The recent AGM has probably been a bit of an eye opener for many amongst the Celtic support. To say the handling of a hostile audience was poorly handled would be an understatement and it removed something of a façade that has covered the Celtic Board until now.
Whilst plenty amongst the support have wrung our hands at the decision making exhibited from the Boardroom when it comes to issues such as defending our corner as a club, ensuring the governing bodies are challenged and held to account to ensure a fair game is played in Scotland, or that clubs are challenged to prove their lack of financial robustness does not threaten the future of football in this country, or indeed that a modern, constantly developing and evolving football operation is exhibited by Celtic, It may for some have been a horrible realisation post AGM that Celtic may not have the individuals in place to do any of that to a suitable standard.
Up to that point it may have seemed there was an unwillingness on the part of the club to tackle any of these issues, however the AGM seemed to indicate it may not simply be a case of old-fashioned approaches, internal backslapping and a disregard for the supporter and smaller shareholders wishes that were at play, indeed perhaps we gave them too much credit. Instead, the AGM appeared to indicate a lack of awareness, preparedness and understanding at all of what the key issues facing the club are today. For a board to now appear inept rather than antagonistic strikes me as a matter of great concern.
As such the Board themselves now look incapable of the progression of this football club, and the longer we stay still the further we drop behind. Our footballing structures already appear antiquated in the brave new world of a football revolution of data and analytics, our marketing and brand progression is clearly stale, our managed decline has seen year on year of a lack of preparedness for Champions League qualification that can only be reasonably accounted for as disinterest at Boardroom level, to the point we’re lauding a third European trophy being something of a financial safety net rather than questioning why we have to have it at all to cushion our fall.
Off the field, officiating at best is of a dreadfully inconsistent and damaging level and we appear to have no appetite to question it, instead we proclaim it is not our jurisdiction. A rival having once gone to the wall has re-appeared and now threatens the security of game as a whole yet again.
But still, we appear to have no wish to challenge that very real threat, hiding behind a members vote not to introduce financial fair play rather than lobbying strongly from a position as the country’s biggest club for it to go back on the table. We have an English neighbour who sprang into action with a regulator following the failed European Super League coup, yet we as a club appear to have no appetite to push our governing bodies to adopt some at least of those recommendations and put them to a member clubs vote. There is either no appetite for challenge at Boardroom level from Celtic or there isn’t a skillset to go about doing what is required.
And that is where the challenge from the supporters’ groups has come. Be that The Celtic Trust, The Green Brigade, Celtic Shared or many others. Commendable challenges have been laid down to the Board but they have so far managed to ignore or derail too easily. And is that really a surprise?
These organisations are pressure groups manned in the main by volunteers, there is a lack of a real coherent togetherness or joined up strategy. They all do fantastic work but when it comes to going up against a PLC they hit a brick wall. The Green Brigade/North Curve bring colour and vibrancy to the match-day, they are also militant in their tactics to invoke change. But what can they really do to bring about that change when using banners and tennis balls and half hour silences that fall on blind eyes and deaf ears?
The Celtic Trust we all had high hopes for but the recent resolutions that went before the AGM were eventually defeated. There are questions to be asked as to why one of these, the Concern Resolution was a watered-down version of what members had previously agreed upon Note of Concern, to the point one more legally sound was left lying on the cutting room floor while the other was far too easily swept aside.
Anyone taking e a look at both those resolutions can make their own minds up regarding which is the most robust and ask why one didn’t see the light of day when a member’s organisation had already decided on its worthiness? Who makes that decision? Which member is more important than another, or several member’s wishes, and how and why did that happen? Why was it reported as being about UEFA licence and not about restoring integrity and simply why did Celtic Trust substitute one from their members for one of their own? Who was likely to benefit most?
As such whatever the reasons for it this Celtic Board have shown itself as being out of touch, incapable of change or unwilling to. Meanwhile the support growing ever more frustrated has tried varying approaches to mobilising and challenging the Board yet so far have limited tactics or perhaps have been played by the club itself.
But what if there was scope to challenge, there was a coherent approach to holding the board to account that could emerge, and one that pulled together the skill sets and expertise of the Celtic diaspora in a joined up and professional manner?
One that could help impact on the integrity of Celtic and in turn the integrity of the game itself in Scotland? One that had scope to include the direct action of the North Curve, as well as allowing the Celtic Trust to focus on what they do brilliantly, opposing overzealous policing, food banks and charity work, and concentrate on doing that while allowing those with the skills amongst the Celtic support to communicate together in one place, bring their own expertise from various businesses to the challenge and in turn fund it well enough to call on legal expertise to hold a PLC to account robustly, whereas up to now the Celtic board and their access to expensive, skilled legal support has been able to bat resolutions away too easily?
The support now needs a professional and fully paid for service, one open to all Celtic supporters not just shareholders or supporters expected to use their subscriptions to fund buying more shares, and with access to funds available to fight the corner from a legal stand point. Company law after all offers some protection for small shareholders and Celtic have to pay heed to that, but to do so require to be challenged correctly and professionally.
Having lawyers available and able to be funded to challenge the Board on say that Recital the Celtic Trust recently abandoned could happen, and it could force further engagement, transparency and respect shown to both Celtic supporters and shareholders that has been easily dismissed so far.
A Celtic Supporter Membership Scheme, one member one vote, even with a basis for future ownership as exhibited as possible by the likes of Malmo is possible. That Membership scheme would need to provide a service that most supporters would pay for and buy into in big numbers.
With enough subscribers you in turn employ professionals to provide the service, rather than the volunteers many of the disparate groups have to rely on today. A service that can employ administrative staff to deal with and process members concerns, analysis staff to have the finger on the pulse via social media, fan media, bloggers and every single supporter who wishes to have a voice, to help categorise, even prioritise and feed back to members the evolving priorities of the support.
A management position to oversee it all daily and IT support employed to look after a business portal that all members can access and all can communicate through and be contacted for their advice and even leverage on all manner of subject matters.
Such a scheme brings everyone together, it can include the Celtic Trust, the North Curve, Celtic Shared and other supporters’ associations but it also includes fans who up to now haven’t felt any of that suits them. It brings strength in numbers, skills and expertise in abundance and it creates a means to raise funds on a regular monthly basis, from as little as £5 a month, or more if you could commit to It and less or zero if unwaged . And it brings the support together in a way, which could if done correctly, challenge the Celtic Board to behave more professionally, be more democratic, to recycle NED’s in a timelier fashion and to in turn challenge themselves.
Get to that stage and a membership scheme not only challenges the board, it encourages them to communicate with the support, it encourages modernising approaches and debate. It removes the lip service of fans forums behind closed doors and it encourages a board to communicate directly with a large group of a fan membership who cannot be separated, divided and conquered quite as easily as they are being now. Instead, the only way is to communicate directly and open up channels for healthy discussions on the future of the football club.
In a support worldwide, the technology of modern times means such a membership can be global. How many millions across the world support this club and how many from these shores would be emboldened further by numbers from abroad who could join such a membership scheme if they felt they could genuinely impact on change? Would it take more than 30,000 to sign up to make this possible?
And if you are selling this option across the world is that even a conservative estimate if you get momentum? If you get such numbers does a board change from disdain to respect and in turn does that then lead to cooperation rather than conflict? Is that a way to effect change?
At present what is clear is this Celtic Board are struggling, the AGM was a visual display of unawareness and that is a concern. They appear to have enough in their legal contact books to fend of supporter dissent as being cranks who have nothing worth listening too, but with so many voices from so many angles and so little internal challenge perhaps that was inevitable. But are they now out their depth?
Yet they are not listening to any advice, and they require to be challenged. A Celtic Membership scheme such as this could bring all those together in a unifying message. To do so it will of course need members, it will need funds and it will need that professional approach, and access to the skillset of the whole Celtic support.
To get started may even need more. It will need that figurehead, or more than one. People with a public persona, not connected to the board and trusted by the support. I’ve already heard everyone from Willie Haughey to Chris Sutton and loads more in between put forward as someone front and centre who may have an appetite to make such an enterprise a possibility. And this is exactly the kind of proposition that is ideally suited to David Low’s skillset and the former Chairperson on The Celtic Trust may well be interested in this one, judging by his earlier comments when the matter was briefly discussed on social media recently.
People who could add weight and may even have the deep pockets required to help get such a scheme get off the ground, and even the business contacts to make something that seems such a large task become far simpler than it appears.
Perhaps you all have your own ideas on who that could be, or even if such a scheme is possible. And this is not the idea of some blogger or The Celtic Star, this is something that has been raised by prominent voices within the Celtic support, some with a long-standing appetite for change at Celtic and in Scottish football as a whole as a perfectly conceivable and achievable possibility.
Would you buy into such a membership and what would your ideas be to help get it off the ground?