed a “puppet and not a coach.”

Duchâtelet proclaims artificial surfaces and has also muddled in ground ownerships and stadium development. He is a big fan of multi-functional uses of football stadiums. He talked to this when meeting the press in Germany after he bought Carl Zeiss Jena, and St-Truiden fans are very upset about what he has done with the ownership of their Stayen stadium.

Being a politician, I think we are right to expect a lot more communication than the previous lot, mind you we heard more from Lord Lucan. Duchâtelet prides himself on being a man of the people despite a lack of popularity awards.

I don’t expect regular programme notes but I think the Belgian will be a lot more visible. I see that the CAST has set up a meeting with Richard Murray, which is a good start, but I wonder if Richard will be his normal gregarious self?

Of course the real person CAST need to meet is Duchâtelet, and I wonder how long it will be before we get to hear his proposal and strategy for financial security and playing success and hopefully an insight into his farm of football clubs. I believe a press conference may be set for today.

There is also the question to who will make up the Addicks board. Slater stays for while, at least until the Stephen Kavanagh industrial tribunal is resolved. Executive Vice Chairman Martin Prothero and Jimenez have gone, but Chief Operations Officer Steve Bradshaw and Chief Commercial Officer Ben Kensall remain. Interestingly the link to the Directors on the OS is currently down.

At Carl Zeiss Jena incidentally the existing chairman has remained as Duchâtelet has less than 50% decision rights, despite owning 95% of the shares. I believe German clubs are more stringent on overseas control.

So, what do we make of all of this, what have we suddenly become apart off? A network of pan-European football clubs, a stable of young talent, able to move freely around the continent experiencing different leagues and cultures, subject to individual football association rules of course, changed in this country after Watford’s exploits last season. One would think work permits, something we’ve always struggled with, will be easier too.

Economies of scale, legal tax efficiencies, financial backbone, the best medical facilities, a doctrine of coaching skills, a pool of some of the very best academy players (if I was Paul Hart I’d be very excited) and the sharing of some of the best modern day technical data and performance analysis. Plus a European football fan to boot, not a lunatic megalomaniac from Malaysia (we hope)….

A quote from Roland Duchâtelet: “Football fascinates me, because it is socially relevant. It is a place where all grades, classes, races and beliefs unite. All over the world you see football fanaticism. In the light of the world’s problems, it is almost idiotic to be happy about a nice victory for Standard, but in the microcosm of football it makes me very happy.”

Duchatelet is 67, a very successful businessman, helping engineer some very ground breaking products in his impressive career. His politics was innovative, and Duchatelet tried to spearhead change in his beloved country, but when he hit his head against a brick wall, he simply began his own party and then merged in it with another to get some critical mass.

Duchâtelet has written books, considers himself a pioneer first, businessman second. Belgium football fans call him a control freak, but no one gets to be this successful without control and ambition.

This of course is so Charlton, we will need to be on our guard, when have we never, there will be testing times ahead, but interesting too.

Roland Duchâtelet. Nutter or trailblazer? I guess we’ll find out!

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. ol1gab #

    A little insight into Roland Dutchatelet from a business associate I know in Liege,
    I have also been told he is trying to sell Standard Liege.
    In Belgium Liege is known as the Red Flag City

    Here is his note to me

    I am very well. I hope you too..
    Roland is one of my good friend as he is the owner of the famous Standard de Liege in Belgium.
    It’s not any more a rumor, Roland has just acquired 99% of your Charlton club. He already has invested a few months ago in a club in Germany ( D4 ) and in Hungary ( D1 ).

    He is very rich… and very ambitious! Standard is n° 1 in the Belgian first league this year. It’s true to say that Fans club and press media are generally against him because they doesn’t share his vision and sportive choices in the press.

    Await & see

    Wishing you the best to you and to Charlton in 2014

    January 6, 2014

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