If the team you support are abjectly terrible, managed by a succession of dunces and owned by utter buffoons who sell all of your best players and replace them with donkeys and blind hope, then you can at least take solace in the fact you don’t support Charlton Athletic.
Not content with making eight managerial changes since taking over in January 2014, billionaire owner Roland Duchâtelet has since presided over a wretched campaign resulting in a miserable relegation, had his chairman respond to mass protests by insultingly comparing fans to cinema-goers and restaurant patrons who “don’t seem themselves as customers”, and has now started summoning fans who have been critical on social media to (effectively) disciplinary hearings in order to complete purchase of a season ticket.
Charlton with a HUGE play in bid to be football's biggest baddie. "Want a ticket? Sign our 'behavioural contract'" pic.twitter.com/vsiTdvkBLz— Joe Hall (@joehallwords) August 12, 2016
The paragraph demanding the fan signs an ‘Agreed Behavioral Contract’ is perhaps the most sinister, for it carries the possibility of not just being prevented from purchasing a season ticket in the first place, but the threat that you could fork out for one only to lose it midway through the season if you were to post anything the club deemed “derogatory”.
The message here is clear: put up and shut up. Hand over hundreds of pounds to watch the product and be pleased about it, or else keep your dissatisfaction to yourself. This is an obviously punitive tactic; threatening the possibility of revoking your right to watch Charlton – the team you may have followed for decades – unless you support the current ownership.
This move doesn’t even make sense in their cynical reframing of fans as ‘customers’. It’s not altogether controversial to suggest that, if you owned a cinema or a restaurant and sought to pre-emptively ban returning customers who might be critical of the films or food, even after they’d paid for them, you probably wouldn’t be in business for very long.
With protests against the Duchâtelet ownership consistently drawing in crowds of thousands, if the Addicks’ owners enforce these measures, games at the Valley will almost certainly be played in front of a crowd of exclusively away supporters.
Though boycotting games can be an effective means of protest – in doing so, reducing the club’s bottom line with your non-attendance – it’s an extreme measure for those with lifelong loyalties to their team to take. Causing the level of alienation that would lead fans to boycotting should be the ultimate failure of ownership. The most bizarre thing about Charlton’s owners is that they now seem to be organising the boycott themselves.
We think one of Championship football's money men needs a long hard look at himself. And possibly at a DVD of the club's 2015-2016 highlights.