Sheffield Wednesday: Newly-appointed Owls chief executive Katrien Meire looking to make most of second chance
It's a new year and a fresh start for Katrien Meire.
The Belgian was appointed the Owls’ new chief executive prior to Monday’s humiliating defeat to Burton Albion - just days after quitting her role as CEO and director of Charlton Athletic.
It is no secret that Meire was an unpopular figure during her three-year stint at the Valley. Along with controversial Addicks owner Roland Duchatelet, she was heavily criticised for her role in the club’s ownership. Supporters protested against Meire and Duchatelet.
The 33-year-old, a lawyer by trade, also fell out with Charlton supporters after labelling them “customers” before the club slipped out of the Championship in 2016.
“I think Katrien would be honest enough to say that mistakes were made,” Richard Cawley, the sports editor of the South London Press & Mercury newspaper, told The Star. “When she and Roland Duchatelet first came into English football, they didn’t quite judge the league’s strength and everything else.
“I think some of the comments Katrien made did not massively help the situation either.
“Obviously, the Charlton fans feel it is a mini victory that she has left the club. She had a lot of abuse at Charlton and it was quite personal. It just got to the point of no return.
“If you ask a Charlton fan, they would say Charlton should at least be a Championship football club so they have really under-performed very, very significantly during the period that Katrien was chief executive.
“Only Katrien can answer how much control she had in the way that Charlton was run.
“There were a whole manner of misjudgements but you don’t know who was making the final call on certain decisions.
“There have been some major issues and the fans protested very heavily but I’m sure she has learned from that experience.”
Meire was tasked with supporting the work of Charlton’s first team, academy management and leading the club’s off the field day-to-day management.
“In terms of Katrien’s legacy, I think the club is beginning to move in the right direction with some of the stuff on the football side,” said Cawley.
“The club did tie down Ricky Holmes to a new long-term contract in the summer despite Sheffield United making a couple of bids for him.
“Before Charlton were relegated, there was a feeling that the club needed to change it’s approach and go for British managers who had experience of the domestic game. There was also a feeling that the club needed to stop bringing in so many players from overseas and that eventually happened.
“The problem is the damage was done to some extent as the club were relegated and lost a fairly large section of its support base. The crowds are down on what they were and a lot of fans won’t go back until Duchatelet sells the club.”
Cawley interviewed Meire, a council member of the Football Association, on a number of occasions.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see how Katrien tackles the Wednesday job and how successful she can make it,” he said.
“This is a second crack for her at trying to run a Championship club.
“It is going to be a major test because of the size of Sheffield Wednesday.
“It is a club who have been successful in the last couple of years and pushed hard to get into the Premier League.
“The thing that might be better for Katrien is that she may have more scope financially to do stuff than she perhaps had at Charlton.
“I know she has some good connections in the game. She has got to know a lot of football agents over the last few years. I know that there are some, from when I have spoken to her in the past, that she likes and knows she can work with and trust.
“Having worked in English football for a few years now, Katrien has got that know-how and experience which should help.”
Meire has also previously worked at Belgium club Standard Liege, where she served as legal and international relations manager.
Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri added: “Katrien’s appointment is a key development for our club and one which I am delighted to make.
“I have said for some time that I would only appoint a CEO should the right person fit my specification to lead the structure of Sheffield Wednesday on a day-to-day basis.