Celtic and The Big 55 Lie – Can Scottish Football Survive Long Term Without Probity?

It was a bit of a busy day in the world of Celtic yesterday with both the half-yearly financials released and of course the anti-climactic New Year review. As Celtic supporters and fans media pored over both those statements released by Chairman Ian Bankier it would have been easy to miss another article that dropped courtesy of Phil Macgiollabhain and it’s very much something that Celtic supporters and indeed fans of all of Scottish football should take the time to peruse.

‘The lie of 55’ is a subject very much worth returning to and it should open up a very necessary debate going forward as to both the history of Scottish football governance when it came to the transference of titles and the granting of a UEFA licence following the demise of Rangers FC and indeed the very honesty, transparency and integrity of Scottish football going forward. This of course is particularly prevalent as we are in the midst of what pretty much is a title coronation for the outfit currently operating out of Ibrox.

No-one could say that theRangers won’t have won a title this year, however what Phil’s article explains clearly is that UEFA undoubtedly view the club working out of Ibrox as a new club and as such should be congratulated on a maiden league triumph and not a 55th when the time comes. That it is likely that is what all and sundry will peddle in the coming weeks, as such it is worth remembering our own club face accusations of being complicit also in this matter.

It is something we have an opportunity now to shed ourselves of.

Phil covers the subject of the one club smoke and mirrors including some fresh disclosures from the corridors of power at UEFA, very much worth absorbing, following his own questions to the powers of European football and the subsequent replies received.

Given the responses received from UEFA the ‘The lie of 55’ is a very apt title and the article more than covers that particular subject. As such there is little I could add other than encourage you to take the time to read and of course judge for yourselves, and if so inclined not only share with fellow Celtic supporters but those of other clubs directly impacted by the foisted upon us continuity myth and its impact on the sporting integrity of Scottish football today.

That the Scottish governing bodies and of course a ‘don’t rock the boat’ compliant media follow suit is rather damning. That it is left to a journalist based in Ireland to shine a light on a hoodwink of the highest order in Scottish football should shame those in the Scottish media who profess to call themselves journalists yet continue to conveniently ignore one of Scottish football’s biggest ever scandals. A heads up for any considering a change of heart would be to consider UEFA’s Article 12. “any change to the legal form of a club “, and of course the “transfer of football activities to another entity ” and subsequently ask questions of the Scottish football authorities as to whether has been an adherence to said article, perhaps pursue just that with UEFA. Of course, I won’t be holding my breath. Experience tells me I’ll turn a shade of purple.

If those who support the Ibrox club choose to ignore UEFA’s rulebook that is one thing, however for their views to be legitimised in some way by a nodding dog approach to journalism and a Neil Doncaster fronted governing body who fear for the game of football in Scotland without a powerful ‘Rangers’, that smacks simply of a cover-up any champing at the bit journalist covering Scottish football should be hunting down. Sadly, ours prefer to copy, paste and twist as a substitute for investigation. Whilst Neil Doncaster et al seem to have an irony bypass when ensuring the continuity myth is adhered to – apparently and laughably to protect Scottish football interests – whilst undermining the very integrity of the game in Scotland with their actions.

It also raises a rather uncomfortable truth when it comes to our own club and the custodians we trust to protect our interests. The subject of the Five-way agreement is one touched on in Phil’s article, indeed the legal validity of such an agreement is certainly questionable given it is unlikely such an agreement ever saw any consultation by way of UEFA. That should sit uncomfortably with supporters of the majority of clubs outside of Govan and in particular but certainly not exclusively our own. It should also mean Celtic who having allegedly been a signatory in such an agreement could have an opportunity to come clean.

It cannot be a comfortable position, not now, for Celtic to be in. If Celtic are complicit in this agreement, they are part of a member’s organisation who made an agreement with the football authorities, and another club all the while excluding other Scottish member clubs from knowledge of an agreement that directly impacted on them. One that UEFA would class as being without any legitimacy. Not a good look is it?

As fans we often ask for Celtic to stand up for the club and for the support. It makes you wonder if they can possibly do this with fear of their involvement in a continuation of an Old Firm brand at all costs becoming public knowledge. Can they really defend our corner fully if the football authorities they challenge are aware of their involvement in a cover up and in turn those very authorities know Celtic would not wish the five-way agreement to become public knowledge? It may well explain a reticence on the part of Celtic to challenge the football authorities when Celtic are wronged, bar website statements and no discernible follow up. We it seemed entered into this to ensure the continuation of a rivalry and the money tree it came with, now we are in a fight with one hand tied behind our back.

The man who denies knowledge of the five-way agreement, yet apparently was sent the e-mail outlining its contents, has now announced his resignation. With a new CEO due to take up post it may be worth ensuring the new chief knows this is an issue that could well leave him somewhat hamstrung as he tries to effect change going forward.

(Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

His predecessor will be leaving him a great deal of mess to clear up, and the five-way agreement could be something where Peter Lawwell’s dreadful misjudgement exits the building with him. If Celtic were to come clean on this matter with the support and the blame apportioned to the man leaving as the one responsible, Celtic could remove themselves from a position whereby, they are over a barrel. With the agreement itself lacking any legitimacy and at odds with UEFA’s article 12 we’d not only not be beholden to an agreement we should never have entered; we’d be free of it entirely.

And whilst that would allow us to be open and transparent with the support, it would also leave us in a position whereby we could push for change ourselves in the Scottish game. 55 titles and its legitimacy aside, Scottish football is in dire need of reform. The more things change in the world of football the more things remain the same in Scotland. Decisions are made by committees, there is little knowledge of the inner workings from those who pay at the gate, the genuine stakeholders and there is a creaking, ageing lack of accountability.

As Scotland’s biggest club Celtic can challenge just that, push for the long overdue modernisation our game needs and protect and ensure the ongoing integrity of Scottish football. At the moment the game is a closed shop and before any of us enter into annual season tickets for a member club is it too much to ask that we know we are not sitting down at a card table playing our hand against a game loaded in the favour of others.

Phil’s article blows away the myth that theRangers in the eyes of UEFA are about to win anything more than their first ever title. Celtic would do well to come clean, cleanse ourselves of any guilt by association and push for the reform we all know Scottish football needs. There is a new broom arriving at Celtic in the shape of Dom McKay, guilt by association is something the new man can avoid. In doing so he can take the first steps in Celtic entering a football season safe in the knowledge it will not be weighted in the favour of any other club, that the competition itself will be fair and equitable, removing themselves of the grime attached to the club by way of the five-way agreement would be a good starting point.

From a personal point of view, I see Celtic’s future away from Scottish football, and we’ll touch on that in another article, but for now we remain in this game. It’s worth considering therefore, before putting our hands in pockets for season tickets, Celtic TV subscriptions, or that latest present for our kids from the Celtic superstore that we ask our club to ensure they do all they can to make the future of Scottish football, the game we are all introducing our children and grandchildren too is clean, and that Celtic use their position of influence as the biggest club of all the members to ensure they do just that.

In discussing this very subject yesterday I was sent a message that very much struck a chord ‘The elephant in the room is can Scottish football survive long term without probity’, and I think that pretty much sums it up. The lie of 55 needs to be challenged. To do that Celtic need to cleanse themselves of any association with the myth that surrounds it. Strong moral principles; honesty and decency seems a fair request.

It is telling while Celtic did little or nothing to prevent the Continuity Myth from taking hold Celtic supporters  acted by placing a newspaper advertisement in The Sunday Herald newspaper ahead of the first ever meeting with the new club on February 2015, in a League Cup semi-final at Hampden. Our hands are clean.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.


  1. In any case, Rangers only won the League 53 and a half times, because in 1890/91 they shared the title with Dumbarton. So if we are to talk about myths, it should be 54 and a half, not 55!

    • Correct, also a shared title doesn’t mean you own all of it.
      There is another question.
      1872 or 1873
      I somehow can’t find the answer.

  2. It’s not even that if we apply today’s rules of goal difference or goal average then Dumbarton would have won the league outright so morally it’s 53

  3. Look to your own, Celtic have been part of the establishment for years, playing on the “outsiders” tag, whilst using their influence on a variety of SPFL/SFA committees ,selling the lie to the supporters but making sure it’s business as usual in Scottish football. If you consider the 5-way agreement to be little more than cabal protecting one of it’s own, then all parties should be investigated for their involvement. Is there any truth that in 2012 the SPFL was technically bankrupt and the directors knew this, but withheld financial information ?